World Bank: global warming might be catastrophic

The World Bank has a report out. It’s not pretty:

Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided,” (pdf) warns we’re on track for a 4°C warmer world marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.

Moreover, adverse effects of a warming climate are “tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions” and likely to undermine development efforts and global development goals, says the study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, on behalf of the World Bank. The report, urges “further mitigation action as the best insurance against an uncertain future.”

Coral reefs are acutely sensitive to changes in water temperature and acidity levels. The report warns that by the time the warming levels reach 1.4° C in 2030s, coral reefs may stop growing. This would be a result of oceans becoming more acidic as a result of higher CO2 concentrations. And with 2.4° C, coral reefs in several areas may actually start to dissolve. This is likely to have profound consequences for people who depend on them for food, income, tourism and shoreline protection.

A 4°C warmer world would also suffer more extreme heat waves, and these events will not be evenly distributed across the world, according to the report.

Sub-tropical Mediterranean, northern Africa, the Middle East, and the contiguous United States are likely to see monthly summer temperatures rise by more than 6°C. Temperatures of the warmest July between 2080-2100 in the Mediterranean are expected to approach 35°C – about 9°C warmer than the warmest July estimated for the present day. The warmest July month in the Sahara and the Middle East will see temperatures as high as 45°C, or 6-7°C above the warmest July simulated for the present day.

As global warming approaches and exceeds 2°C, there is a risk of triggering nonlinear tipping elements. Examples include the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet leading to more rapid sea-level rise, or large-scale Amazon dieback drastically affecting ecosystems, rivers, agriculture, energy production, and livelihoods. This would further add to 21st-century global warming and impact entire continents.

In the report they note this:

It is also useful to recall that a global mean temperature increase of 4°C approaches the difference between temperatures today and those of the last ice age, when much of central Europe and the northern United States were covered with kilometers of ice and global mean temperatures were about 4.5°C to 7°C lower. And this magnitude of climate change—human induced—is occurring over a century, not millennia.

So, really this has the very real potential of being catastrophic. That means we should have bipartisan agreement:

But energy and environmental analysts warn that idealistic calls to action may end up hurting climate change policy efforts: With Republicans controlling the House and Democrats the Senate, and the nation facing a hard economic path, they argue any gains need to be made through consensus from both sides of the aisle.

“Sandy has helped put climate change back on the map . . . but it’s not like the bulk of the American people now say that climate change matters more than anything else,’’ said Michael A. Levi, director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change for the Council on Foreign Relations, a bipartisan think tank. Levi recently wrote blog posts calling for environmentalists and oil and gas interests to compromise to get past the stalled climate status quo.

“If you can put together a package that expands opportunity for oil and gas development while curbing emissions from fossil fuels, that is something that moves us” forward, he said.

Hmm, let’s see what the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee thinks:

But Vitter said he has serious doubts, despite significant scientific support that global warming is real and a significant threat.

“I certainly think it’s significant and not adequately explained away, as folks have tried to do, the scandals that went on in climate science in the last five years and the doctoring of data that went on,” Vitter told the E & Reporter. Vitter alluded to the so-called Climategate incident in which stolen emails from researchers indicated a willingness to manipulate data. Several independent investigations cleared the researchers, but critics of global warming theories were unconvinced.

Vitter said one reason he believes global warming isn’t as critical an issue, at least in Congress, is that his colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, have overwhelmingly opposed legislation to impose stringent new carbon emissions standards. And he said senators have tools to block Obama administration regulations.

Vitter and others have held up nominations when they opposed administration policy during President Barack Obama’s first term.

That bipartisan effort doesn’t look very likely. Ah well, it was a nice planet while it lasted.

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