Climate change is a fundamental threat to development in our lifetime. If we do not confront climate change, we will not end poverty. The sooner we act, the better chance we have of addressing it at a lower cost.
The World Bank Group is concerned that without bold action now, the warming planet threatens to put prosperity out of reach of millions of people and roll back decades of development progress.
This is the year to lay the groundwork for a new global climate agreement expected at the international climate talks in Paris in December 2015. The new Paris agreement needs to speak as loudly of economic transformation as it does of carbon emissions targets. The good news is that climate action does not require economic sacrifice. Smart policy choices can deliver economic, health and climate benefits, as our Adding Up the Benefits report illustrates.
We are seeing action at all levels as the risks become increasingly clear to governments and to businesses. At the UN Climate Summit in September, more than 73 countries and 1,000 companies and investors signaled their support for action through pricing carbon as a necessary part of the solution to drive investments in a cleaner economy and a foundation on which other climate actions can build.
This is an extraordinary year of opportunity. In addition to the work under the surface, all eyes are on major economies as they prepare their Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) for Paris and on which policy instruments countries will choose to propel themselves forward for low-carbon growth.
Today, the science is unequivocal that humans are causing global warming, and changes are already being observed. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years since record keeping began over 130 years ago have been since the turn of the century (2000–2015).
The intensity of extreme weather-related events has also increased. No country—rich or poor—is immune from the impacts of climate-related disasters.
The Turn Down the Heat reports, prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, provide snapshots of the latest climate science and say we are on a path to a 4°C (7.2°F) warmer world by the end of this century if we don't take action. The reports provide a picture of the dangerous effects on agriculture, water resources, ecosystems, and human health if countries do not take action. While every region will be affected, those least able to adapt—the poor and most vulnerable—would be hit hardest. If the world warms by just 2°C (3.6°F)—warming which may be reached in 20 to 30 years—we could see widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat-waves, and more intense storms. Already, studies suggest that about 1.5°C is locked in.
The World Bank Group believes a 4°C warmer world can and must be avoided. Immediate global action is needed to slow the growth in greenhouse gas emissions this decade and to help countries prepare for a 2°C warmer world and adapt to changes that are already locked in. Getting there will require economic transformations and a path to net zero emissionsbefore the end of the century.
At the World Bank Group, we are stepping up our mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk management work, and will increasingly look at all our business through a climate lens.
Last Updated: Mar 24, 2015