Sunday, 25 November 2012

Turn down the heat - comments by SPREP Director General, David Sheppard, on the recent World Bank report on climate chang

21 November 2012 - A new report from the World Bank on climate change should indeed shock us all into action.

The report “Turn Down the Heat – Why a 4 Degree Celsius Warmer World Must be Avoided” highlights the strong possibility of a 4 degree Celsius increase in global temperature by 2100 and outlines the devastating impacts of this for humanity. In his foreword, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank, appeals for the international community to urgently commit to feasible options to avoid this scenario and hopes that the report will shock us into action.

The Report draws on existing scientific publications which have been through a rigorous peer review process. The impacts outlined in the report will devastate island countries of the Pacific and change the face of global society as we know it. A warming of 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century goes far beyond what Pacific Island Countries have argued as the maximum limits for future temperature increases for the people of our region.

The vast majority of experts agree that current pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not enough to avoid taking us down this very dangerous track. The time has come for a renewed effort to drastically change global efforts to combat climate change. International negotiation around these efforts has slowed considerably, and cooperation appears to be at unacceptably low levels.

Some of the impacts highlighted in the Report are:

· “All tropical islands in the Pacific are likely to regularly experience heat waves of unprecedented magnitude and duration.” This is likely to have severe impacts on agriculture and water supplies, on tourism and on health.

· “Coral reefs in particular are acutely sensitive to changes in water temperatures, ocean pH, and intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones. Coral reef growth may stop as CO2 concentration approaches 450 ppm over the coming decades.” Coral reefs, which are the basic building blocks for most Pacific Island societies will stop growing and start dissolving, with profound consequences on the livelihoods and food security of the region.

· “As global warming approaches and exceeds 2°C, the risk of crossing thresholds of nonlinear tipping elements in the Earth system, with abrupt climate change impacts and unprecedented high-temperature climate regimes, increases.” While leading researchers use increasingly sophisticated climate models, these models often do not capture unknown physical processes such as the rapid melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

While the report examines a possible sea level rise of one metre, it also highlights that parts of the Pacific (particularly the Western Pacific) have recently experienced rates of sea level rise much faster than the global average. For low lying atolls and islands with economic infrastructure on the coastline, this will results in impacts that are increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to adapt to.

SPREP is grateful to the World Bank and the authors of the report for this timely contribution, which will no doubt feature prominently at the Climate Convention Meeting in Doha (UNFCCC COP 18).

This sobering analysis must be viewed as a wake-up call to the international community. We must all act together to avoid the scenarios in the World Bank report becoming a reality

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