In 2012, the World Bank commissioned a report charting the likely course of global warming over the next 20 to 30 years. The report, entitled Turn down the heat, uses computer programs to project the impact of human activity on the planet’s climate, and the effects of these changes on Earth’s oceans, wildlife, food supply, and weather. The report’s findings were accompanied by a call to action, as World Bank President Jim Yong Kim highlights that modern generations “need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations.”
A 2013 follow-up to the original report adds a human dimension to a scientific problem, as it turns the focus toward “climate extremes, regional impacts, and the case for resilience,” explaining how the projected changes in climate will affect human populations. Immediately after the June 19th release of this newer report, the World Bank partnered with Reuters to generate publicity regarding the findings.
The environmental impacts outlined in the report are an escalation of trends such as increased heat waves, rising sea levels, droughts, and an increased frequency of severe storms and flooding, impacts “that are already being felt in some regions,” according to the full 2013 report. As the seas rise and grow warmer, coastal areas and coral reefs will likely be threatened with destruction.
These environmental impacts will also have a significant impact on human populations. The rapid expansion of urban populations is driving increasing numbers of people to coastal cities, while at the same time these areas are becoming “the most dangerous zones for climate change.” According to a summary of the World Bank report, even small increases in sea levels will increase the risks of storm surges and flooding in communities that live near oceans and rivers.
Furthermore, the World Bank expects that the poorest regions of the world will experience the greatest negative impact from these changes. The report focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia: areas of the world where large percentages of the population depend on agriculture that will be threatened by climate change. In coastal areas, crops are threatened by the prospect of a sharp increase in storms and flooding. Elsewhere, the danger lies in the possibility of droughts and water shortages that would potentially “threaten the food supplies of Sub-Saharan Africa and the farm fields and water resources of South Asia and South East Asia,” according to the report.
In light of these findings, the World Bank has doubled its funds contributed to climate change adaptation, for a total of US$4.6 billion in 2012 in an effort to mitigate climate change and build resilience among vulnerable populations. Financial resources such as Climate Investment Funds and the Forest Carbon Partnership are also working in conjunction with the World Bank.
In the past year, the World Bank, traditionally a resource for economic and infrastructure development, has turned its eye toward the prospect of climate change, and projections for future environmental impacts. The 2013 report “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience” combines the environmental side of climate change with a focus on how it affects human populations, food supplies, and prospects for agriculture.