Extreme climate change projected for end of century


22
Nov 2012

Global average temperature is on track to rise by 4°C by end of the century warns a new World Bank report “Turn Down the Heat.”  Such an increase will change our climate to such a degree that extreme heat-waves will be common, global food stocks will be threatened, ecosystems and biodiversity will diminish, and sea-level rise will impact coastal settlements. Developing countries are the most vulnerable to these potential consequences of climate change.

Global average temperature is on track to rise by 4°C by end of the century.

The study carried out by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics on behalf of the World Bank, urges countries to focus their mitigation efforts in order to keep warming below 2°C – a ceiling representing the difference between manageable climate change and a climate vastly different and uncertain: Cities will be inundated by seawater due to sea-level rise; Mediterranean countries, northern Africa, the Middle East, and the contiguous United States are likely to see monthly summer temperatures rise by more than 6°C; drought-affected areas would increase from 15.4% of global cropland today, to around 44% by 2100, and in Amazonia, forest fires could as much double by 2050 – just to name a few of the concerning projections the report identifies.

“A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. 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.”

In order to remain below the 2°C ceiling, commitment to mitigation must be world-wide. Next week the 18th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) will be discussing the future of the Kyoto Protocol, which legally binds developed countries to emission reduction targets, as its first commitment period ends in December. 195 parties to the Convention (UNFCCC) will be taking part in climate change negotiations. The time is therefore ripe for a new, ambitious mitigation drive. However, negotiations on emissions targets have historically been an endless quagmire of disagreement and finger-pointing with the US and Canada not signatories, and countries like China, the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, arguing that the fault lies with developed countries and their historical emissions. Perhaps this stand-off will shift with growing world-wide understanding and acknowledgement of the true impacts of climate change. Decisions made next week will indicate whether such a shift is indeed in the making or not.

“…potentially serious consequences of climate change give sufficient reasons to begin adopting response strategies that can be justified immediately even in the face of significant uncertainties.”

Mitigation efforts seem endlessly hampered by political ineptitude and corporate self-interest – currently exacerbated by economic instability the globe over. It was over 20 years ago that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented its first scientific findings on climate change. Its “business-as-usual” scenario projected a 4°C increase in average temperature compared with pre-industrial levels by the end of this century (IPCC, FAR, 1990). At that time the IPCC stated: “…potentially serious consequences of climate change give sufficient reasons to begin adopting response strategies that can be justified immediately even in the face of significant uncertainties.”

Carbon dioxide emissions are at their highest at 391 ppm since pre-industrial levels.

Just this week the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) stated that atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide emissions were at their highest in 2011 at 391 ppm since pre-industrial levels. The phrase “business-as-usual” truly captures our efforts toward mitigating climate change.

Actions are being taken to advance alternative energy sources and to increase efficiency in transportation, housing, construction, manufacturing… Innovative, alternative solutions exist but until our reliance on fossil-fuel diminishes, and economic growth remains misdirected, climate change is here to stay. Adaptation and preparation for our uncertain climate future has to be prioritised – as mitigation efforts will simply be too little, too late.