November 19, 2012
Rising Temperatures Will Lead To Cataclysmic Changes Unless More Is Done Now
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The heat is rising and all nations around the globe will likely feel the sweltering effects of a 7.2-degree F increase by the end of the century, unless more is done now to curb climate change. But while the world as a whole will feel this climatic impact, none will suffer more than the world´s poorest countries, according to a new report by the World Bank.
This global temperature increase will trigger a cascade of cataclysmic changes that include never-before seen extreme heatwaves, declining food stocks around the globe and sea-level rise that will effect hundreds of millions of people living in coastal plains.
Issuing a call for action, World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, has tied the future wealth of the planet to immediate efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions from sources such as energy production.
"The time is very, very short. The world has to tackle the problem of climate change more aggressively," Kim said during a conference call ahead of the report. "We will never end poverty if we don't tackle climate change. It is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today."
The report states that planet warming of 7.2 degrees could be felt as early as the 2060s if the world´s governments do not keep a tight control on the climate war. But even if nations do fulfill current pledges, the study gives a 20 percent likelihood of a 7.2-degree rise by 2100, with a greater likelihood of at least a 5.4-degree rise in temperatures. Governments have vowed, through UN-led climate negotiations, to limit the temperature rise to no more than 3.6 degrees.
The UN´s Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement that the World Bank´s report, called “Turn Down The Heat,” outlines a dire need to hold nations to their commitments, made last year at the Durban Summit in South Africa, to work up a legally binding climate agreement by 2015.
The latest round of climate talks is less than a week away, when the UN and its 190 member nations meet for the Qatar Summit, beginning November 26.
Global warming has already taken a stronghold around the world as the global average temperature has already risen about 1.5 degrees F. This can be realized by the record-breaking temperatures that have occurred over the past decade and the increased onslaught of disasters, such as deluges, heat waves, droughts and over-the-top storms, such as the recent super storm Sandy, which ravaged the US east coast and devastated New York and its surrounding areas.
Such extreme weather is likely to become the “new normal” if the temperature continues to rise, the report said. Not only will we see hotter climates, but sea levels will rise by 3 feet or more, flooding coastal cities and villages, such as Vietnam and Bangladesh. Water scarcity will be a huge issue in many parts of the world, areas that are already stressed due to lack of sustainable water sources. Crop yields will also be affected, exacerbating hunger and poverty.
Extreme heat waves would ravage broad regions of land, from the Middle East to the United States. Under a 7.2-degree temperature rise, the warmest days in July in the Mediterranean could be nearly 18 degrees hotter than they are today, according to the report.
One scenario is bad enough. But the combined effect of all these changes could be far worse, with unpredictable effects that people may not be able to adapt to, said John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, which along with Climate Analytics prepared the report for the World Bank.
"If you look at all these things together, like organs co-operating in a human body, you can think about acceleration of this dilemma," said Schellnhuber, who studied chaos theory as a physicist. "The picture reads that this is not where we want the world to go."
The World Bank report notes that a 7.2-degree temperature rise is not set in stone and that with sustained policy action warming can still be held below the UN´s 3.6-degree limit.
“The world must tackle the problem of climate change more aggressively,” Kim said. “Greater adaptation and mitigation efforts are essential and solutions exist. We need a global response equal to the scale of the climate problem, a response that puts us on a new path of climate smart development and shared prosperity. But time is very short.”
The World Bank states that the single best option to curb rising temperatures is with more efficient and smarter use of energy and natural resources. By developing and maintaining these resources now it could drastically reduce the climate impact of development without slowing poverty alleviation or economic growth.
“While every country will take a different pathway to greener growth and balance their own need for energy access with energy sustainability, every country has green growth opportunities to exploit,” said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development.
These opportunities could include: putting more than $1 trillion of fossil fuel and other harmful subsidies to better use; introducing natural capital accounting into national accounts; expanding both public and private expenditures on green infrastructure able to withstand extreme weather and urban public transport systems designed to minimize carbon emission and maximize access to jobs and services; supporting carbon pricing and international and national emissions trading schemes; and increasing energy efficiency and the share of renewable power produced.
“This report reinforces the reality that today´s climate volatility affects everything we do,” Kyte said. “We will redouble our efforts to build adaptive capacity and resilience, as well as find solutions to the climate challenge.”
Today, the World Bank is helping 130 countries around the world take action against climate change. Last year, it doubled its financial lending that contributes to adaptation. The Bank has more than $7 billion of Climate Investment Funds now being put to use in 48 countries, and leveraging another $43 billion in clean investment. The Bank is also supporting projects that help the poor grow their way out of poverty, increase their resilience to climate change, and achieve emissions reductions.
But the fight against climate control has faced harsh obstacles, mainly on the political front. In the US many conservative lawmakers have called the climate action initiative too costly and has cast doubt on the science behind climate forecasting.
Kim, a physician and former president of Dartmouth College who was tapped for the World Bank by US President Barack Obama, said that 97 percent of scientists agreed that human activity was causing climate change.
"As someone who has lived in the world of science for a long time, 97 percent is unheard-of consensus," he said.
The World Bank said it did not consider the study a substitute for next UN-backed scientific assessment on climate change expected in 2014.