Some readers and activists may question why the World Bank Group funds coal-fired power plants and yet professes to embrace sustainable development. The answer is that there is an urgent need for energy in the poor countries that we serve and indeed in my home country, China. There are roughly 1.6 billion people in developing countries--700 million of whom are in Africa and 550 million in South Asia--who lack access to electricity.
|Photo © Ray Witlin/World Bank|
The latest data on home prices in the US is pretty dismal. According to the Case–Schiller index, home prices fell by 18.5 % from December 2007 to December 2008 – the largest drop in record. Add the jump in unemployment figures in recent months and we have a bleak outlook.
But what do the housing and labor market in the US have to do with the changing climate? Nothing, at first glance. But the sudden loss in wealth and income is similar to what other asset owners experience in less fortunate parts of the world, where climate change is a threat to well being. Cattle herders and farmers who depend on rainfall often experience a dramatic fall in their assets –typically bullocks or goats- after a drought. The sudden lack of resources when rainfall is low forces them to sell their surviving cattle, pushing their prices down and sending whole communities into destitution.
[Originally posted at the Development Marketplace Blog]
|Photo © Planinternationalty|
We hear that climate changes – ongoing and those to come – are hitting the poor the hardest and the soonest. So what can we do about that?
Well, adapting to climate change is such an abstract and wide-reaching concept I find it sometimes hard to nail down. How do you actually adapt, especially if you are poor and struggling to put food on the table and send your children to school? I find myself wondering what are the ideas that can help poor people cope with harsh weather?
The financial meltdown dominates agendas across the world today, in the wake of two other recent shocks--high food prices and energy price volatility--that have particularly affected many developing countries. Yet, even in a time when countries are preoccupied by pressing economic problems, we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball of another emerging crisis---global warming caused by climate change. Every crisis is an opportunity. With the right handling, we could simultaneously solve the current financial crisis and prevent the emerging climate change crisis.
- How declining aerosols and rising greenhouse gases forced rapid warming in Europe since the 1980s - Geophysical Research Letters - 1/20/09
- Climate change: Snakes tell a torrid tale - Nature - 2/5/09
- The Sea-Level Fingerprint of West Antarctic Collapse - Science - 2/6/09
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“The essential problem is that our models – both risk models and econometric models – as complex as they have become, are still too simple to capture the full array of governing variables that drive global economic reality.[...] But risk management can never reach perfection. It will eventually fail and a disturbing reality will be laid bare, prompting an unexpected and sharp discontinuous response..” Alan Greenspan, former Governor of the US Federal Reserve, writing in the "Opinion" column of the FTMarch 16 2008.
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