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World Bank says world likely to warm by four degrees

Current greenhouse gas reduction schemes can't stop things getting hotter

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The World Bank has issued a report, titled Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4oC Warmer World Must Be Avoided” (PDF), in which it says the planet is on course for four-degree (celsius), anthropomorphically-induced, temperature rise that cannot be avoided with current greenhouse abatement schemes.

Compiled by two groups, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics who together studied the corpus of climate change literature, the report opens with a foreword from World Bank Group president Dr. Jim Yong Kim President, the first sentence of which states:

“It is my hope that this report shocks us into action. Even for those of us already committed to fighting climate change, I hope it causes us to work with much more urgency.”

A few paragraphs in, Dr. Kim leaves no doubt that the World Bank has no doubt about the cause of climate change, stating:

“The science is unequivocal that humans are the cause of global warming, and major changes are already being observed: global mean warming is 0.8°C above pre industrial levels; oceans have warmed by 0.09°C since the 1950s and are acidifying; sea levels rose by about 20 cm since pre-industrial times and are now rising at 3.2 cm per decade; an exceptional number of extreme heat waves occurred in the last decade; major food crop growing areas are increasingly affected by drought.”

The report also accepts the inevitability of some climate change even if current greenhouse gas abatement plans succeed, stating that:

“The emission pledges made at the climate conventions in Copenhagen and Cancun, if fully met, place the world on a trajectory for a global mean warming of well over 3°C. Even if these pledges are fully implemented there is still about a 20 percent chance of exceeding 4°C in 2100.10 If these pledges are not met then there is a much higher likelihood—more than 40 percent—of warming exceeding 4°C by 2100, and a 10 percent possibility of this occurring already by the 2070s, assuming emissions follow the medium business-as-usual reference pathway.”

The report says a four degree rise is bad news, suggesting “A world in which warming reaches 4°C above preindustrial levels would be one of unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions, with serious impacts on human systems, ecosystems, and associated services.”

Many will find fault with that statement, as such events would only be unprecedented in human history. The Reg imagines many other sections of the 100+ page document will also generate some strident rebuttal, as it quotes reams of data from sources that have already attracted criticism, such as the International Panel of Climate change.

The report is, however, all-but-silent on actions that could result in lower temperature rises.

But as the World Bank's slogan is “working for a world free of poverty”, the report urges action to reduce the impact of climate change on those least-able to cope with it.

“It seems clear that climate change in a 4°C world could seriously undermine poverty alleviation in many regions,” the report says, adding that “The burden of climate change in the future will very likely be borne differentially by those in regions already highly vulnerable to climate change and variability.”

The report then concludes with the following statement:

“Given that it remains uncertain whether adaptation and further progress toward development goals will be possible at this level of climate change, the projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur — the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen.”

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