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Global warming could undercut efforts to eradicate poverty

World Bank report finds climate change would cut into crop yields, possibly set back anti-poverty efforts in many areas

Climate change could undermine efforts to defeat extreme poverty around the globe, the World Bank warned Sunday.

In a new report on the impact of global warming, the bank said sharp temperature rises would cut deeply into crop yields and water supplies in many areas and possibly set back efforts to bring populations out of poverty.

"Climate change poses a substantial and escalating risk to development progress that could undermine global efforts to eliminate extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity," the report said.

"Without strong, early action, warming could exceed 1.5-2 degrees Celsius and the resulting impacts could significantly worsen intra- and intergenerational poverty in multiple regions across the globe."

An increase of 2 degrees Celsius is an increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Past and predicted emissions from power plants, factories and cars have locked the globe on a path towards an average temperature rise of almost 2.7 Fahrenheit above pre-industrial times by 2050, it said.

That means that extreme heat events, rising sea levels and more frequent tropical cyclones may now be unavoidable.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, in a telephone news conference on the report, titled "Turn down the Heat, Confronting the New Climate Normal", called the findings "alarming."

"Dramatic climate changes and weather extremes are already affecting millions of people around the world, damaging crops and coastlines and putting water security at risk," Kim wrote in the report.

As examples of extremes, he pointed to the hottest November day in Australia during a recent Group of 20 summit "or the five to six feet of snow that just fell on Buffalo" in the United States.

But without concerted action, the real danger is that the average global temperature increase could go to 4.0 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The bank called that "a frightening world of increased risks and global instability."

"Ending poverty, increasing global prosperity and reducing global inequality, already difficult, will be much harder with warming of two degrees Celsius," said Kim. "But at four degrees, there is serious doubt whether these goals can be achieved at all."

The report focuses on the specific regional impacts of warming.

Warming of two degrees could lower the yield of Brazil's soybean crop by 70 percent. Andean cities would be threatened by melting glaciers, and Caribbean and West Indian coastal communities could see their fish supplies dwindle.

Two-degree warming could reduce yields of maize, wheat and grape crops in Macedonia by 50 percent. In northern Russia, it would mean substantial melting of the permafrost, causing a surge in damaging methane emissions, which would amplify the warming trend.

The World Bank has set an ambitious target of eliminating extreme poverty around the world by 2030, and Kim says that can still be done if warming is limited to just two degrees.

The impacts of poverty exacerbated by climate change are wide and complex, according to the report. It will increase migration, though some people without means will be stuck with worse prospects in life.

In the Middle East and North Africa, water resources and agriculture will be under severe threat from warming.

And in turn, the impact could be political. The report cited two studies that linked the Arab Spring uprising to the drought impact of warming on food prices.

Further climate change could add to security problems "by placing additional pressures on already scarce resources and by reinforcing such preexisting threats as political instability, poverty, and unemployment," it said.

"This creates the potential for social uprising and violent conflict."

Al Jazeera and wire services

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