In the event that your nights are too tranquil, might I suggest some bedside reading from the (typically) staid World Bank? Turn Down the Heat‘s subtitle is tellingly revealing: “Why a 4 Degree C Warmer World Must Be Avoided”. Bankers — especially international bankers — and banker analysts don’t typically hyperventilate. This tendency underlines why we should take this so seriously:
This report spells out what the world would be like if it warmed by 4 degrees Celsius, which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes.
The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.
And most importantly, 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.
“scenarios are devastating … unprecedented heat waves … irreversible loss of biodiversity … ”
While the world is, in some theoretical paper signed way, committed to constraining global warming to 2 degrees Celsias, the business as usual (BAU) scenario puts us on a path toward something approaching 6 degrees (or even worse) by the next century. Without even going to that BAU scenario, Turn Down the Heat lays out in stark terms why we need to take climate change seriously and change the game to something that offers hope for sustaining modern human civilization.
Those of us who focus heavily on climate change issues were uncertain about the appointment of Dr. Jim Yong Kim as President of the World Bank.. There was no uncertainty of his brilliance, of his ability to understand complex problems, and of his passion for fostering real solutions. His career, however, has mainly been in the health world prior to his assumption of academe. Thus, how much would climate change play in the tenure of the first scientist to run the World Bank? This report seems to provide a meaningful answer to that question. In the forward, Dr. Kim concludes the forward with these powerful paragraphs:
We are well aware of the uncertainty that surrounds these scenarios and we know that different scholars and studies sometimes disagree on the degree of risk. But the fact that such scenarios cannot be discarded is sufficient to justify strengthening current climate change policies. Finding ways to avoid that scenario is vital for the health and welfare of communities around the world. While every region of the world will be affected, the poor and most vulnerable would be hit hardest.
A 4°C world can, and must, be avoided.
The World Bank Group will continue to be a strong advocate for international and regional agreements and increasing climate financing. We will redouble our efforts to support fast growing national initiatives to mitigate carbon emissions and build adaptive capacity as well as support inclusive green growth and climate smart development. Our work on inclusive green growth has shown that—through more efficiency and smarter use of energy and natural resources—many opportunities exist to drastically reduce the climate impact of development, without slowing down poverty alleviation and economic growth.
This report is a stark reminder that climate change affects everything. The solutions don’t lie only in climate finance or climate projects. The solutions lie in effective risk management and ensuring all our work, all our thinking, is designed with the threat of a 4°C degree world in mind. The World Bank Group will step up to the challenge.
To have the President of the World Bank write that “climate change affects everything” is, not just to me, a meaningful step forward in the global discussion space.