WASHINGTON -- If countries fail to sustain policies that combat the impacts of climate change while also providing safety nets for the world’s poor, global warming will drive an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030, a new World Bank report finds.
The report, titled "Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty," argues that climate change is a “significant obstacle” to the eradication of poverty. Poor people are more likely to be impacted by climate-related “shocks” such as flooding, drought, crop failure, spikes in food prices, waterborne disease and the long list of extreme weather patterns that scientists have said will increase due to climate change.
“This report sends a clear message that ending poverty will not be possible unless we take strong action to reduce the threat of climate change on poor people and dramatically reduce harmful emissions,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.
The World Bank projected last month that the number of people in poverty is expected to drop this year to 702 million, or 9.6 percent of the world's population. That’s down from the 902 million people, or 12.8 percent of the population, who were living in poverty in 2012. The expected decline brings the world "closer to the historic goal of ending poverty by 2030," the World Bank said at the time.
The new report stresses that climate change threatens that goal.
“Climate change hits the poorest the hardest, and our challenge now is to protect tens of millions of people from falling into extreme poverty because of a changing climate,” Yong Kim said.
The report relies on the most recent modeling results that show how climate change affects agricultural productivity and food prices, natural hazards such as heat waves, flood and drought, and climate-sensitive diseases. Those results were combined with findings from household surveys in 92 countries that describe demographics and sources of income.
Impacts on agriculture, the report says, will be the main driver of greater poverty caused by climate change. According to modeling analyzed by the study, climate change could cause global crop losses of as much as 5 percent by 2030 and 30 percent by 2080.
Extreme weather changes could lead to a significant decline in crops, which would in turn spike agricultural prices and jeopardize food security in regions like sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In Africa, prices could shoot up by as much as 12 percent by 2030 and 70 percent by 2080.
Health effects will be the second-strongest driver of poverty. The number of people with malaria could reach 5 percent, or 150 million people, by 2030, the report says.
“The future is not set in stone,” said Stephane Hallegatte, a senior economist at the World Bank who led the team that prepared the report.
To forestall these consequences, the authors of the report argue that countries should reduce their vulnerability through targeted investments in measures to combat climate change, as well as through preparedness. Countries should upgrade their flood defenses, develop early warning systems and climate-resistant crops, and improve socioeconomic conditions by increasing incomes and providing universal health care.
“Ending poverty will not be possible if climate change and its effects on poor people are not accounted for and managed in development and poverty-reduction policies,” the report states.