Of course, my initial reaction to reading the press release by the World Bank regarding a new report about the threat global warming poses to its international projects, especially in third world countries, was "well, Duh!!!".
But then after reading through the details of the press release (unfortunately, the report is not yet available), I was even more astounded than I was after watching An Inconvenient Truth. According to the World Bank, the impact on the GDP of developing countries as well as the additional health, ecological and general economic impact could be staggering. The report even goes so far as to indicate that the economic impacts of global warming are already being felt, and could get much worse very quickly.
The report, titled Managing Climate Risk-Integrating Adaptation into World Bank Group Operations, was released to coincide with the Third Global Environment Facility Assembly these past few days in Cape Town, South Africa. And while the impact could be up to $400 million per year for World Bank projects and $1 billion overall, the impact on poor countries' ability to fight poverty and disease, increase biodiversity and make economic strides is even larger:
The report says that the consequences of such changes include decreased water availability and water quality in many arid and semiarid regions; an increased risk of floods and droughts in many regions; reduction in water regulation by snow and glaciers in mountain habitats; decreases in reliability of hydropower and biomass production in some regions; increased incidence of vector- and waterborne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and cholera; increased heat stress mortality; increased damages and deaths caused by extreme weather events; decreased agricultural productivity with almost any warming in the tropics and subtropics; adverse impacts on fisheries; and adverse effects on many ecological systems. Although climate change will bring some benefits to temperate and cold climates, losses will predominate in the developing world.
Global warming is forecast to have a devastating effect on some developing countries as rising sea levels wreak havoc on small island states and more frequent and more severe droughts destroy crops on marginal agricultural land.
Poorer nations, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of employment, would be the hardest hit.
The World Bank said costs associated with global warming would eat into development aid and projects, forcing donors to reassess spending and infrastructure needed to help cut poverty.
"Several studies have suggested that in the absence of adaptation, the annual costs of climate change impacts in exposed developing countries could range from several percent to tens of percent of gross domestic product (GDP)," the bank said.
"Much of this damage would come not gradually and incrementally through the years but in the form of severe economic shocks," it added.
Several percent to tens of percent of GDP. And not in a slow and incremental manner. Considering that the US GDP is running an estimated increase in excess of $200 billion EACH QUARTER and considering how well the economy here is humming along (HA!!), imagine a quick and sharp drop of, oh say $100 billion to $300 billion EACH QUARTER and the impact it would have on our already "robust" economy. Now consider that much of the GDP increase here (per the report) is due to huge increases in corporate profits (increase in gross profits from production was over $225 billion for the first 2 quarters of 2006).
Not a pretty picture, if you ask me.
Two high level individuals at the Global Environmental Facility had some striking comments about the report, as well as the urgent need to do something now: First, Monique Barbut, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) had the following to say:
"Funding for adaptation to climate change is absolutely critical for developing countries. The best form of adaptation is mitigation, but we must also deal with the climate change that the planet is already signed up to. I'm delighted that this Assembly has provided the opportunity to bring financing for adaptation forward in the global environmental agenda, and towards the next climate change Conference of the Parties in Nairobi in November."
Additionally, Warren Evans, Environment Director at the World Bank had the following to say:
"Adaptation to climate risks needs to be treated as a major economic and social risk to national economies, not just as a long-term environment problem. By enhancing climate risk management, development institutions and their partner countries will be able to better address the growing risks from climate change and, at the same time, make current development investments more resilient to climate variability and extreme weather events,"
I hope you didn't think that the President of the World Bank would actually have anything to say about this. But we should know better, since he is probably busy with his PNAC buddies trying to drum up reasons for bombing Iran, which we know would take time away from actually helping countries help develop.
Not that this report contains anything that we haven't already thought to be true, but the figures and the wide-ranging impact of global warming around the, you know, globe, is even more staggering than many can wrap their heads around. And when international organizations which are charged with helping third world countries make economic strides have their projects at risk, it is even longer past the time where drastic actions need to be taken.
It is either than or write off entire segments of the world and countries - which is even more disgusting than ignoring the problems and impact in the first place.