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Confronting the new normal: World Bank launches PIK climate report

24.11.2014 - (idw) Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung

Weather extremes such as heat waves that up to now were highly unusual are likely to become the new normal, according to a report by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now launched by the World Bank. Climate Change impacts are already being felt today and will grow even if warming is limited below 2 degrees. However, with unabated warming of probably 4 degrees within our century, the consequences increase drastically. The report is the third in a series, entitled Turn down the heat by the World Bank. The new report focuses on how climate impacts and social vulnerability interact, or how the poor are hit hardest in Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, and East and Central Asia.

The impacts in the various regions around the world are enormously diverse, yet two things become clear in our report: almost no region will ultimately be safe, and the risk for the people on the ground is greatest in places where several impacts overlap, says Christopher Reyer of PIK who coordinated the report that is a result of a cooperation with Climate Analytics (CA) and the UK Overseas Development Institute (ODI). In cities in the Andes mountains, for instance, populations are likely to experience seasonal water scarcity, while in the same time food prices will increase and extreme weather events create additional stress.

**Analyzing science to nderstand the risks**

It is this risk perspective that is a defining characteristic of the Turn down the heat reports, says Reyer. We analyze existing climate science findings to identify which are the impacts that really make a difference. Bill Hare, also a lead author of the report, adds: Assessing the entire chain of climate impacts - for example, how heat waves trigger crop yield declines and how those trigger health impacts - is key to understanding the risks that climate change poses to development.

The results are worrying. In the Caribbean, coral reefs are threatened of significantly higher probabilities of annual bleaching already at 1.5-2 degrees warming, affecting fisheries, tourism and coastal hurricane protection. At 4 degrees, most of the land area in all regions studied will be affected by highly unusual and potentially devastating heat extremes.

**Impacts hit the global poor - but there are options for action**

Tackling climate change is a matter of reason, but also of justice, says the reports lead-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of PIK. Global warming impacts in the next decades are likely to hit those hardest that contributed least to global greenhouse gas emissions: the global poor. Developing countries are expected to experience the most severe climate impacts, notably in the tropics, while lacking the means to build resilience. And within these countries, again those parts of the population with the least means are most vulnerable to additional stress.

Climate change impacts hence make it more difficult to reduce poverty and put in jeopardy the livelihoods of millions of people. 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, says Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. The good news is that we can take action that reduces the rate of climate change and promotes economic growth, ultimately stopping our journey down this dangerous path. World leaders and policy makers should embrace affordable solutions like carbon pricing and policy choices that shift investment to clean public transport, cleaner energy and more energy efficient factories, buildings and appliances.

Weblink to the report:
Weblink to Worldbank press release:

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 2507
Twitter: @PIK_Climate
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