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Global temperature rise could cause upheaval
June 20, 2013, 2:29 am

Glaciers, such as the Tian Shan No. 1 in southwest China, have been receding due to higher temperatures [Xinhua]

Glaciers, such as the Tian Shan No. 1 in southwest China, have been receding due to higher temperatures [Xinhua]

A global temperature rise of two degrees Celsius in the next few decades could cause widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat-waves, and more intense cyclones in tropical regions, threatening to “trap millions of people in poverty,” the World Bank said.

A report released by the World Bank on Wednesday looked at the likely impacts of global warming on agricultural production, water resources, coastal ecosystems and cities across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia.

If current trends continue, by the 2030s, droughts and heat could leave 40 per cent of the land now growing maize unable to support that crop, while rising temperatures could cause major loss of savanna grasslands threatening pastoral livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.

By the 2050s, the proportion of the population undernourished in the sub-region is projected to increase by 25 percent to 90 per cent compared to the present, it said.

In South Asian countries like India, the potential change in the regularity of monsoon seasons could precipitate a major crisis in the region. Events like the devastating Pakistan floods of 2010, which affected more than 20 million people, could become common place. More extreme droughts in large parts of India could lead to widespread food shortages and hardship, it said.

Earlier this week, hundreds were killed and thousands displaced in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, the hardest-hit region since heavy rains began to lash India last week. In cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi, more than 1o cm of rain was reported.

The report said that rural livelihoods across South East Asia are faced with mounting pressures as sea level rise, tropical cyclones increase in intensity, and important marine ecosystem services are lost.

In addition, sea level rise has been occurring more rapidly than previously projected and a rise of as much as 50 cm by the 2050s may already be unavoidable as a result of past emissions.

According to the report, in some cases, impacts could be felt much earlier. For example, without adaptation measures, a sea level rise of 15 cm, coupled with more intense cyclones, threatens to inundate much of Bangkok by the 2030s, it said.

The report said the burgeoning cities in the developing world are some of the places on the planet most at risk from climate change.

Describing urban areas as “new clusters of vulnerability,” it said urban dwellers, particularly the urban poor, face significant vulnerability to climate change.

People in cities with large populations but limited basic services, like Manila in the Philippines and Kolkata in India, are highly exposed to extreme weather events, such as storms and flooding, it said.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim urged countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare for a world of dramatic climate and weather extremes.

“These changes forecast for the tropics illustrate the level of hardships that will be inflicted on all regions eventually, it we fail to keep warming under control,” Kim said in a statement.