Even if all emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosol precursors ended today, more warming would occur in coming decades than the 0.8°C that has occurred to date, greatly intensifying climate change and its associated impacts. Already, sea level is rising, sea ice and mountain glaciers are retreating, the ranges of plant and animal species are shifting poleward and upward, and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are both losing mass. Each round of the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that change is occurring more rapidly than previously projected.
The World Bank Group advocates the integration of development issues into the next global climate agreement, without taking sides based on the negotiating positions of individual parties to the UNFCCC. One of the purposes of the upcoming World Development Report (WDR) 2010: Development and Climate Change—as well as a number of other country-level studies at various stages of completion—is to actively share economic analysis and practical knowledge intended to help policymakers in various countries take informed decisions on poverty reduction and sustainable development in “a changing climate”.
We are often inspired by strong oratory based on solid data, and carefully expressed facts. Many of us spend our lives trying to craft messages from sprawling data to figure out the best way to proceed.
Yet we are also inspired by the beauty of words or images. In the US, a book was published recently called "Can Poetry Save the Earth". I found a story about it on the National Public Radio website.
The author of the book, John Felstiner, selected one poem that, he thought, could really save the earth if everyone read it.
Since it is the poorest continent, produces less than 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and was not responsible for the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere, there is a strong case that Africa should not have to constrain its growth by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in the future. The one exception may be South Africa, which produces 65 percent of Africa’s (and 1.5 percent of the world’s) emissions and, as a middle-income country, may have the capacity to curb emissions in the future. In a recent paper, Delfin Go, Sherman Robinson, Karen Thierfelder and I explore the costs to the South African economy of a tax on carbon emissions.
As we approach a critical phase in the negotiations regarding climate change, and continue to grope for a way forward in the Doha Round negotiations, it seems to me to be worth emphasizing the multi-faceted linkages between a liberalized trade regime and climate change. Some of these linkages have received fairly extensive attention. For example, it is widely recognized that trade barriers to movement of low-carbon technology need to be kept low, and this is being addressed (although some might think inadequately) under the rubric “trade in environmental services” in the Doha Round negotiations. But other connections have received, IMHO, a level of attention that grossly undervalues their potential to contribute to objectives on either the trade side or the climate change side, or both. This is especially true in the realm of agriculture.
Even in the frugal India of the 1970s, where the idea of waste bordered on the criminal, I thought my grandfather was being excessively old-fashioned when he refused to use our indoor water-heater to take a hot bath in the cooler months.
|Photo © Cammeraydave | Dreamstime.com|
Was it really just three decades ago that my granddad’s carbon footprint was barely visible? Today, as part of my job at the World Bank, I’ve been following climate issues closely, and am often struck by the difference between life in a big western city in the 21st century and in the small-town India in which I grew up. In my world today, many people are beginning to adopt “carbon fasts” during the Christian period of Lent, agreeing to a daily low-carbon action, say, unscrewing a light bulb and doing without it for 40 days. But in the small-town India of my childhood, my grandfather wouldn’t have installed—much less used—an electric light, unless he really needed it to begin with.