Gathering clouds—climate change or economic recession


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Gathering clouds—climate change or economic recession
   Photo © Curt Carnemark/World Bank

Climate change is not a new phenomenon. It has been around through much of Earth’s history. But what is new is the speed of climate change today and the growing certainty that it is a consequence of human actions. Why should poor and developing countries worry about climate change? Many say that it is a distant threat of uncertain magnitude and scale. With the global financial crisis, is it not more reasonable to address current priorities such as food security, unemployment, growth and burgeoning fiscal deficits?

The challenge is that climate change is already occurring. Its impacts are visible in melting glaciers, rising sea levels, more violent storms and the changing pattern of extreme weather events. At current trends, science predicts that summers in the Arctic will be ice-free within 100 years. And it is not just the polar bears—who make good press copy—that would suffer. The effects would cascade across climate systems everywhere.

The impacts of climate change are being felt most acutely in the poorest countries of the world. Few developing countries are well adapted to even current climate shocks. Yet climate change is predicted to increase the variability and frequency of extreme events in ways that are outside the realm of our experience.

So where should we begin? Strategies that address the current risks of climate variability would go a long way to helping countries address these future projected impacts. Managing climate risks is fundamental for preserving and enhancing development and is often directly linked to national development priorities and business opportunities—in energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable livelihoods and environmental protection, and building resilience of infrastructure to climate variability.

The World Bank’s South Asia Region has recently released its draft Climate Change Strategy . We invite readers to visit the site and comment on the suggestions for addressing the climate–development challenge. The approach proposed for South Asia that builds upon the theme of building climate friendly economies may well apply more widely.

There is a long way that countries can go to developing sustainable and climate friendly growth strategies without sacrificing the urgent current development needs. While this is important, it is unlikely to be sufficient. To achieve the levels of greenhouse gas stabilization needed to prevent uncontrolled climate change, we need a considerable high-level global cooperation. Achieving a global consensus will be a challenge – but irrespective of the outcome, much can be done to begin the process of enhancing development under climate constraints.


Richard Damania

Global Lead Economist, World Bank Water Practice

Join the Conversation

Christine Kwok
March 18, 2009

2,000 scientists and other dignitaries gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark for the "End of the World" Conference starting last week.

One of the alarming news is the previous prediction of 2 degrees of rising temperature is severely underestimated.

Dr. Katherine Richardson said we could forget the 2 degrees but we are facing 5 to 6 degrees increase in temperature. We are on the worst senario case.

Please watch this important video:

Khalid Khan
March 06, 2009

Being from one of the populous region, South Asia, I fear for the future of this poor region due to unchecked or unnoticed climatic change. There are various factors such as huge population, Agriculture, Rivers / ground Water, rains and such resources dependency by the mankind to meet bear minimum. Fortunately, countries like Pakistan and India are also benefiting their economies through the naturally available a great resources such as Himalya /glaciers. However, the same fortune is feared to be turned in to misfortune due to unprecedented global warming effects. A greater population is living along the rivers banks, depending agriculture, livestock and others are at the verge of threat about their future household incomes.
However, most unfortunate is the ignorance of the actual target communities about the climate change and its impacts and there is a dire need of conducting an Inter-Disciplinary research to help in empowering communities for better adaptations and putting person to person individual share towards the environmental betterment. I being associated (South Asian Educational & Environmental Initiatives) shall be looking forward finding skilled partners for conducting a detailed impact assessment. There is a need to develop a mediation by building capacity of the communities to face the future challenges.