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Percentages, Pauses and Politics (of Climate Change)

Rachel Kyte's picture
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 Physical Science BasisWhen it comes to climate change, there has been a lot of talk the past few days about percentages (scientists who point to human causes), pauses (has warming slowed), and what it all means for policy and politics.

But, let’s be clear.

The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides conclusive new scientific evidence that human activities are causing unprecedented changes in the Earth’s climate.

It buries the hatchet on “is it real” – the scientists say that it is extremely likely (95% probability) that most of the warming since 1950 has been due to human influence.

It pushes back on the skeptics’ claims that global warming stopped in 1998, and, most of important of all, it confirms that human activity, left unchecked, will further warm the Earth, with dramatic effects on weather, sea-levels and the Arctic.

This major international assessment of climate change, adopted Friday by the world’s governments, paints a blunt, clear picture of the scale of the problem before us.

The key question now is what are we going to do about it.

The World Bank’s own Turn Down the Heat report warned that we’re on track for a 4°C warmer world by the end of the century, a world marked by extreme heat waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise. Our follow-up report in June revealed how a 2°C warmer world, a world we could experience in our lifetimes, will keep millions of people trapped in poverty.  

At the World Bank Group, we are redoubling our efforts to work with countries to identify cost-effective solutions to reduce emissions and help our clients prepare for the risks of a rapidly warming planet.

We are also working to support action by, and with, others to deliver solutions and bold ideas that will make the biggest difference: to help cities grow clean and climate resilient, develop climate smart agriculture practices, and find innovative ways to improve both energy efficiency at scale and the performance of renewable energies. 

Not easy, but necessary, we are also seeing how to work with countries to roll back harmful fossil fuel subsidies and help put the policies and architecture in place that will eventually lead to a stable price on carbon.

The scientific evidence now makes it clear that climate change is a fundamental threat to economic development and the fight against poverty. Decades of progress are now in danger of being rolled back, because of climate change. 

We cannot allow this to happen.


Rachel Kyte
Vice President for Sustainable Development
www.worldbank.org/sustainabledevelopment
Twitter: @rkyte365

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