Turn Down the Heat

December 7, 2102.

On NPR’s Morning Edition today, former Dartmouth college president and now World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim announced the recent of the publication of a new study on climate change, entitled, Turn Down the Heat: Why a Four Degree C Warmer World Must be Avoided. Executive summary & Full report

Replying to Renee Montagne, who notes that the report states its intent to shock the world into action, President Kim replied, “Well, one of the things that we stress is that there is overwhelming convergence around the science of man-made climate change. This wasn’t always true, but now some 97 percent of climate scientists agree that man-made climate change is a reality.

I’m a scientist. I’m trained in medicine. They are very few things in all of science around which 97 percent of scientists agree. And then if you take that reality and project out to what a four degree Celsius or over seven degree Fahrenheit world would look like, the images that we now are hearing about, the way the world is going to look, is very frightening. One estimate suggests that if we don’t meet our emission targets, a 7.2 degree Fahrenheit world could happen as early as 2060. That means that when my three-year-old is my age, he’ll be living in this world where the coral reefs would have all been gone. The extreme heat wave that we saw in Russia in 2010 that killed 55,000 people would happen every summer.”

The report, conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics in Berlin for the World Bank, concludes:

A 4°C world will pose unprecedented challenges to humanity. It is clear that large regional as well as global scale damages and risks are very likely to occur well before this level of warming is reached. This report has attempted to identify the scope of these challenges driven by responses of the Earth system and various  human and natural systems. Although no   quantification of the full scale of human damage is yet possible, the picture that emerges challenges an often-implicit assumption that climate change will not significantly undermine economic growth. It seems clear that climate change in a 4°C world could seriously undermine poverty alleviation in many regions. This is supported by past observations of the negative effects of climate change on economic growth in developing countries. While developed countries have been and are projected to be adversely affected by impacts resultingfrom climate change, adaptive capacities in developing regions are weaker. The burden of climate change in the future will very likely be borne differentially by those in regions already highly vulnerable to climate change and variability. Given that it remains uncertain whether adaptation and further progress toward development goals will be possible at this level of climate change, the projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur—the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen.