You may recall the shocking World Bank Climate Report from November that concluded: “A 4°C [7°F] world can, and must, be avoided” to avert “devastating” impacts.
What impacts? The must-read report warns that “we’re on track for a 4°C warmer world marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.”
Now World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has a strong WashPost op-ed that warns “we need to get serious fast” to avoid the looming “climate catastrophe.” He explains:
The signs of global warming are becoming more obvious and more frequent. A glut of extreme weather conditions is appearing globally. And the average temperature in the United States last year was the highest ever recorded….
If there is no action soon, the future will become bleak. The World Bank Group released a reportin November that concluded that the world could warm by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century if concerted action is not taken now.
A world that warm means seas would rise 1.5 to 3 feet, putting at risk hundreds of millions of city dwellers globally. It would mean that storms once dubbed “once in a century” would become common, perhaps occurring every year. And it would mean that much of the United States, from Los Angeles to Kansas to the nation’s capital, would feel like an unbearable oven in the summer.
What does the physician and anthropologist recommend we do?
The world’s top priority must be to get finance flowing and get prices right on all aspects of energy costs to support low-carbon growth. Achieving a predictable price on carbon that accurately reflects real environmental costs is key to delivering emission reductions at scale. Correct energy pricing can also provide incentives for investments in energy efficiency and cleaner energy technologies.
A second immediate step is to end harmful fuel subsidies globally, which could lead to a 5 percent fall in emissions by 2020. Countries spend more than $500 billion annually in fossil-fuel subsidies and an additional $500 billion in other subsidies, often related to agriculture and water, that are, ultimately, environmentally harmful. That trillion dollars could be put to better use for the jobs of the future, social safety nets or vaccines.
Kim certainly talks to the talk when it comes to the implications of the climate crisis for the Bank itself:
Just as the Bretton Woods institutions were created to prevent a third world war, the world needs a bold global approach to help avoid the climate catastrophe it faces today. The World Bank Group is ready to work with others to meet this challenge. With every investment we make and every action we take, we should have in mind the threat of an even warmer world and the opportunity of inclusive green growth.
Let’s hope he means it. The Bank’s inconsistency on climate has been widely noted — see “Why Does the World Bank Say it Cares About Climate Change, But Continue to Aggressively Push Coal?” The Bank has kept financing large coal plants — most infamously providing a $3.75 billion loan for one of the world’s largest coal plants, located in South Africa. The Bank also pushed a 600-MW coal plant in Kosovo.
Even after the report was released, many questions were raised about whether the Bank would walk the walk:
- 4-GW Tata Mundra Coal Plant Is A Test Of The World Bank’s Stated Commitment To Address Climate
- World Bank’s New Climate Strategy: Keep Financing Coal, Just Don’t Call It A Coal Plant
On the basis of the report and this new op-ed, the bank must stop funding all new fossil fuel plants. I use the word “must” because that is the word the report and President Kim repeatedly use.
And it must be “all new fossil fuel plants” because the International Energy Agency has made clear this year with detailed analysis that natural gas isn’t the solution if your goal is staying far from 7°F warming — see IEA’s “Golden Age of Gas Scenario” Leads to More Than 6°F Warming and Out-of-Control Climate Change. It must be noted that even that IEA gas scenario, which results in too much warning, assumes that not only does global oil consumption peak around 2020 — but so does coal! So if one or both of those peaks don’t happen — and they wouldn’t without a high price of carbon and aggressively clean energy deployment starting now — then the Golden Age of Gas is just Hell and High Water, the “devastating” scenario laid out in the World Bank report.
The findings of the Bank report match those of PricewaterhouseCoopers, which found that limiting warming toeven 7°F requires “nearly quadrupling the current rate of decarbonisation.” That means the only rational clean-tech strategy for a non-suicidal species is “Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, R&D, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy“ [yes, not in that order].
And 4°C [7°F] is not even the high end of projected warming for 2100 if we stay near our current emissions path (see “The IEA And Others Warn Of Some 11°F Warming by 2100).”
Kim’s ending is simple but blunt:
After the hottest year on record in the United States, a year in which Hurricane Sandy caused billions of dollars in damage, record droughts scorched farmland in the Midwest and our organization reported that the planet could become more than 7 degrees warmer, what are we waiting for? We need to get serious fast. The planet, our home, can’t wait.
This article was originally posted on Climate Progress. Re-posted with permission.