In April 2009, I blogged on a paper co-authored with David Wheeler (Center for Global Development) on the impact of sea-level rise and storm surges in developing countries. David has extended this work further to include the potential future impact of sea-level rise for more than 500 cities, given changes in population. The results are stunning, and show a huge potential impact concentration in a few hot-spot cities.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Photo © Mari Tefre/Global Crop Diversity Trust
If you are not familiar with it, I highly recommend taking a look at the TED website. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. It organizes conferences where people from different fields and walks of life, scientists, engineers, and politicians, can present their ideas and projects.
The talks are filmed and made available for free on their website, which now contains a vast collection of brilliant presentations and speeches, always informative and at times downright jaw-dropping (in fact, “jaw dropping” is one of the categories you can use to scan through the presentations.)
The presentation that recently caught my attention is one by Cary Fowler, about the importance of genetic diversity in agriculture. Dr Fowler is Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, whose mission is to conserve Earth’s agricultural biodiversity. Jointly funded in 2004 by FAO and Biodiversity International the Trust worked with the Norwegian Government and the Nordic Gene bank to create the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, also dubbed by the media “the Doomsday vault,” which was officially opened on February 26, 2008.
A question we’ve been asked (and have asked ourselves) is how much climate change mitigation will cost developing countries. We recently revised our numbers so that the ones presented in the final version of the World Development Report 2010, due out in early November, differ from those in the advance version of the report, which is now online.
What are our new numbers? Here goes: In the medium term estimates of mitigation costs in developing countries ranges between $140 billion and $175 billion annually by 2030. That is the annual net cost of developing-country mitigation measures to stay on a 2 °C trajectory.
But financing needs will be higher however as many of the savings from the lower operating costs associated with renewable energy and energy efficiency gains only materialize over time. McKinsey, for example, estimates that while the incremental cost in 2030 would be $175 billion, the upfront investments required would amount to $563 billion (over and above business-as-usual investment needs). McKinsey points out that this amounts to a roughly 3 percent increase in global business-as-usual investments, and as such is likely to be within the capacity of global financial markets (McKinsey 2009).
300 miles. Starting September 26, about 200 cyclists, including myself, will embark on a 300 mile, 5-day ride from New York City to the steps of the Capitol in Washington, DC to promote awareness for climate change and to raise money for rails-to-trails conservancies and clean energy NGOs (http://www.climateride.org/). If I were to drive the same distance, using my beloved '93 Ford Probe (Ford Mustang Lite), my gas consumption would produce about 100 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
|Photo © World Bank|
The booklet draws attention to the urgent need to tackle the varied impacts of climate change on Africa’s agriculture, forests, food security, energy, water, infrastructure, health, and education. The continent’s natural fragility means that changes in rainfall patterns, increased droughts and floods, and sea level rise are already causing damage and affecting people’s lives.
Climate change in the news (Sept 21 - Sept 25, 2009)
*Contributed by the SDN Communications team
|Photo © World Bank|
As more frequent and intense droughts (which I described in a previous post as the ‘dry face of climate variability’) are expected in the future with climate change, there is an urgent need for more such efforts across the world to improve and expand the mechanisms for managing and coping with them.
Because drought is spatially widespread and can last for long periods of time, its management extends from the household to the international level. We approach drought management in different ways depending on the sector or resource, and it is usually addressed reactively, rather than proactively.
A year ago I was assigned from a World Bank operations team providing support to countries in Europe and Central Asia on energy, climate mitigation and adaptation to work in a Bank administered trust fund, the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), as a thematic coordinator for energy and climate change in this program. One of my roles is to coordinate a program that is providing support to six emerging economies—Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa—that are proactively seeking to identify opportunities and related financial, technical and policy requirements to move towards a low carbon growth path.
The program has been underway for two years and individual country studies have been managed by World Bank operational teams. The governments of these countries have initiated country-specific studies to assess their goals and development priorities, in conjunction with greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation opportunities, and examine the additional costs and benefits of lower carbon growth. This requires analysis of various development pathways—policy and investment options that contribute to growth and development objectives while moderating increases in GHG emissions.
It is difficult for many of us to focus on more than one thing at a time. Maybe we are hard-wired that way. But if ever our species needed to evolve such an ability, now is the time. At the same time that we urgently need to decarbonize the global economy, we also need to plan for a very different and much more unstable climate. It’s adaptation time too.
The World Development Report 2010 brings home the urgent need for both decarbonization and adaptation planning. There is a new realism afoot in both the climate change science community and in the development community, brought about by mounting scientific observations of change but also some sobering numbers and projections.
There is, I would say, very little realistic probability of avoiding cumulative emissions that will force the climate system beyond 2°C—unless, of course, there is a significant breakthrough in Copenhagen on mitigation targets, beyond what is presently on the table, and immediate implementation of those targets.
Last week , I had nine cattle.
But two of my cattle have died since then, and four are close to death. I cannot replace my loss with cattle from my father as four of his cattle have died too.
I am not sure what I am going to do.
|Another Masai cattle owner. Photo © Ann Phillips|
I saw one of the World Development Report’s recommendations in action yesterday. Kenya’s Green Belt Movement (founded by Professor Wangari Maathai) is working with the Kenya Forest Service, with support from the French Development Agency, a grant from the Government of Japan (PHRD) and carbon credits (both managed by the World Bank), to replant native forests.
|Mercy Karunditu, Project Officer|
The original forest had been cut down and a tough native grass had taken over. Patches of grass had to be cut in order to plant the seedlings of native trees and the grass constantly managed for the first years until the trees were strong enough. The team told us how the carbon credits were planned for 12 years from the start of the project, though it was clear that the trees would still be small at that point. Up front financing for a period of many years is clearly essential.
Project officer Mercy Karunditu told us of the multiple challenges the team faces in nurturing these seedlings. First, villagers grazing their animals on the land where the year old seedlings stand at just ankle height. Second, elephants which destroy the seedlings. Third, fires set by villagers in the native forests to encourage growth of new grass for their animals. And fourth, climate change.
“We used to be sure when the rains would come, now we cannot be sure and when they do come they are very strong and last only for a very short period,” Mercy said.
Getting the operational details right so that teams like this can succeed will be key to making this tool, which brings both mitigation and adaptation benefits, succeed.
| Photo © World Bank/
Tree planting: Professor Wangari
Maathai with Johannes Zutt
I spent yesterday in rural Kenya with the World Development Report (WDR) team and the inspirational activist Professor Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Professor Maathai graphically showed us the problems across multiple areas of the economy when the climate does not behave as predicted. The visit powerfully demonstrated how much worse the effects are when the changing climate combines with a poorly managed environment. Only 1.7 percent of Kenya's territory has forest cover, compared to about 10 percent a century ago. And the forests are increasingly fragmented. Yet these fragments protect water towers that are the source of the country’s rivers. The diverse natural forests regulate rainfall, provide homes for Kenya's stunningly diverse flora and fauna, and of course they also help our planet to store carbon. But human activity in and around the forests continues to threaten their survival. Over recent decades, plantation forests have replaced much of the natural forests that once covered Kenya, but they are much less effective at regulating rain, preventing soil erosion and protecting diversity. As I said on our visit to the Aberdare Forest yesterday, in many places I did not see forests; what I saw instead were tree farms.
No one in Nairobi—where we just released pre-press version of the World Development Report—needs to be reminded about the effects of climate change. Four consecutive rains have failed, and on 80 percent of the country’s land area, water resources are at a tenth of their normal levels.
|Photo © Ann Phillips|
Everyone is feeling it.
Farmers see dying crops. The harvest is 28 percent of normal amounts. The Minister of Environment reported at the WDR launch yesterday that ten million Kenyans were going hungry because of the drought. Herders see their cattle dying or have to sell them for low prices. Some are shipping their cattle to areas that still have grass only to see them die of cold at the higher altitudes.
After more than a year of research, consultation, and writing, I’m happy to announce that we have just released a “pre-press” version of our report: World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change. While the printed books won’t be ready until the end of October, the advance files (subject to correction and change) are now available on our website, so please feel free to download them and let us know what you think via comments on this blog!
The report, which is the latest in the World Bank’s long-running series on development, emphasizes that developing countries are the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. In fact, they face 75 to 80 percent of the potential damage from climate change. The latest and best scientific evidence tells us that at global warming of more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures—an increase that will be extremely difficult to avoid—more than a billion people could face water scarcity, 15 to 30 percent of species worldwide could be doomed to extinction, and hunger will rise, particularly in tropical countries. So it’s overwhelmingly clear that developing countries need help to cope with these potential impacts, even as they strive to reduce poverty faster and deliver access to energy and water for all.
Sub-Saharan African countries are bracing for dramatic impacts of climate change. As Andrew Simms of the UK-based New Economics Foundation has aptly put it, they are “caught between the devil of drought and the deep blue sea of floods.”
Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions have been minimal because of its low levels of industrial output. Yet African countries are likely to suffer disproportionately from global warming. They are therefore right to demand that international climate negotiations be based on principles of historical justice.
But behind this seemingly dismal outlook lies a unique opportunity for Africa to lead the way in adopting low-carbon growth strategies. The region is not too heavily committed to the same damaging industries that its industrial counterparts are having difficulties abandoning. African countries therefore need to complete their demand for historical justice with the design of climate-smart policies.
|Photo © Julia Bucknall/World Bank|
In our culture, we need nine cattle in order to get married. I have worked hard and now have my nine cattle. One of them is a bull. I am planning to get married in February with a big celebration.
But this year, the rains have come so late, and there is no grass left. We are trucking the cattle to other places where we think the grass is better, but there won't be enough grass for everyone.
For the first time, the Ewaso Nyiro River has stopped flowing. There are more people living upstream now, and global warming is affecting the glacier on Mount Kenya.
Every year, the World Development Report focuses on a different topic of global importance, and, as part of its preparatory activities, consults with various groups around the world. The 2010 World Development Report on Development and Climate Change is no exception. This report has required unique attention to varying points of view because climate change affects different countries in drastically different ways. Over the past year, as we approached the task of putting together a report on such a significant topic, we sent our team of authors all over the world to consult with representatives from over 40 countries. We listened to stories about how climate change is affecting them, and sought their views on our report’s evolving messages, which I described in an earlier blog post. We compiled this feedback as it was received, and have posted summaries of these consultations on our website.
|Photo © iStockphoto.com|
While people are largely well adapted to the ‘natural’ climate variability of their region (of which drought is one half of the equation, and abnormally wet periods the other), droughts can pose very serious risks when their severity exceeds expected levels, or when they strike in areas which are not used to coping with them. And this is likely to happen more frequently with climate change.
|Photo © Yosef Hadar/World Bank|
The Amazon basin harbours the largest contiguous tropical forest on the planet, spread over eight countries. Over the past four decades the Amazon has been subjected to deforestation, forest degradation, global warming, and vegetation fires. However, the model for development of the Amazon—which is based on replacing forests with agriculture and cattle ranches—can be criticized on more than just environmental grounds. It can be faulted on economic grounds too. For example, the gross agricultural product of the Brazilian Amazon represents less than 0.5% of the Brazilian GDP. Sadly, fifty years of deforestation have brought neither wealth nor quality of life for most Amazônidas.