In a new report released this week , the World Bank warned that climate change-driven increasing severe weather, sea-level rise, storm surges will threaten the food security and livelihoods of millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. According to the report, climate-related extremes events from current warming are already pushing the most vulnerable households below the poverty trap threshold and will make promoting economic growth, poverty and inequality eradication increasingly challenging as temperatures continue to rise.
By 2030, the report warns, between 40% and 80% of the land used to grow maize in Sub-Saharan Africa will be unable to sustain crops due to droughts and heat, while sea-level rise and increased tropical storms could inundate much of the Thai Capital, Bangkok and other low-lying coastal cities and islands.
The report, which builds upon the 2012 report Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4C warmer world must be avoided, looks at the likely impacts of warming in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and South East Asia today as well as in a 2°C and 4°C world. Global temperatures have already risen 0.8°C over pre-industrial temperatures and the report warns that the 2°C threshold could be surpassed within the next two to three decades. Without further mitigation there is a 40% chance that global temperatures could reach 4°C by the end of the century and a 10% change of exceeding 5°C in the same period.
“In the near-term, climate change, which is already unfolding, could batter the slums even more and greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the Earth’s temperature,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement accompanying the report. "Urgent action is needed to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to help countries prepare for a world of dramatic climate change and weather extremes."
The report warns that the predicted climate impacts such as decreased food yields and lower nutritional value of crops will have a cascading effect throughout society such as persistent malnutrition and reduced educational performance which will have long-term consequences for human capital and could substantially increase future development challenges. The impacts of climate change, the report warns, “would not occur in isolation, [and] are likely to amplify one another.”
“This report should be a wakeup call to the world that we must work harder and faster to combat climate change,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Rapid cuts in CO2 emissions are necessary to stabilize long-term temperatures, but in the near-term, aggressively addressing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and HFCs can provide rapid climate, health, and food security benefits, particularly in the critical vulnerable regions that are already suffering some of the worst impacts of climate change.”
Cutting SLCPs can reduce the rate of global warming in half for the next several decades, cut the rate of warming over the elevated regions of the Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau by at least half, and the rate of warming in the Arctic by two-thirds over the next 30 years, while saving millions of lives per year and preventing billions of dollars in crop losses. Fast-action strategies to reduce SLCPs combined with necessary reductions in carbon dioxide are essential for slowing already accelerating extreme weather events in the near-term, while maintaining global temperature at or below 2°C above preindustrial levels through the end of the century.
A recent multi-year research effort led by Professor V. Ramanathan at Scripps Institution of Oceanography calculated that the annual rate of sea-level rise could be reduced up to 24% by 2100 by controlling SLCPs and that cumulative sea-level rise could be reduced by 22%.
“Reducing emissions of these short-lived climate forcers is critical for protecting the world’s vulnerable peoples and vulnerable ecosystems,” said Zaelke. “When we talk about sustainable development,” Zaelke added, “this is precisely what we mean. These measures reduce climate change, save lives, provide access to clean energy, and improve food security all at once.”
The report is here
A summary of the Scripps sea-level rise study is here
IGSD’s Primer on SLCPs is here