World Bank report warns of ‘devastating’ global warming

A major World Bank report warns that Earth may be heading for a 4° Celsius (7.2° Fahrenheit) temperature rise by 2100 that would bring unprecedented heatwaves, droughts and floods – effects that put some of the poorest nations at highest risk.

“No nation will be immune to the impacts of climate change,” states the new report titled “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided.”

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“However, the distribution of impacts is likely to be inherently unequal and tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions, which have the least economic, institutional, scientific, and technical capacity to cope and adapt,” it adds.

The report arrives ahead of the next round of United Nations-led talks aimed at crafting a new global climate pact, which begin in Doha, Qatar in late November.

“As negotiators head to Doha for the climate talks, they must bring a greater sense of urgency and purpose to these negotiations,” said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a think tank.


The World Bank-commissioned study notes that global temperatures have already risen 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels and will soar past the U.N. goal of limiting the increase to 2°C absent stronger policies to limit emissions.

It warns that absent further commitments to curb emissions beyond existing pledges, a rise of over 3°C above pre-industrial levels is likely, and that even if nations' current pledges are implemented, there's a roughly 20 percent chance of going over 4°C by 2100.

“A 4°C world would be one of unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions, with serious impacts on ecosystems and associated services. But with action, a 4°C world can be avoided and we can likely hold warming below 2°C,” it states.

The report warns that some of the most dangerous effects will be felt by poor nations in the tropical regions, who will face the greatest sea-level rise, get hit disproportionately hard by increases in cyclone intensity, and face other effects.

“Increasing aridity and drought are likely to increase substantially in many developing country regions located in tropical and subtropical areas,” the report states.

It warns of ecological harms and increased human suffering, noting that the effects of climate change will counteract benefits seen from economic growth and development initiatives.

“Whilst economic growth is projected to significantly reduce childhood stunting, climate change is projected to reverse these gains in a number of regions: substantial increases in stunting due to malnutrition are projected to occur with warming of 2°C to 2.5°C, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and this is likely to get worse at 4°C,” it states. 

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim — in a forward to the study that expresses hope that the report “shocks us into action” — said the bank will “redouble” work to support national efforts to curb emissions and adapt to climate change.

“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,” he writes.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on Monday called on the panel’s GOP leaders to hold a hearing on the report.

“This is an alarming and sobering report from an organization not known for its environmental activism,” Waxman said in a letter to Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

“As we develop our energy agenda for the next Congress, members of the Committee should have the opportunity to examine the latest information about climate change and the very serious global consequences of inaction,” wrote Waxman, who co-authored the sweeping climate bill that narrowly passed the House in 2009.

It did not advance in the Senate.

This post was updated at 2:30 p.m. and 4:21 p.m.