I’ve suggested recently that although high economic growth in recent decades has greatly improved average life expectancy, infant mortality, and other leading indicators policymakers and development practitioners were still worried about the sustainability of these trends and whether people in developing countries would eventually enjoy the high standards of living of high-income countries. This, against the background of a planet under increasing stress, particularly as a result of climate change. In this blog, I explore some of the actions needed to sustain our global economy.
Currently around 43.2 million people or 30% of the population of Bangladesh live in poverty. Alarmingly, this figure includes 24.4 million extremely poor who are not even able to meet the basic needs of food expenditure. These numbers will be even higher if we do not address climate change. Preparation for climate change is essential for poverty alleviation to be sustainable.
Concentration of poor in climate-vulnerable coastal region
In densely populated and land scarce Bangladesh, poor households are disadvantaged with regards to land access, and many end up settling in low-lying regions close to the coast. The poverty map developed by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, World Food Program and the World Bank identifies a high incidence of poverty near the coast, where 11.8 million poor are located in 19 coastal districts in 2010.
Note from Let's Talk Development Editors: Co-authors Michael Keen and Ian Parry were not mentioned in an earlier version of this blog post, this has been corrected.
The central focus of climate talks that concluded last year in Lima has been on building wide agreements to restrict national emissions of greenhouse gases. But some important emissions are hard to allocate to individual nations: Those from international aviation and shipping. These currently constitute about 4% (and rising) of global carbon emissions, and are subject to almost no charges. This current state reflects heavy resistance to such charges, from industry and many governments, but also tax competition: Taxing these sectors by any one country can be hard due to their geographic mobility and international nature.
The recently released fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes abundantly clear that human-induced climate change is taking place, and that unchecked climate change poses a serious threat to economic development and human well-being. Even leaving aside the problem of increased risk of low-probability but catastrophic events, climate change threatens people and places through damages to unique and important ecosystems, increases in severe weather events, reductions in productivity, and needs for increased expenditures to counter the threats such as greater costs to build and maintain infrastructure. For a number of reasons, the poor are likely to be disproportionately affected by these threats.
With a virtual certainty that sea-level rise (SLR) will continue beyond 2100 even if greenhouse gas emissions were stabilized today, it is essential that we gain understanding of the potential impacts of SLR and begin planning adaptation, especially for countries with major risk of SLR. The urgency of responding to the growing alarm over climate change effects worldwide is hitting headlines this week, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released its Climate Change 2014 report warning that climate change is already having widespread effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is putting policies to meet and combat climate change on top of the Bank’s agenda. That is extremely timely and has the potential to fundamentally revitalize the Bank, making it more relevant in today’s world.
Global finance for new clean energy projects is currently at $300-400 billion per year, of which the Bank funds about $10 billion. The International Energy Agency estimates that a minimum agenda, compatible with a two-degree temperature target, requires “green” energy investments of about $1 trillion per year. The Bank alone will only be able to provide a small portion of such additional finance.
Sea-level rise from climate change is a serious global threat, and there is overwhelming scientific evidence that sea-level will continue to rise for centuries even if green house gas concentrations were to be stabilized today.
Recently, Brian Blankespoor, Benoit Laplante and I investigated potential impacts of sea-level rise on coastal wetlands. Our study indicates a rise in sea levels due to climate change of just one meter could destroy more than 60 percent of the developing world’s coastal wetlands currently found at one meter or less elevation. We estimate that such a rise would lead to economic losses of around $630 million per year.
For poor countries, building weather and hydrological services to produce reliable forecasts often does not appear as a priority. Such services are seen as a luxury, rather than a necessity, in low income countries. But is it really the case?
In many countries, human and economic losses caused by weather extremes are on the rise, and they sometimes increase more rapidly than wealth. In some regions, natural disasters now represent a significant obstacle to poverty alleviation at the household level (many studies show that disasters can put households in poverty traps) and at the macro level (some regions are affected by regular events and spend a large fraction of their resources for reconstruction instead of development).
New content aims to bring app developers and programmers together with the World Bank's open climate data.
On December 2nd, 2011 the World Bank Group announced the launch of a new “Apps for Climate” competition, to discover extraordinary ways to use open climate data. The competition encourages scientists, software developers, development practitioners and others to create applications that use open data to help solve the development problems that climate change poses. It aims to promote innovative use of open climate data – for example, through apps that help understand and manage weather-related disasters, to agriculture, food and water supplies, rising sea levels and other climate related development challenges.
The Horn of Africa is facing the worst food crisis ever. Over 12 million people, including malnourished children, have been severely affected in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The UN estimates that around $2.5bn is needed for the humanitarian response in the Horn of Africa. Many countries have come to the rescue and funds have started to flow in. The Data blog has a very informative post with charts and figures on the donated funds and distribution so far.
With soaring global food prices and climate change, longer-term solutions are needed to ensure food security. For Africa, irrigation can be a beneficial solution, as explained by Shanta Devarajan in his post ‘Irrigation and Climate Change’. Elsewhere in Europe, ‘food sovereignty’ is viewed as the future of food, and interestingly the developing countries are showing the way. Read this post from Poverty Matters to know more.