No nation immune to climate change - World Bank

Anna Yukhananov
Reuters Middle East

* Poorest regions hit hardest

* World Bank focuses on climate change under new chief

* Must balance climate change with energy needs of poor

WASHINGTON, Nov 18 (Reuters) - All nations will suffer the

effects of a warmer world, but it is the world's poorest

countries that will be hit hardest by food shortages, rising sea

levels, cyclones and drought, the World Bank said in a report on

climate change.

Under new World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, the global

development lender has launched a more aggressive stance to

integrate climate change into development.

"We will never end poverty if we don't tackle climate

change. It is one of the single biggest challenges to social

justice today," Kim told reporters on a conference call on


The report, called "Turn Down the Heat," highlights the

devastating impact of a world hotter by 4 degrees Celsius (7.2

Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, a likely scenario under

current policies, according to the report.

Climate change is already having an effect: Arctic sea ice

reached a record minimum in September, and extreme heat waves

and drought in the last decade have hit places like the United

States and Russia more often than would be expected from

historical records, the report said.

Such extreme weather is likely to become the "new normal" if

the temperature rises by 4 degrees, according to the World Bank

report. This is likely to happen if not all countries comply

with pledges they have made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Even assuming full compliance, the world will warm by more than

3 degrees by 2100.

In this hotter climate, the level of the sea would rise by

up to 3 feet, flooding cities in places like Vietnam and

Bangladesh. Water scarcity and falling crop yields would

exacerbate hunger and poverty.

Extreme heat waves would devastate broad swaths of the

earth's land, from the Middle East to the United States, the

report says. The warmest July in the Mediterranean could be 9

degrees hotter than it is today -- akin to temperatures seen in

the Libyan desert.

The combined effect of all these changes could be even

worse, with unpredictable effects that people may not be able to

adapt to, said John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam

Institute for Climate Impact Research, which along with Climate

Analytics prepared the report for the World Bank.

"If you look at all these things together, like organs

cooperating in a human body, you can think about acceleration of

this dilemma," said Schellnhuber, who studied chaos theory as a

physicist. "The picture reads that this is not where we want the

world to go."


As the first scientist to head the World Bank, Kim has

pointed to "unequivocal" scientific evidence for man-made

climate change to urge countries to do more.

Kim said 97 percent of scientists agree on the reality of

climate change.

"It is my hope that this report shocks us into action," Kim,

writes in the report.

Scientists are convinced that global warming in the past

century is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse

gases produced by human activities such as the burning of fossil

fuels and deforestation. These findings by the UN's

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were recognized by the

national science academies of all major industrialized nations

in a joint statement in 2010.

Kim said the World Bank plans to further meld climate change

with development in its programs.

Last year, the Bank doubled its funding for countries

seeking to adapt to climate change, and now operates $7.2

billion in climate investment funds in 48 countries.

The World Bank study comes as almost 200 nations will meet

in Doha, Qatar, from Nov. 26 to Dec. 7 to try to extend the

Kyoto Protocol, the existing plan for curbing greenhouse gas

emissions by developed nations that runs to the end of the year.

They have been trying off and on since Kyoto was agreed in

1997 to widen limits on emissions but have been unable to find a

formula acceptable to both rich and poor nations.

Emerging countries like China, the world's biggest emitter

of greenhouse gases, have said the main responsibility to cut

emissions lies with developed nations, which had a headstart in

sparking global warming.

Combating climate change also poses a challenge for the

poverty-fighting World Bank: how to balance global warming with

immediate energy needs in poor countries.

In 2010, the World Bank approved a $3.75 billion loan to

develop a coal-fired power plant in South Africa despite lack of

support from the United States, Netherlands and Britain due to

environmental concerns.

"There really is no alternative to urgent action given the

devastating consequences of climate change," global development

group Oxfam said in a statement. "Now the question for the World

Bank is how it will ensure that all of its investments respond

to the imperatives of the report."

Kim said the World Bank tries to avoid investing in coal

unless there are no other options.

"But at the same time, we are the group of last resort in

finding needed energy in countries that are desperately in

search of it," he said.

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