Wednesday, November 28, 2012

World Bank Climate Change Warning

The World Bank has issued a report suggesting that the climate could warm a full 4 degrees by the end of the century. What is most troubling about this study is the fact that we may not be able to avert this temperature increase even if countries fulfill their current emissions-reduction pledges. Sadly, most countries are far from fulfilling even these modest pledges.

The report is titled, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided. The widely agreed upon goal is to keep temperatures from increasing no more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This upper safe limit is considered to be the best way of reducing the likelihood of sea levels, acidic oceans, freshwater scarcity, diminished agricultural yields, searing heat waves, grinding droughts and other extreme weather.

However there are some prominent scientists who have argued that even 2 degrees of warming would be disastrous. We have already seen an increase of about 0.8 degrees, and even if all pollution were arrested today, there are sufficient levels of GHGs in the atmosphere to further raise temperatures by another 0.8 degrees.

"Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in a statement accompanying the report. "Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest," he said.

We need to appreciate that the climate problems we face are not subject to linear progressions. The so called non-linear outcomes will push us towards tipping points much faster. As noted by the World Bank report:

"As global warming approaches and exceeds 2-degrees Celsius, there is a risk of triggering nonlinear tipping elements. Examples include the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet leading to more rapid sea-level rise, or large-scale Amazon dieback drastically affecting ecosystems, rivers, agriculture, energy production, and livelihoods. This would further add to 21st-century global warming and impact entire continents."

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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