November 19, 2012

World is on a Path to 4 degree Celsius Warming, World Bank Warns

On Sunday, the World Bank released a study – Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4⁰C Warmer World Must Be Avoided – that says the world is on a path to increase the average global temperature by 4⁰C by end of the century– that is double what scientists say is safe in order to avoid the most catastrophic climate-related events.

The world is barreling down a path to heat up by 4 degrees at the end of the century if the global community fails to act on climate change, triggering a cascade of cataclysmic changes that include extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks and a sea-level rise affecting hundreds of millions of people,” the World Bank described in a press released on Sunday.

A 4 degree warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2 degrees,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim stated in a press release.  “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.”

Sea-level rise is among the many consequences described in the report. According to the study’s climate projections, .5 meter to 1 meter sea-level rise is likely by 2100, with higher levels in specific regions. Present-day sea-level dynamic topography could put developing countries in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast and East Asia at most risk, areas that already experience above-average sea level rise. While there is no definitive link “between present-day dynamic topography and the future sea-level rise under climate warming,” those regions are experiencing greater coastal and urban migrations, which could make them more vulnerable to future sea-level rise. “Highly vulnerable cities are to be found in Mozambique, Madagascar, Mexico, Venezuela, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam,” the study found.

In addition to sea-level rise, the report found that water scarcity will grow much worse in a 4⁰C warmer world. “In a world rapidly warming toward 4°C, the most adverse impacts on water availability are likely to occur in association with growing water demand as the world population increases,” according to the study. “Some estimates indicate that a 4°C warming would significantly exacerbate existing water scarcity in many regions, particularly northern and eastern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, while additional countries in Africa would be newly confronted with water scarcity on a national scale due to population growth.”

The bottom line, according to the report, a 4⁰C warmer world must be avoided at all costs. “A 4°C world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage, and dislocation, with many of these risks spread unequally. It is likely that the poor will suffer most and the global community could become more fractured, and unequal than today.”

For security planners, the consequences are also likely to include increased uncertainty about future climate projections that make it more difficult to plan and equip accordingly. “[A] 4°C world is so different from the current one that it comes with high uncertainty and new risks that threaten our ability to anticipate and plan for future adaptation needs,” World Bank Group President Kim acknowledged in the foreword of the report.

Photo: Courtesy of the World Bank Group.