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Nov 21

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Leaders are Running out of Time on Climate Change

World Bank: Leaders are Running out of Time on Climate Change

A report released from the World Bank warns that the consequences of warmer temperature trends are expected to grow severe even if governments stand by current emissions targets. A late October hurricane in the United States was attributed by some organizations to warmer ocean temperatures. The summer heat wave, meanwhile, brought criticism of renewable fuel mandates enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But if things continue as they have, the World Bank finds, the fallout from warmer temperature trends will affect “everything we do.”

The World Bank, in a 104-page report, warns that global average temperatures are on pace to climb by 4°C by the end of the century “even if countries fulfil current emissions-reduction pledges.”

In late October, the Union of Concerned Scientists state that Hurricane Sandy, a Category 1 storm, tracked over an Atlantic Ocean that was about 5°C warmer than the seasonal average. The USC said higher temperatures mean the world’s oceans are absorbing more heat, which may cause hurricanes to store more power as the atmosphere holds more precipitation. While the group said it wasn’t clear if storms like Sandy may occur more frequently if warming trend continue, it was clear that “human-caused climate change is delivering a one-two punch.”

Meanwhile, the World Bank report said sea levels have been rising faster than ever, in part because the ice coverage in Greenland and Antarctica is melting. Arctic sea ice levels, meanwhile, reached their lowest recorded level this September. For the agriculture sector, this warming trend left about 80 percent of the cropland in the United States affected by some degree of drought this year. The World Bank report warned that climate zones like the contiguous United States are likely to see their summer temperatures increase by more than 6°C.

For the U.S. agricultural sector, the drought left the corn harvest for the year at its lowest level in six years. With more than 40 percent of the annual harvest designated for ethanol, growers complained that a renewable fuels standard could cause them economic harm. The Environmental Protection Agency disagreed, however, saying the standard would “have little, if any, impact.”

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, in a statement on the World Bank’s report, said it was clear that world leaders were running out of time. Despite the fallout for ethanol, he said, the international community needs “a renewable energy revolution” to offset warming trends.

Outside the United States, meanwhile, the World Bank said a warmer climate is a major blow to underdeveloped countries that lack the economic power to take major steps to tackle the issue on their own. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim warned that doing nothing means younger generations may inherit a problem more severe and more damaging than their parents’ generation.

“This report reinforces the reality that today’s climate volatility affects everything we do,” said Rachel Kyte, the Bank’s vice president for sustainable development, in a statement.

Daneil J. Graeber of Oilprice.com

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