Adding urgency to the call for bold emissions cuts and a radical rethinking of the global economy, a new report from the World Bank warns that human-caused climate change could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty within just 15 years.
Entitled Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty (pdf), the World Bank's study differs from previous efforts by looking at the poverty impacts of climate change at the household level, rather than at the level of national economies.
Already, global warming is sparking higher agricultural prices; increasing "natural hazards" such as heat waves, droughts, and floods; and exacerbating public health issues, the report states. Without "immediate" adoption of mitigation, adaptation, and emission-reduction policies, the World Bank cautions that rising greenhouse gases—and temperatures—will continue to ravage vulnerable populations, dragging them further into poverty.
The bank's most recent estimate puts the number of people currently living in extreme poverty at 702 million, or 9.6 percent of the world’s population.
"Poor people and poor countries are exposed and vulnerable to all types of climate-related shocks—natural disasters that destroy assets and livelihoods; waterborne diseases and pests that become more prevalent during heat waves, floods, or droughts; crop failure from reduced rainfall; and spikes in food prices that follow extreme weather events," it reads. "Climate-related shocks also affect those who are not poor but remain vulnerable and can drag them into poverty—for example, when a flood destroys a micro-enterprise, a drought decimates a herd, or contaminated water makes a child sick."