For Mumbai, hugely disruptive monsoons, cyclones that happened every 100 years, would happen every decade soon, warns World Bank Climate ReportRead Now
As the coastal cities of Africa and Asia expand, many of their poorest residents are being pushed to the edges of livable land and into the most dangerous zones for climate change. Their informal settlements cling to riverbanks and cluster in low-lying areas with poor drainage, few public services, and no protection from storm surges, sea-level rise, and flooding.
These communities – the poor in coastal cities and on low-lying islands – are among the world’s most vulnerable to climate change and the least able to marshal the resources to adapt, a new report released by the World Bank finds. They face a world where climate change will increasingly threaten the food supplies of Sub-Saharan Africa and the farm fields and water resources of South Asia and South East Asia within the next three decades, while extreme weather puts their homes and lives at risk.
An expected 2°C rise in theworld’s average temperatures in the next decades threatens South Asia’s dense urban populations with extreme heat, flooding, and disease and could trap millions of people in poverty across the region, according to a new scientific report released today by the World Bank Group.
Depicting life in a not-too-distant future shaped by already present warming trends, the report warns that even 20 to 30 years from now, shifting rain patterns could leave some areas under water and others without enough water for power generation, irrigation or drinking. South Asia is already experiencing a warming climate, the report says, that can be seen in warmer periods in India, increasing variability of the monsoon rainfall, more heavy rainfalls and an increase in the number of droughts. Droughts will especially affect north-western India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“South Asia would be very affected by a warming climate,” said Isabel Guerrero, Regional Vice President for South Asia at the World Bank. “In a 2°C rise world, the region would see changes in rainfall patterns: some areas would be getting much more rain than they are today and others would be getting droughts. In a 4°C rise world the impact would be even higher: the monsoon patterns that are central to South Asia and have implications in the whole region in many different ways, would change. A hugely disruptive monsoon that happened every 100 years would happen every decade.”
Turn Down The Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resiliencebuilds on a 2012 Bank report that concluded the world would warm by 4°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century if countries did not take concerted action now. This new report looks at the likely impacts of present day (0.8°C), 2°C and 4°C warming on agricultural production, water resources, coastal ecosystems and cities across South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South East Asia.
The report, prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics and peer reviewed by 25 scientists worldwide, says the consequences for South Asia of a warming climate are even worse if global temperatures increased by an average of 4°C by 2090.
In this scenario, seen as likely unless action is taken now to limit carbon release in the atmosphere, South Asia would suffer more extreme droughts and floods, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and declines in food production. In India, for example, an extreme wet monsoon that currently has a chance of occurring only once in 100 years is projected to occur every 10 years by the end of the century. Events like the devastating Pakistan floods of 2010, which affected more than 20 million people, could become common place.
A warming climate will contribute to slowing the reduction in poverty. While the lives of everyone in the region will be altered by climate change, the impacts of progressive global warming will fall hardest on the poor. Low crop yields and associated income loss from agriculture will continue the trend toward migration from rural to urban centers. In cities, the poor will suffer with temperatures magnified by the so-called “heat island effect” of the built environments. Safe drinking water will become increasingly constrained and alternatives, especially during and after flooding, are likely to contribute to greater water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea.
The report cited Bangladesh, already threatened by frequent floods and extreme weather, as just one of more “potential impact hotspots” threatened by “extreme river floods, more intense tropical cyclones, rising sea levels and very high temperatures”. India’s two largest coastal cities, Kolkata and Mumbai, face a similar fate. With South Asia close to the equator, the sub-continent would see much higher rises in sea levels than higher latitudes, with the Maldives confronting the biggest increases of between 100-115 centimeters. Pakistan would suffer the most extreme increases in heat.
Many of the worst climate impacts could still be avoided by holding warming below 2°C, but the window for action is narrowing rapidly. Urgent action is needed to build resilience through economic development to risks to agriculture, water resources, coastal infrastructure, and human health.
“I do not believe the poor are condemned to the future scientists envision in this report. In fact, I am convinced we can reduce poverty even in a world severely challenged by climate change,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “We can help cities grow clean and climate resilient, develop climate smart agriculture practices, and find innovative ways to improve both energy efficiency and the performance of renewable energies. We can work with countries to roll back harmful fossil fuel subsidies and help put the policies in place that will eventually lead to a stable price on carbon.”