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Published November 24, 2014 11:29 AM

World Bank warns effects of warming climate now unavoidable

As the planet continues to warm, heat-waves and other extreme weather events that today occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, will become the “new climate normal,” creating a world of increased risks and instability, a new World Bank study warns. 

The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources shift, sea-levels rise, and the livelihoods of millions of people are put at risk, according to a new scientific report released today by the World Bank Group.

In parts of Central Asia and the Western Balkans specifically, unprecedented heat extremes could occur in over 60 percent of summer months and drought risk could increase by 20 percent in a 4°C warmer world, the report finds. At the same time, projections suggest an increase in riverine flood risk, mainly in spring and winter, due to more intense snow melt in spring and heavier rainfall in the winter months.  

Climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be unavoidable because the Earth’s atmospheric system is locked into warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century, the report said. Even very ambitious mitigation action taken today will not change this, it said.

“Today’s report confirms what scientists have been saying – past emissions have set an unavoidable course to warming over the next two decades, which will affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people the most,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “We’re already seeing record-breaking temperatures occurring more frequently, rainfall increasing in intensity in some places, and drought-prone regions like the Mediterranean becoming drier.”

“These changes make it more difficult to reduce poverty and put in jeopardy the livelihoods of millions of people,” Kim said. “They also have serious consequences for development budgets, and for institutions like the World Bank Group, where our investments, support and advice must now also build resilience and help affected populations adapt.”

Polar Bear on ice flow image via Shutterstock.

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