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World Bank: Tackle warming or poverty remains

Climate change will hit all nations, but especially the poor ones, says new World Bank report. Warming could flood Vietnam and Bangladesh, dry out other areas, causing water scarcity. 

By Anna YukhananovReuters / November 19, 2012

A woman collects drinking water from a tube well at the flooded village of Godadhar in Faridpur in 2008, one of several areas in north and northeastern Bangladesh inundated by swollen floodwaters. The World Bank says the globe can't end poverty if it doesn't tackle climate change.

Andrew Biraj/Reuters/File

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WASHINGTON

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.

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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 Friday.

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."

SHOCKED INTO ACTION

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.

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