If you think that climate change is a distant and future threat, you are in for a rude awakening. I just returned from Zambia, where I witnessed how communities in the Barotse basin located in the western province are coping with varying weather conditions. On the one hand, high temperatures and drought led to the loss of their maize crops while delayed and fluctuating rainfall patterns challenged rice planting in the wetter plains, devastating the livelihoods of communities in the region.
Such changing weather patterns and the impacts of rising temperatures, already evident at a global mean temperature increase of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, are not likely to relent anytime soon. In fact, according to the recent World Bank report Turn Down the Heat – Confronting a New Climate Normal, things are going to get worst. The report suggests that, even with very ambitious mitigation action, we may be locked into warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century. Unfortunately, while everyone will be affected by a changing climate, it is the poor and the most vulnerable and those least able to adapt who are hardest hit. Clearly, we cannot ignore the increasing climate risks and continue on a business-as-usual approach to development.
With this in mind, the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, has recognized climate change as one of the major issues to be addressed in order to maximize and safeguard development impact. In response, the World Bank has developed and launched a set of online Climate and Disaster Risk Screening Tools. These tools provide a systematic and consistent way of considering short and long-term climate and disaster risks at an early-stage of project and national/sector planning processes. Screening is a first but essential step to make sure that these risks are assessed and managed in development planning.