Climate Change Impacts: Where the World Bank Wants to Put its Money


Floods cause devastation in India. Again! While climate change is expected to affect every single being in every corner of the world, the effects may not be felt evenly. Asian cities like Bangkok, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh, are expected to bear the brunt of the impact as sea levels rise, tropical storms intensify and rainfalls more sporadic and intense. The World Bank is beginning to commit billions of dollars in flood and water management, and this could not have come sooner as effects are beginning to be felt even today. The World Bank President Jim Yong Kim says it now looks at the effect on climate change of all of its lending decisions, though finding the right answers isn’t always easy. Read more

Climate change threatens trouble in the near future, World Bank says

By Howard Schneider in Washington Post (19 June 2013):

The World Bank is beginning to commit billions of dollars to flood prevention, water management and other projects to help major Asian cities avoid the expected impact of climate change, a dramatic example of how short the horizon has become to alleviate the effects of global warming.

Places such as Bangkok, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City are now considered “hot spots” that will bear the brunt of the impact as sea levels rise, tropical storms become more violent, and rainfall becomes both more sporadic and — in the rainy season — more intense.

Bank officials said this week that those effects are not considered a distant risk anymore, but rather are a near certainty “in our planning period” of the next 20 years or so.

In a study released Wednesday, the bank, for example, projected that major portions of Bangkok would be flooded by 2030. A flood control system built for Ho Chi Minh City only a decade ago is now considered inadequate and needs a $2 billion overhaul, said Rachel Kyte, the bank’s vice president for the environment and sustainable development.

The system “was built for a scenario that no longer exists,” Kyte said. “The investment they made is obsolete” for the sea level rise projected in coming years — about half a foot by 2030 under current projections, and double that a decade later.

World leaders have committed to try to curb greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit the global temperature increase to about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius. A World Bank report last year projected that the world is on pace for an increase of perhaps twice that over the next century — potentially devastating water and food supplies in some parts of the world and leading to tens of millions of refugees fleeing a degraded environment.

But that dire prediction of a hundred years off still seemed “a long way away,” Kyte said, so the bank commissioned a follow-up report to look at what is likely to happen in the next few years as global temperatures move towards the 2-degree-Celsius increase.

The impact is substantial, and falls most heavily on less developed nations in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as parts of Asia most prone to flooding and harsh tropical storms.

In Africa, areas relied on for corn and other crops may become too arid to farm, and grazing lands could wither. Bank officials said they are hopeful that advances in crop science and genetics by then will have produced drought-resistant varieties of corn and other plants adaptable to the emerging environment.

In Asia, the threat is from too much water as seas rise, mountain glaciers melt, and intense storms overwhelm urban systems. Rising ocean temperatures and saltwater intrusion into rivers could ruin local fisheries — a key source of protein — in countries such as Vietnam.

The issue has become a main concern for World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who sees it as a chief impediment to alleviating global poverty. The progress of the last 20 years, he argues, could be set back substantially if nations must devote resources to recovering from storms and natural disasters instead of investing in health, education and other services that could boost their societies.

As a result, Kyte said the bank is now focusing much of its planning in some countries on how to build infrastructure and re-engineer cities to better withstand environmental stress.

That might include elaborate dike networks to hold back the rising tide, holding areas that could capture water running downhill after intense rains, or measures to ensure that generators or other critical power equipment are moved out of basements and pumping or other systems are installed to protect major structures.

Among the world’s several development banks, funding for projects to help poorer countries battle climate change rose from $10 billion in 2011 to nearly $25 billion in 2012, Kyte said, and is expected to continue rising.


Climate change will reshape world ‘in our lifetimes’ – World Bank president

Laurie Goering for the Thomson Reuters Foundation (19 June 2013):

LONDON (Thomson  Reuters Foundation) – In fewer than 20 years, climate change impacts – from flooded major cities to crashing food production – threaten to fundamentally reshape the world economy and dramatically worsen human lives, the World Bank’s president warned on Wednesday.

But political will to act on climate change, particularly by major players such as China, is rapidly building, even as U.N.-led climate talks falter, Jim Yong Kim said at a Thomson Reuters discussion in London.

After seeing widespread deaths from pollution last winter, “there’s a new spirit in China,” Kim said. The Asian giant, the world’s largest carbon emitter, is setting “really, really aggressive goals” on curbing climate-changing emissions, and are moving to establish what could be the world’s biggest national carbon market, he said.

Right now, “they’re more serious than any country I know” in terms of acting on climate change, Kim said. That, combined with what he said was strong political will in the White House to address the problem and moves to curb emissions from New Delhi to New York, could add up to changes that will eventually address “the huge bulk of the issue” – even if it’s not happening fast enough, he said.

New Delhi, for instance, now runs its once smoke-belching buses on cleaner – though still not clean enough – natural gas. Hong Kong has halved the number of cars in the city. And in Africa and other regions, climate-smart changes to agriculture are lowering emissions and laying the groundwork to shore up food production.

New York City, which pledged to reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2030, now is on track to reach its goal by 2017, Kim said. And Germany is leading the world in growing its economy while reducing its carbon footprint.

“Every country in the world has to move in that direction,” Kim said.


Some of the impetus to action has come from worsening extreme weather that has brought increasingly frequent record-breaking droughts, floods, fires and storms throughout the world.

“I’ve lost count of the number of once-in-a-lifetime events that happened in the last two or three years,” Kim said. Climate change, he said, is particularly playing out in changes in the planet’s water cycles, with some regions getting far too much and others far too little.

In a report on the regional impacts of climate extremes, released on Wednesday by the World Bank, scientists predicted that by 2030, as world temperatures rise by an expected 2 degrees Celsius, 40 percent of the maize farmland in Africa could become unsuitable for growing the crop. The southern Philippines over the same period could see its fisheries fall by half, the report said.

Stunting from malnutrition “is going to be everywhere”, Kim said.

In South Asia, a shifting monsoon is likely to leave some regions underwater, and others in worsening drought, the report said, with major cities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Dhaka also facing increasingly intense cyclones. In Southeast Asia, Bangkok could be underwater by 2030 or 2040, the report said.


“It’s coming unless world leaders do something about it,” Kim warned. “This report should make us lose sleep over what our world will look like in our lifetimes.”

“Climate change is a short and medium term risk to the global economy,” he said. “People think it’s about their grandkids. It’s not.”

The World Bank, he said, now looks at the effect on climate change of all of its lending decisions, he said, though finding the right answers isn’t always easy.

In Liberia, for instance, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has begged the bank for help in increasing the country’s paltry access to energy, in order to attract investment, start industries and provide jobs for former soldiers who remain a threat to the country’s stability while they are unemployed.

That urgency has led the bank to support coal-fired energy projects in Liberia, Kim admitted. “I’m going to try everything I can to avoid investing in coal … but I can’t look Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the eye and say, ‘You have to wait’,” he said.


Kim said he believes the slow-moving U.N. climate change negotiations, which aim to build a new global climate treaty in 2015, to take effect in 2020, are crucial but clearly not enough, and that delaying action on climate change until the new treaty takes effect is “a lame excuse in the face of what we’re about to hand to our children”.

What’s needed is hard work to scale up the climate-friendly changes that are happening now but are insufficient, he said, while continuing to “push our leaders to sign global agreements”.

China’s increasing serious worries about climate change give him some hope for the U.N. process, he said.

“The fact that China is being so aggressive about their own carbon market is a really, really encouraging sign for a global (climate) agreement,” he said. If China, the United States and Europe could form the basis of a world carbon market, then low-carbon investment will surge and “finally, finally we’ll have market mechanisms working to help us deal with climate change”.


Part of what is necessary to drive political action on climate change, he said, is a genuine grassroots movement, something that is currently missing. Action on HIV/AIDS, he said, came only after activists went into national health institutes, threw blood and demanded change.

“I keep asking: ‘Where is the plan for that?’ We don’t have it yet,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like a movement.”

Scientists and climate experts, similarly, have done a poor job at helping people understand the links between extreme weather and climate change, and providing them with answers about what to do to make a difference, beyond what he called “small-bore answers” like installing solar panels.

“We need to put together a plan that is equal to the challenge, and we have not done that yet,” he said. “As extreme weather events continue to happen, I think public opinion is going to change and at that point we need to have a plan.”


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