World Bank Report: ‘New Climate Normal’ Severe Risk to Development
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Warming nearing 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels “is already locked into the Earth's atmospheric system by past and predicted greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” according to the third installment in the World Bank's ‘Turn Down the Heat' series.

‘Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal' examines the risks increased climate change poses to development across Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa.

World Bank23 November 2014: Warming nearing 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels “is already locked into the Earth’s atmospheric system by past and predicted greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” according to the third installment in the World Bank’s ‘Turn Down the Heat’ series. ‘Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal’ examines the risks increased climate change poses to development across Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa.

This report builds on the 2012 report, titled ‘Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C World Must be Avoided,’ which concluded that, if action were not taken immediately, the world would warm by 4°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. The 2014 report explains record-breaking temperatures and heat extremes are occurring more frequently, rainfall has increased in intensity and drought-prone regions are becoming drier across the three regions. It concludes that these events may now be unavoidable, and that if warming reaches 4°C, heat and other weather extremes considered ‘highly unusual’ or unprecedented today will become the ‘new climate normal’ tomorrow.

Under this scenario, the report describes dire consequences for development as crop yields decline, water resources change, diseases move into new ranges and sea levels rise. Noting that promoting human development, ending poverty, increasing global prosperity and reducing inequality will be hard enough in a 2°C world, the report questions whether these goals can be achieved at all in a 4°C world. The report stresses the benefits of strong, early action on climate change far outweigh the costs, noting many of the worst projected climate impacts can still be avoided if temperature remains below 2°C.

The report highlights that receding glaciers in the South American Andes and across Central Asian mountains will shift growing seasons and increase flood risks and, within a few decades, the risk of drought will increase, with most Andean glaciers and two-thirds of Central Asia’s glaciers disappearing by 2100. In addition, the release of methane from thawing permafrost is likely to increase by 20-30% in the Russian Federation by mid-century if temperatures continue to rise, creating a feedback loop that will further drive climate change.

The report also warns of increased risk of large-scale forest loss, affecting Amazon ecosystems, biodiversity and forests’ ability to store carbon. In the Caribbean, oceans will continue to acidify and warm, damaging coral ecosystems and sending fish to cooler waters, which could decrease current catch volume by 50%. With 4°C warming, most Middle Eastern capitals could have four months of “exceedingly hot” days every year, according to the report. Climate change can also act as a threat multiplier, putting pressure on crops and scarce water resources, threatening food security and possibly increasing migration and conflict.

Speaking about the report, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim identified affordable solutions to deal with climate change, such as carbon pricing, clean public transport, cleaner energy and more energy efficient factories, buildings and appliances. Rachel Kyte, World Bank Special Envoy for Climate Change, said substantial technological, economic, institutional and behavioral change was urgently needed to reverse present trends. [World Bank Press Release][World Bank News Story] [UNEP Press Release] [Publication: Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal]

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