As climate talks close, World Bank issues gloomy prophesy on the impacts of global warming

The World Bank just released a new report painting a far bleaker picture for the world if climate change isn’t addressed than even the most ominous studies have predicted in the past.The perennial round of negotiations surrounding climate change ended over the weekend – perennial because the yearly talks have thus far yielded little in the way of concrete solutions to the dual challenges of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts that climate change is already having and will continue to have on our planet. 

Not by coincidence, the World Bank just released a new report painting a far bleaker picture for the world if climate change isn’t addressed than even the most ominous studies have predicted in the past.

“Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided,” says that the overall global temperature could increase by 4°C by the year 2100 even if all current commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are met. 

If a new treaty isn’t signed and much more ambitious action taken, that rise in temperature could happen by 2060.

Why are the temperature predictions important?  Scientists believe that the overall global temperature can rise no more than 2°C in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, with many now saying the maximum can be no more than 1.5°C. 

If 2°C will cause the worst effects, then a 4°C increase could be the makings of an apocalyptic James Cameron movie – but in documentary form. 

Many regions are experiencing “once in a lifetime” climate-related events with increasing frequency – Hurricane Sandy was a once in a lifetime event, along with the devastating heat wave last year in Russia that killed almost 55,000 people, and burned an enormous swatch of the countryside.  100 year floods are becoming 10-year floods.  Fifty-year forest fires are igniting every summer.  And so on…

Yet, in Doha, Qatar, the nations of the world negotiating a new, post-Kyoto Protocol climate pact have yet to agree on even the basic tenets of a new climate treaty, which is that the deal should be fair, ambitious, and legally binding. 

Not surprisingly, it is the U.S. and China, the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, which are the lynchpins for any agreement.  In many ways, as the U.S. and China go, so will go our planet.

Next stop on the climate negotiations circuit will be Poland in 2013, though all eyes are on Paris, France, where, hopefully, a final agreement will be signed in 2015 if all goes according to plan (the plan that was produced last year in Durban, South Africa).

--PT

For more on how climate change is impacting animals around the world, see the International Fund for Animal Welfare's (IFAW) report “Unnatural Disasters: The Impacts of Climate-related Emergencies on Wildlife, Livestock, and Companion Animals.

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