World Bank Report: ‘A Disastrously Warming Planet Threatens To… Roll Back Decades Of Development’

By Jesse Vogel

Global climate change will damage water access, crop yields, and basic infrastructure around the world, the World Bank announced Wednesday in its report “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional impacts and the Case for Resilience.” In short, temperature increases risk all efforts to eliminate poverty in developing countries.

This report continues the argument the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda laid out a few weeks ago, when it announced, in its agenda for global development action, that “without tackling climate change, we will not succeed in eradicating extreme poverty.”

The panel, co-chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and which included the Center for American Progress’s John Podesta, argued in its May 30th report that climate change is a cross-cutting issue that leaders must address in order to achieve any poverty-eradication goals


The World Bank’s new report reinforces that argument. They focus on three vulnerable global regions — Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa — and analyze potential effects of temperature increases from the current 0.8º C above pre-industrial levels, to 4º C — double the internationally agreed-upon target.

These regions will face “extreme heat, rising sea-levels, severe storms and droughts,” the authors write, all of which will contribute to a “domino effect” where human costs build. Lower crop yields could lead to food shortages and undernutrition, and damaged oceans could lead to devastated tourism and fishing industries — costing people jobs, livelihoods, and food security.

“Climate change, which is already unfolding, could greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the Earth’s temperature,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said on Wednesday.

The picture doesn’t look good:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa could face livestock-killing droughts, decreased yields of commodity maize and sorghum crops, and undernourishment of up to 90 percent of the population in some areas.
  • In Southeast Asia, rising sea levels could limit freshwater access, higher water temperatures could decimate fishing industries, and flooding could damage infrastructure.
  • And in South Asia, an area with the highest percentage of its population currently living in poverty, changes to the region’s monsoon cycle could decrease crop yields and thus further stunt childhood development, severe tropical cyclones could destroy coastal infrastructures, and changing water supplies and temperatures could damage the region’s biggest energy sources — hydro and thermal power systems.

Basically, they’re talking about a lot of human suffering. Childhood mortality, lives damaged by tropical cyclones, and diminished food access will all be the new normal.


In addition to higher risks from climate disasters, taking action after 2020 will cost $3.5 trillion more than taking action now, according to the International Energy Agency. Poverty elimination and climate change mitigation both require fast action. We’ll lose lives and dollars if we wait.

Jesse Vogel is an intern with the Center for American Progress’ Energy Team.


This originally stated the costs of delaying action until after 2020 would cost $3.5 million. The correct number is $3.5 trillion. We regret the error.