Over the last 20 years, the World Bank Group has helped countries lift 663 million people out of poverty. In the next 20, we believe it is possible to end extreme poverty. This goal is within our grasp.
But poverty reduction and climate change are linked. We have powerful new evidence that even if climate change falls short of the much-discussed 4°C warmer world, we could witness the rolling back of decades of development gains and force tens of millions more to live in poverty.
If we don’t confront climate change, we won’t end poverty.
To help our clients prepare for the risks of a warming planet, we asked the scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytic in Germany to examine the impacts of climate change on three tropical regions: Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia. Yesterday, we published the results of that study.
Modeling a scenario of 4°C warming, the study reconfirms a climate picture we know well: extreme storms, prolonged heat waves, critical food and water shortages and widespread social and economic disruption. These impacts will interact to generate powerful climatic events, such as a significant sea-level rise and intense cyclones, which will cause intense and widespread damage. This is a future of enormous suffering.
But what I found particularly startling was the report's forecast of the impacts of 2°C warming. Given that the Earth has already warmed 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, the 2°C climate milestone may not be far off. Under current greenhouse gas emission rates, we could reach this point in our lifetimes – in maybe 20 to 30 years.
How would this seemingly small shift in global temperature affect tropical regions? Here’s a snapshot of what the report’s scientists foresee.
In Sub-Saharan Africa food shortages will become more common. Drought and heat will leave 40 percent of the land now growing maize unable to support that crop. Rising temperatures could cause major loss of savanna grasslands, threatening pastoral livelihoods. In South Asia, shifting rain patterns will leave some areas under water and others without enough water for power generation, agriculture or drinking. Events like the devastating Pakistan floods of 2010, which affected more than 20 million people, could become common place. More extreme droughts could stall power generation and turn rural fields barren, leading to lost income for farmers and widespread food shortages.