By 2100, the world could heat up by 4 degrees Celsius, or 7.2 Fahrenheit. That could have a disastrous effect worldwide. But, according to a new report from the World Bank, such warming would be particularly damaging to the poorest, least prepared countries.
In “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided,” the World Bank points out that, “the poor will suffer the most” with rising temperatures. It outlines exactly how “devastating” effects of a 4 degree change are worst for poorer areas:
- Extreme heat waves, that without global warming would be expected to occur once in several hundred years, will be experienced during almost all summer months in many regions. The effects would not be evenly distributed. The largest warming would be exptected to occur over land and range from 4° C to 10° C. Increases of 6° C or more in average monthly summer temperatures would be expected in the Mediterranean, North Africa, Middle East and parts of the United States.
- Sea level-rise by 0.5 to 1 meter by 2100 is likely, with higher levels also possible. Some of the most highly vulnerable cities are located in Mozambique, Madagascar, Mexico, Venezuela, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
- The most vulnerable regions are in the tropics, sub-tropics and towards the poles, where multiple impacts are likely to come together.
- Agriculture, water resources, human health, biodiversity and ecosystem services are likely to be severely impacted. This could lead to large-scale displacement of populations and consequences for human security and economic and trade systems.
- Many small islands may not be able to sustain their populations.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim told reporters Friday, “We will never end poverty if we don’t tackle climate change. It is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today.” And it’s true: Countries that are poorer and less technologically advanced will surely suffer the worst consequences of climate change, as evidenced by the way such areas are hit by natural disasters.
But warming can, in fact, be slowed. The World Bank report estimates that we can globally lower the estimated rise — though not eliminated entirely — to 2 degrees Celsius if countries work harder to staunch the flow of carbon into the atmosphere. That requires participation from the largest global leaders, who are often the worst emitters of carbon, to work on the issue, even if the effects on such economic powerhouses are relatively small compared to the poorer, less powerful countries that would bear the burden of a warming planet.