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Earth is headed for temperature rise of 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by end of this century, says World Bank report

From the November 26, 2012 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published November 26, 2012

By Jeannine Anderson

Unless strong steps worldwide are taken to curb carbon emissions, the Earth is on a path to warm by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century, compared to pre-industrial times, the World Bank said in a report on global warming.

If this happens, the results will be devastating, the report said. Expected consequences include the inundation of coastal cities around the world, unprecedented heat waves in many regions, droughts, water scarcity and more extreme weather events, the report said. Climate change could drive "a transition of the Earth's ecosystems into a state unknown in human experience," the report warned.

The full nature and scale of the impacts is unknown, and "there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4 degree Celsius world is possible," said the report, which was written for the World Bank by a team from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics in Germany.

"It is my hope that this report shocks us into action," World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in the foreword to the document. "A 4 degree Celsius can, and must, be avoided."

World climate talks have had the goal of keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial times. However, emissions of greenhouse gases have continued to rise, and the world is on track for a global mean increase of well over 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century, the report said. Warming of about 0.8 degrees Celsius already has occurred, and if the promises nations have made to reduce emissions are not met, a warming of 4 degrees could happen as early as the 2060s, the researchers said.

A difference of 4 degrees Celsius in global average temperature may not appear large. However, the report noted that the Earth was only about 4.5 to 7 degrees (Celsius) cooler, on average, during the last Ice Age, when parts of what is now the northern United States and central Europe "were covered with kilometers of ice."

The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere today "is higher than paleoclimatic and geologic evidence indicates has occurred at any time in the lat 15 million years," the report said.

The report, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 Degree C Warmer World Must Be Avoided, is posted on the World Bank's website.


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