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World Bank warns against ‘4 degrees Celsius world’

Time may be running out to prevent the growing danger posed by climate change, warned a new report commissioned by the World Bank.

“Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided,” stressed that the planet is approaching a “4 degrees Celsius world,” which will be marked by severe heat waves, flagging global food supply, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity and life-threatening sea level rise.

These detrimental impacts of the changing climate are “tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions” and likely to weaken development efforts and goals worldwide, the bank said.

“A 4 degrees Celsius warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2 degrees Celsius,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

Sea levels have been rising faster in the past two decades, and this is becoming evident in many tropical regions across the world, the report stated. This phenomenon is accounted for by the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic, as well as in the Arctic sea, which recorded an all-time low in September 2012.

Food security is also in jeopardy as crop yields will plummet in a hotter weather condition. According to field experiments, crops are highly susceptible to temperatures above certain thresholds. Meanwhile, areas that will be affected by drought would get an increase from 15.4 percent of global cropland today to about 44 percent by 2100.

The report identified southern Africa, the U.S., southern Europe and Southeast Asia as the most severely affected regions in the next 30 to 90 years. In Africa, 35 percent of cropland will be unsuitable for farming in a 5 degrees Celsius world.

The climate could warm from the current global average temperature of 0.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to as much as 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, even if the countries meet their emissions reduction targets, noted the report.

"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 Mr. Kim.

“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 added.

According to the World Bank, the report “combines a synthesis of recent literature with new analysis of likely impacts and risks, focusing on developing countries.”

It draws on existing climate change and its impacts, including heat waves and other extreme events, and provides projections for the 21st century for droughts, heat waves, sea level rise, food, water, ecosystems and human health.

"This report reinforces the reality that today’s climate volatility affects everything we do," said Rachel Kyte, World Bank’s vice president for sustainable development. – C. Dominguez

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