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 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.
A new scientific report commissioned by the World Bank and released on June 19 explores the risks to lives and livelihoods in these three highly vulnerable regions. Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience (Read it in Issuu, Scribd, Open Knowledge Repository) takes the climate discussion to the next level, building on a 2012 World Bank report that concluded from a global perspective that without a clear mitigation strategy and effort, the world is headed for average temperatures 4 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times by the end of this century.
Small number, big problem
Communities around the world are already feeling the impacts of climate change today, with the planet only 0.8 ºC warmer than in pre-industrial times. Many of us could experience the harsher impacts of a 2ºC warmer world within our lifetimes – 20 to 30 years from now – and 4ºC is likely by the end of the century without global action.
The report lays out what these temperature increases will look like, degree-by-degree, in each targeted region and the damage anticipated for agricultural production, coastal cities, and water resources.
“The scientists tell us that if the world warms by 2°C – warming which may be reached in 20 to 30 years – that will cause widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat-waves, and more intense cyclones,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “In the near-term, climate change, which is already unfolding, could batter the slums even more and greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the Earth’s temperature.”
The report, based on scientific analysis by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, uses advanced computer simulations to paint the clearest picture of each region’s vulnerabilities. It describes the risks to agriculture and livelihood security in Sub-Saharan Africa; the rise in sea-level, loss of coral reefs and devastation to coastal areas likely in South East Asia; and the fluctuating water resources in South Asia that can lead to flooding in some areas and water scarcity in others, as well as affecting power supply.
“The second phase of this report truly reiterates our need to bring global attention to the tasks necessary to hold warming to 2ºC,” said Rachel Kyte, the Bank’s vice president for sustainable development. “Our ideas at the World Bank have already been put into practice as we move forward to assist those whose lives are particularly affected by extreme weather events.”