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Climate Change

Seeing the impact of forest fires in South Sumatra: a view from the field

Ann Jeannette Glauber's picture
Also available in: Bahasa Indonesia
Indonesia, burned forest. photo by Ann Jeannette Glauber / World Bank

This past autumn, I saw a shocking headline: Forest fires in Indonesia were creating as many greenhouse gas emissions as the entire United States economy.
 
Between June and October 2015, an estimated 2.6 million hectares—or 4.5 times the size of Bali— burned to clear land for production  of palm oil, the world’s highest value non-timber forest crop, used in food products, cosmetics, biofuels.
 
Recently, along with Vice President for Sustainable Development Laura Tuck and Indonesia Country Director Rodrigo Chaves, I visited South Sumatra, one of the provinces hardest hit by the fires.
 
We saw scrubby fire-adapted landscapes that had replaced biodiversity-rich peat swamp forests.
 
We spoke with local communities who explained how they covered doors and windows with wet towels, to help reduce the smoke.  These families are among the half million people who suffered from fire-related respiratory infections, skin and eye ailments; their children were among the 4.6 million students who missed school last year due to fires, some for weeks at a time.
 
While some of these families lost earnings or assets due to the fires, others spoke of how fire improves soil quality. 
 

On the “Road to Resilience”: protecting India’s coastal communities against natural disasters

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Teams from the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) have embarked on a 40-day, 10,000-km journey along the entire Indian coastline. The objective of this "Road to Resilience" trip is to support the implementation of 6 coastal disaster management and climate resilience projects covering all 10 coastal states of India. Some of those projects aim to enhance resilience and mitigate the impact of future disasters, while others are intended to help the country recover from previous events such as Cyclone Phailin (2013) and Cyclone Hudhud (2014).
 
The "Road to Resilience" initiative is also a unique opportunity to raise awareness about risk mitigation and to interact more directly with local communities, who play a crucial role in preventing and responding to disaster.
 
In this video, Ede Ijjasz and Saurabh Dani take you on the road with them to showcase some of the work the World Bank is doing to protect India's costal states against natural hazards.

Connecting the dots puts environment at the forefront of our biggest challenges

Isabel Saldarriaga's picture
Chad. Andrea Borgarello for TerrAfrica / World Bank

Halfway through the year, Paula Caballero, Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice Senior Director at the World Bank, wrote that 2015 would be the year the world was going to connect the dots for sustainable development. And girl, was she right! 

Year in Review: 2015 in 12 charts

Donna Barne's picture

Now that we've reached the end of 2015, it's clear this was a year of major milestones, emerging trends, and new beginnings. Among other things, 2015 marked a historic drop in poverty, a major climate change agreement, and record low child and maternal mortality rates. Take a look at what the data show.

1. The Global Poverty Rate Fell below 10%

The (actual and scientifically derived) healing power of the sea

Timothy Bouley's picture
 USFWS/Jim Maragos

This week is unique. December 1 was World AIDS Day –a moment to unite with the community touched by HIV and push forward in the fight. December 4 is Ocean Day at COP21 – an opportunity to advance the global ocean and climate agenda toward meaningful impact and action. Two important days with two very different purposes. And yet, each significant in commemorating critical causes that are often just outside the realm of everyday consideration. But it is not only this marginality that links them– and understanding this connection can only strengthen our imperative to act. 

Growing resilient forest landscapes in the face of climate change

Paula Caballero's picture
Also available in: Français | Español
Andrea Borgarello for World Bank/TerrAfrica

Playing out this week and next in Paris is a high-stakes match between science and political will.
 
The science part is quite clear: 2015 is set to be the hottest year on record – a full degree over pre-industrial averages. Climate change is already taking a toll on countries. Add to that we have El Nino wreaking havoc in many parts of the world.  And it is going to get warmer.
 
The political analysis is more complicated. On the one hand, if the national plans, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) drawn up by countries to tackle climate change were implemented, including actions that have been conditioned on available finance, this would likely put the planet on about a 2.7 C degree trajectory that would be catastrophic for the economic, social and natural systems on which we depend.  Clearly more needs to be done. On the other hand, it is a sign of welcome progress. The fact that almost all the world’s countries (Carbon Brief tracks 184 climate pledges to date) have put forward INDCs is a remarkable feat many would have considered impossible just a few years ago.  So there is progress, just not fast enough.
 
Paris should be seen as an important milestone in an arduous journey– a platform for generating an ever upward spiral of ambition in many fields of climate action.
 
One area that promises innumerable wins for people and the planet is land use change, agriculture, and forestry. Together these sectors account for about 24 percent of global emissions, but represent a much greater share of emissions in many developing countries. A preliminary analysis of INDCs shows strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, land use change and agriculture. And there is evidence of a growing appetite for landscape restoration measures in many of those countries. 

The ambition of Paris: A path toward clean economic growth

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية | 中文
© Fabien Minh/Connect4Climate/World Bank


​The Paris climate talks offer a once-in-a-generation opportunity to send the clear signal: We can build prosperity and support economic growth without carbon polluting the earth, and we must act with urgency because of a volatile, warming planet.

I believe political leaders from around the world will rise to this challenge in Paris. For us at the World Bank Group, we will help our client countries and companies make that transition to low-carbon and resilient economic development.

On the importance of snow and joint climate action in Central Asia

Kulsum Ahmed's picture
Kyrgyz Republic / World Bank

If you think about it, snow is a pretty amazing thing. It is nature’s way of storing water in the winter, and then using it in the summer when it is needed, namely during the growing season. If it gets too warm, the water does not stay locked up as snow till the summer. Too much warmth also means that more snow and ice may melt than usual, resulting in floods. But at the same time, if the water comes down the mountain too abundantly and too early, there may not be enough water during the growing season, causing drought-like conditions.

 
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are among the Europe and Central Asia Region’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. In these five landlocked Central Asian countries, water resources depend on glaciers and snow pack. In this region, we have already seen average annual temperatures increase since the mid-20th century by 0.5°C in the south to 1.6°C in the north, and impacts are already being observed, from melting glaciers in upland areas (where glaciers have lost one-third of their volume since the 1900s), to droughts and floods in the lowlands (where weather-related disasters are estimated to cause economic losses from 0.4 to 1.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product per year for Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyz Republic, for instance).
 
The future looks even more challenging. According to a World Bank report Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal,” the region’s glaciers, which account today for 10 percent of the annual stream flow in the Amu Darya and Syr Darya basins, are projected to lose up to 50 percent in volume in a 2°C warmer world, and potentially up to 75 percent in a 4°C warmer world. Melting glaciers and a shift in the timing of rivers’ flow will result in a lot more water in the rivers but this excess availability will not be in sync with growing season’s water needs.  In the second half of the century, there would then be too little water flow in the rivers when the glacier volume is reduced.  The timing of peak flow of key rivers is projected to shift towards spring with a 25 percent reduction in flow during the critical crop growing season. The report also projects increased heat extremes which mean more of a reliance on irrigated agriculture (the report projects a 30 percent increase in irrigation demand) leading to an increase in water demand, exactly when water availability becomes more unpredictable. In this region, water is also connected to energy security, given the reliance on hydropower, creating further challenges.

What El Niño teaches us about climate resilience

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
It was recorded by the Spanish conquistadors, and triggered famines that have been linked to China’s 1901 Boxer Rebellion and even the French revolution.

Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.

The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.

And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.

But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.

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