World Bank: Global warming will drive 100 million people into poverty

Without swift action, 100 million people could fall into poverty within 15 years because of global warming, a new World Bank report says.

AP Photo/Shakil Adil
Pakistani villager Rasool Bux and his cattle wade through the floodwater to safe area in Alipur near Sukkar in 2010. Flooding will be one of the many issues caused by global warming, a World Bank report said.

More than 100 million people could fall into extreme poverty due to global warming, according to a World Bank report released Sunday.

The 227-page report called “Shock Waves: Managing the Impact of Climate Change on Poverty,” warns those numbers could be reached in less than 15 years.

As most of the world prepares for a global warming summit in Paris later this month, the report indicates only a change in strategy will spare the world’s poorest nations from the increasingly devastating effects associated with the Earth’s rising temperatures.

Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are the regions most susceptible to the effects of climate change.

"Climate change hits the poorest the hardest, and our challenge now is to protect tens of millions of people from falling into extreme poverty because of a changing climate," World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement.

The debate over the role of rich and poor nations has already begun. Last week, a high-ranking summit member representing 134 developing nations involved in climate change talks said that, without financial support, poorer countries would not be able to meet the mandates likely to be imposed at the summit. 

Wealthier countries are pushing a plan to raise $100 billion each year through 2020 to fund renewable energy, better air quality, and improved public transportation.

The World Bank report indicated those policies must take place now to reach the daunting goal of zero emissions over the next 85 years and should include “rapid and inclusive development” in poorer countries.

Climate change would have destructive effects on agriculture and health, with crop yields possibly cut by 5 percent through 2030, causing poor people to spend more money on food, the report says, also noting that a rise in temperature could also spread diseases and cause more extensive flooding.

Measures such as flood protection, heat-resistant crops, and improved tsunami warnings may also bring relief, the report said. Universal healthcare and new infrastructure could offset some of the damage.

“We have the ability to end extreme poverty even in the face of climate change,” said John Roome, a senior director for climate change at the World Bank Group, in a statement. “But to succeed climate considerations will need to be integrated into development and work. And we will need to act fast because as climate impacts increase so will the difficulty and cost of trying to eradicate poverty.”

One proposal suggests taxes on carbon and energy use could fund these changes in developing countries. Another posits that the savings from the elimination of fossil fuels could be reinvested into developing countries.

In October, the World Bank said the number of people living in extreme poverty would drop below 10 percent this year to 702 million people making less than $1.90 a day. The figure is down from 902 million people in 2012, even as the world's population has grown.

A report released last week by the Pew Research Center showed a majority of countries believe global warming is a grave concern, with Africa and Latin and American citizens leading the pack. Less than half of Americans polled view climate change as a serious problem. 

"We have a window of opportunity to achieve our poverty objectives in the face of climate change, provided we make wise policy choices now,” said Stephane Hallegatte, a senior World Bank economist. 

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