Climate Change

Climate Change

Rising sea levels, warming temperatures, and changes in weather patterns are already affecting millions of people, and the impact is especially severe for those living in developing countries, threatening their potential to move out of poverty.

what are the causes of global warming
Bob Watson:
Over the last 100 years we have increased the atmospheric concentration of what we call greenhouse gases. These are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and several other gases. These gases are largely the results of the combustion of fossil fuels, coal, oil, and gas, and also the conversion of our forests into agricultural lands. When we put these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, they act as a blanket around the world, and they trap heat, so the more of these gases we put into the atmosphere, the more we trap the heat and the more the Earth will warm.

So, over the last 100 years, we had seen the Earth warm about 0.6 degrees Celsius, 1 degree Fahrenheit. We have seen precipitation patterns change throughout the world, some places becoming wetter, some drier. We have seen the sea level increase 10 to 25 centimeters. We have seen glaciers melt throughout the world. So, fundamentally, human activities of burning coal, oil, and gas, and deforesting our world, has caused a change in the earth's climate.

what causes the destruction to the ozone layer
Bob Watson:
Ozone exists throughout the earth's atmosphere, but the layer of ozone we are most concerned about is in the upper part of the atmosphere called the stratosphere. That is above about 15-kilometers in altitude in the equitorial region up to about 50 kilometers. This ozone is incredibly important. It filters out dangerous ultraviolet radiation from reaching to the earth's surface. When we deplete the ozone layer, more ultraviolet radiation can reach the earth's surface with a predominant effect being an increase in incidence of skin cancer on light-skinned people. They are also adverse effects on plastics and materials and on ecological systems, but the key issue is one of human health, of skin cancer.

The gases that cause a loss of ozone are human-made gases that contain chlorine and bromine, chlorofluorocarbons and halons. When they rise into the upper atmosphere, they break apart, and they form what we call atoms and free radicals that directly destroy the ozone layer. The world recognized this to be a major problem in the 1980s, and therefore governments, working with industry, working with the scientific community, and the nongovernmental organizations, got together and over a period of years in the 1980s and the 1990s, there was an international agreement to ban all of what we called the long-lived chlorine and bromine compounds that destroyed stratospheric ozone. This is one of the real success stories where the scientific community, working with governments and with industry, led to the ban of a chemical that was causing a major problem.

Aleia-Lauren Hazard:
When Rockets go to space, do they make a hole in the ozone layer??
Bob Watson:
Most of the rocket propellants for rockets such as the space shuttle do contain small amounts of chlorine which can lead to a loss of the ozone layer. However, the amount of these chemicals is so small, it's a very insignificant loss. If we were to have the space shuttle go into space several times a week, it would be a concern, but with a very limited number of rockets and space shuttles, this is not a serious issue.
can hair spray put holes in the ozone layer
Bob Watson:
The aerosol hair sprays that we used in the 1970s and 1980s did, indeed, contain chlorine gases that were, indeed, a major cause of the loss of ozone in the stratosphere. But since the 1990s, the air hair sprays that we use no longer contain chlorine or any gas that could destroy the ozone layer. So the hair sprays of today are perfectly safe and do not cause a hole in the ozone layer.
Jacques Kozub:
Bob. Please explain how sea levels would rise significantly as a result of melting icecaps. Take into account that we know from the physics lab. that ice occupies almost the same volume as it would after it melts (taking into account that ice occupies more volume than the liquid, and that not all is submerged).
Bob Watson:
The reason the sea level would increase due to climate change is for several reasons. First, just simply, as you warm water, it expands, so the first reason that you would have an increase in sea level is thermal expansion of the oceans. Warm water expands.

Secondly, the glaciers on mountains, when they melt, also add to sea level rise.

And thirdly, land ice in Greenland and Antarctica, when it melts, would also lead to an increase in sea level. If it is just icebergs, melting the icebergs or any other sea ice as in the Arctic would not increase sea level because, as you say, the volume, indeed, is the same. And so, fundamentally, sea level increases due to thermal expansion of the ocean, melting of mountain glaciers, and melting of land ice in Greenland and Antarctica.

Manpreet Singh:
sir, there are various uncertainties still associated with climate change whether it is actually taking place or not, kindly enlighten me with the actual status of the concept and the field of urgent concern relating to impacts associated with climate change.
Bob Watson:
First, there is no doubt the Earth's climate is warming, about 0.6 degrees Celsius over the last 100 years. Not only have we seen the land areas warm, but also the oceans, and both the satellite data and the land data are now both showing a warming.

We have also seen, as I noted earlier, changes in precipitation and sea level. The key question is whether the observed warming is due to human activities or whether it could be ascribed to natural phenomena. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its last major report, said that most of the observed warming was, indeed, due to human activities. The emissions of the greenhouse gases.

Therefore, the large majority of scientists do believe the Earth's climate is warming, and do believe that human activities are primarily responsible.

Now, the second half of the question is what is the concern, what are the impacts.

The concerns are that in most parts of the world, especially in the tropics and subtropics, where most of the developing countries are, there will be adverse effects on water, energy, human health, agriculture, and biodiversity. We believe that a change in the Earth's climate will adversely affect water in the arid and semi-arid areas. That is to say most of the arid and semi-arid areas will become drier. We believe that climate change could have adverse effects on the stability or the reliability of hydropower, which is the key energy source for many developing countries.

Climate change is also projected to change human health. An increase in vector-borne diseases such as malaria and water-borne diseases such as cholera. An increase in the number of people that would die due to heat stress, and also an increase in the number of people that would be malnourished due to a reduction in agricultural production throughout the tropics and subtropics.

And we also believe there would be effects on biological diversity. We have already seen a change in the biological system. We have seen species move up in mountains, so they go up in altitude, and move towards the poles. We have seen changes in bird migration patterns and the mating habits of birds.

We have also seen increased incidence of mortality in many coral reef systems.

So, we believe many ecological systems and many species are susceptible to a change in the Earth's climate, and the species that are most vulnerable as those in alpine systems, in systems of high latitudes, and in coral reef systems.

Do you know any theory for pole jumps in the past, aming on reorientation of earth axis, because of different weight distribution of our rotating planet?
Bob Watson:
There is no question that the Earth wobbles on its axis, and therefore we - over long periods of time, tens of thousands of years - we do go into and out of an Ice Age. So when the Earth wobbles on its axis, it does change its seasonal patterns of radiation which we receive from the sun. So every 50,000 to 100,000 years we do see the Earth go into an Ice Age, where typically in the polar regions, the Earth becomes about 5 degrees Celsius colder, and as we know this leads to ice over much of the northern hemisphere in the middle and high latitudes.

So, the wobble of the Earth's axis is largely the cause for the onset of ice ages in the past.

Joy Roy Choudhury:
Hi Bob, What are the initiatives the World Bank is taking regarding investment policies to make the power sector much greener in the Asia-Pacific region ( particularly in the sub-continent region concerning India, China , Pakistan , Srilanka ). Coal-fired power generation is contributing large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere and it would be interesting to hear about World Bank investments policies to make the power sector greener. There has been a greater need for investments in renewable sources of energy such as hydro, solar, wind and biomass. Has there been a conscious effort to generate investments in dams? Apart from investments, Is World Bank also willing to join hands with other international organisations like the WWF and run campaigns to make people conscious about the results of global warming? WWF have run campaigns like Power Switch and Dam Rights.
Bob Watson:
Let me take this opportunity to give a very broad answer. The Bank is working in the energy sector in several areas. First, we are aiming at energy sector reform. That is to say we are trying to make the energy sector more efficient. We are trying to encourage our client countries to reduce their subsidies for coal and other fossil fuels, and we are trying to encourage our clients to also what we call internalize the environmental costs of pollution caused by fossil fuels. It's called internalizing the externalities.

So, we are trying to do energy sector reform of subsidies and externalities. That will therefore give a better playing field, a more level playing field, for cleaner technologies such as renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind power, geothermal power, and hydropower. It will also encourage people for energy efficient technologies in transportation, buildings, and industry sector.

So we are trying to be more aggressive and have more lending for renewable energy technologies, more lending for energy efficiency technologies. We are doing this largely by not only doing energy sector reform, but also by using the grant facilities of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Many renewable energies are more expensive than fossil fuel energies, and therefore we are trying to make sure that developing countries don't have to pay the extra costs of renewable energy, and therefore we also are accessing grant resources to buy down the extra costs from the Global Environment Facility.

In addition, we do have an international convention, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It has a protocol called the Kyoto Protocol, and in that it recognizes that developed or stream used countries have admitted to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases.

They also recognized in the protocol that quite often it is cheaper to reduce emissions in developing countries than it is in industrialized countries. It's called carbon trading. So, The World Bank is a leader in trying to make the carbon market work. What this will allow to happen is for clean technologies to get to developing countries without developing countries having to pay more for their energy.

So, the way we are trying to green the power sector is energy sector reform, more renewables, more efficient use of energy, and by using the Global Environment Facility, and the so-called emerging international carbon market.

Hi, thanks for this opportunity. My question is as follows;

The African nations are using the lowest level of energy (fossil fuel)in the world and they want to replicate development path of the developed nations.

Dont you think that the development policy favoured by the World bank should be changed toward a less using economy, both in the production process and in the consumption exercise? Activities such as agroforest should be well remunerated to account for its nenefits as a public good? What is the relevancy of the climate change to Africa nations, should they adopt the kind of Kyoto protocol since without their participation, every negotiation would be doomed?

Bob Watson:
It's very clear that energy is a key issue for countries to get out of poverty and to stimulate economic development. One of the biggest problems in the world today is that there are literally 2 billion people who still rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating. This biomass is normally burnt indoors, and it leads to the loss of several million lives per year of young children and women. So, one of the biggest challenges we face is to improve indoor air quality for literally 2 billion people around the world. They need access to modern energy, modern cook stoves and to electricity. So, one of the number one challenges in the world, in addition to getting access to clean water and sanitation, is to get access to modern energy services so we can reduce the death of literally 2 million women and children in developing countries due to poor indoor air.

So, we need to get efficient stoves, and we need access to energy, electricity. Clearly it would be best if the electricity were to come from a modern form of renewable energy such as solar, wind, and micro-hydro. But it is also clear that some of this energy has to come from burning of fossil fuels, it is a high priority insofar as we must reduce the mortality due to indoor air pollution.

At the moment, the whole of the African continent only emits 4 percent of the total global emissions of greenhouse gases. Clearly, Africa is not the problem with respect to climate change. What is a challenge for Africa is to adapt to climate challenge. It is probably one of the most vulnerable areas in the world to climate change. Most of its agricultural productivity will decrease. It will see an increase in vector-borne diseases. Some of the coastal areas will be susceptible to sea level rise. Many of the arid and semi-arid areas will become drier.

So, one of the challenges that we have is how to help African countries become less vulnerable to natural climate variability, and also to be less vulnerable to human-induced climate change. In other words, we need to integrate climate variability and climate change considerations into national economic development strategies and into sectoral strategies of water, agriculture, human health, and coastal zone management.

So, the big challenge at the moment is not to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases in Africa. The two challenges are to get access to modern energy and also to adapt to climate change. Activities such as agroforestry can be extremely beneficial insofar as if they're well done, they would provide rural income, but they could also sequester carbon into the soils and carbon into the trees, and that could help to lessen the magnitude of human-induced climate change.

Laure Charvin:
Mr. Watson, Results are alarming and in spite of that leaders in governement and industry do not seems to put environment on their priority list. What could force them to act on greenhouse gas measures for example and stop procrastinating. Is there anything drastic we can do at our level, I would say uncoordinated, to help rescue what can be. Many thanks
Bob Watson:
There are a number of very major environmental issues. Climate change is one of them. Loss of biological diversity is another. Issues to do with land degradation and water pollution and overfishing in the oceans are others.

I think there is a mixed record for governments and for industry. Let me focus on climate change. Europe, Canada, and Japan have all ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The USA and Australia have said they won't, and there are mixed signals from Russia, although recently President Putin did agree with European leaders that Russia would ratify the Kyoto Protocol. So Europe, Canada, and Japan are showing political will and political leadership on the issue of climate change.

Now, the Kyoto Protocol is only one small step in a very long journey to eventually stabilize the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, but it is a very important first step.

There are also 50 to 60 large multinational private sector companies such as Shell, British Petroleum, Toyota, DuPont, Rio Tinto, AB&B, who have also committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, recently the chairman of Shell said that climate change was a very urgent issue, as have heads of other major companies. These companies have all voluntarily said they will reduce their emissions anywhere between five and 10 percent by the commitment period that is 2010 relative to 1990.

So, we are seeing leadership by some countries, and we are seeing leadership by some private sector companies, but we do need other countries and others in the private sector to also show political will and agree they must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol is only the first step towards protecting the climate, and so even the proactive countries such as those in Europe, Canada, and Japan will need to go further, much more than their initial obligations, and clearly we have to hope that they will be willing for a substantial cut in greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades.

The British government has committed to reducing their emissions by 60 percent by 2050. It is this type of leadership that we need to see throughout the world. And so, while there is a lack of leadership in some parts of the world, we do see leadership in other parts of the world.

Julie Them:
What can or is being done to stop the wholesale deforestation and consequences of unchecked mining in the developing nations of the world?
Bob Watson:
Deforestation is a very critical issue. We have to find ways for the world to work with developing countries to slow down and arrest the rate of deforestation. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, but it is also a major contributor to the loss of biological diversity. Indeed, the tropical forests, other than the coral reefs, are easily the most species rich in the whole world, so the issue of deforestation is a critical one.

We have to recognize that many industrialized countries, those in Europe, North America, had large scale deforestation over the last 200 to 300 years, so we have to recognize that we in the rich OECD countries deforested, and we now have to work with countries such as Brazil, the Congo, Indonesia, Malaysia, in order to try to protect their pristine forests.

We do have some grant resources through the Global Environmental Facility to help protect the forests. The emerging carbon market under the Kyoto Protocol and the clean development mechanism will also provide a mechanism hopefully in future years, not for the beginning of the first commitment period, to also help protect the world's forests. The NGOs are putting significant amounts of money into foundations to stopping deforestation.

But we have to demonstrate that the forests are more valuable standing than they are cut down. We have to demonstrate that the forests produce very critical ecological goods and services. They protect our watersheds. They help to control air quality. They help to control the Earth's climate.

So we have to demonstrate that the forests, both the tropical and temperate forests and the mangroves, which help protect lands from storm surges, have real value. So we have to be able to create markets for ecological services and that's a real new area where there is a lot of work, trying to show that protecting our forests is economically viable.

So the challenge now then is to slow down the deforestation, in that we should only be harvesting wood sustainably. We should use grant resources where possible to help developing countries protect their very valuable resources, and we should try and create markets for ecological goods and services. And so this combination of approaches hopefully will lead to a slowing down of deforestation and hopefully over the next 10 years or so may almost be a complete halt to deforestation.

Many governments around the world, including Brazil, have committed themselves to at least protecting 10 percent to 15 percent of their forest systems in protected areas, but we need to go even further than that if we really want to protect this very, very important heritage.

Sophie Punte:
Even if the 5.5% Kyoto targets for developed countries are met, climate change seems to be happening anyway. Would you recommend that developing countries use their limited resources to invest in adaptation measures rather than emission reduction measures?
Bob Watson:
The earth's climate is already changing, and further change is inevitable, therefore we need to both mitigate climate change and to adapt to climate change. Clearly, the OECD or the industrialized countries must take the lead in mitigating climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also large developing countries such as India and China will also have to start to reduce their emissions over the next 20 to 30 years if we truly are to protect our planet.

So, developing countries with large emissions should have some responsibility, although differentiated and different from the industrialized world, and they need financial help to meet those obligations.

But for many countries, especially in Africa and small countries in Asia and Latin America, clearly the challenge of the day is, indeed, adaptation, adapting to current climate variability and climate change.

So, it's a mixed bag of both mitigation and adaptation, but for very small countries that do not currently emit greenhouse gas emissions significantly, the challenge will be to adapt to climate change.

Anne Arquit Niederberger:
Please discuss the relevance of climate change as an element of human security and the relative importance of global climate change and terrorism to human security globally. What will it take to get key governments to fully embrace this "global citizen" approach to human security, and does the World Bank have any role to play?
Bob Watson:
There is absolutely no doubt that human-induced climate change is a serious threat. I can't really put a comparison to terrorism, which as we know today is a serious threat in certain parts of the world, but climate change must be taken seriously as a security issue.

Climate change is projected to threaten natural resources such as food, such as water. It's also projected to displace tens of millions of people due to sea level rise in small island states and low-lying delta areas in Asia, Africa, and parts of Latin America.

Displacing tens of millions of people, threatening water supply and food supplies will clearly lead to local unrest and regional conflict. Hence, climate change should be taken seriously as a regional and human security issue.

The role of the World Bank in this is, of course, clearly to make sure people understand the importance of the threat of climate change to human security, national and regional security, and to assist our client countries to adapt to climate change to reduce this threat.

Even Tømte:
Mr Watson,
According to the media, a recent report from the IEA suggests a 15,6 per cent rise in global consumption of oil by 2010. It is expected to rise even further in the years to come.

Is such a level of oil consumption at all sustainable? Is it possible to combine such a comsumption with a determined effort to combat climate change?

Bob Watson:
Oil is primarily used as a feedstock in the chemical industry and, of course, basically oil for gasoline for the transportation sector. The transportation sector is probably the fastest growing sector in the world today at about 30 percent per year. That contributes not only to local air pollution, regional air pollution, but also to climate change.

There is absolutely no doubt if we continue to rely on cars and motorbikes, the demand for oil will continue to increase at an ever increasing rate because economic growth and demographic changes in developing countries, as well as industrialized countries.

Therefore, one of the challenges is to make the transportation sector much more efficient. We need to have more efficient cars and lorries. We basically need to more toward a system that is not reliant just on gasoline-powered combustion engines.

So, hybrid cars, moving to fuel cell cars, is a very high priority. But we could also do land use planning and encourage mass transportation.

So, the challenge of reducing the reliance on cars, individual cars, is land use planning, mass transportation, and also making cars more efficient. Instead of averaging 25 miles per gallon, we need to go to 50. Then we need to go to 75, and eventually we need to go to cars that don't pollute at all, either local pollutants or greenhouse gases.

So we do need to combine the challenge of combating climate challenge with the challenge of making our transportation systems more effective.

Many cities around the world already have major problems of traffic congestion, so we also need to deal with the issue of traffic congestion that once again brings in the issue of land use planning and mass transit.

So, all these things go together, so the global challenge is to reduce traffic congestion, reduce local pollution from transportation, and reduce greenhouse gases, and this requires a combination of land use planning, mass transit, and basically turning our cars into cars that don't just rely on the combustion of fossil fuels, that is to say, oil.

Nina Dessau:
Mr Watson: Lester Brown from Earth Policy Institute has mentioned in a quite concrete way the threat of a food crisis. He said food prices would soar within a year or two, world grain production having declined the past eight years due to rising temperatures on a global scale and the depletion of underground water resources. Reserves have fallen. How do you/the World Bank relate to this issue?
Bob Watson:
There is absolutely no question that today there are 800 million people malnourished. Feeding the world is absolutely a high key priority, and, indeed, one of the Millennium Development Goals is not only to reduce poverty by half over the next 10 years but also to reduce hunger by half. The World Bank takes this very seriously. Rural development is a very high priority inside the World Bank.

There is also no question that human-induced climate change will threaten food security. It will threaten it directly by increasing temperatures and decreasing precipitation which will decrease the production of agriculture throughout the tropics and subtropics.

It will also increase the pest regime that could have adverse effects on agricultural production, and it will also have adverse effects on water supply in general which could mean less irrigation in certain parts of the world.

So combining the challenge of food security and climate change is very important. There are other threats to agricultural production - there could actually be less quality land in many parts of the world due to land degradation. There could be less agricultural labor due to the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

So this issue is a very high priority. The World Bank, in combination with the World Health Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization, the United Nations Environment Program, the United Nations Development Program, and UNESCO, with the blessing of Kofi Annan, is planning to stimulate an international assessment on the role of agricultural science and technology in feeding the world, stimulating the livelihoods of the poor, stimulating economic growth, all in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner.

So we are trying to get an international assessment started later this year that will look very carefully at the whole issue of food security, what the challenges to food security are, including the issue of water resources and the issue of climate change.

Ben Finn:
What do you make of Bjorn Lomborg's claim that the Kyoto Protocol will probably make little difference to climate change, so the money would be much better spent elsewhere, e.g. provide education, water, healthcare and sanitation in developing countries?
Bob Watson:
There is no question, Lomborg is correct that issues such as education, water, healthcare and sanitation are key issues in developing countries, but he's incorrect in saying that we should not start to deal with climate change. The Kyoto Protocol itself will only slow down the rates of projected climate change by a very small amount, but the Kyoto Protocol is only the first step in what will need to be a series of decisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10, 20, 30 years. The Kyoto Protocol is a first step, but it is a critical first step. We must start to change our energy policies. We must start to change our energy technologies.

And the cost of the Kyoto Protocol, while controversial, in many people's minds is not that significant. We believe that you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of between $14 per ton of carbon avoided and $135 per ton of carbon avoided.

What does this mean in real terms? Well, $20 per ton of carbon avoided is the equivalent of five cents on gasoline, so, in other words, if it was to cost us $20 a ton to avoid carbon emissions, our price of gasoline would go up five cents. If it did cost as much as a hundred dollars per ton of carbon, it would go up 25 cents. At the moment, there is an international market for carbon, and it's trading at $20 per ton of carbon, five cents a gallon on gasoline. This is a relatively modest amount to start to ensure that we are taking the first steps to protect the climate system, to avoid some of the adverse effects on human health, the adverse effects on water, the adverse effects on agriculture.

So, while Lomborg is correct in identifying key development priorities of education, water, healthcare, and sanitation, we should not make it an either/or choice. We should deal with climate variability and climate change at the same time that we deal with education, water, and these other key development issues.

Mukesh Kumar Gupta:
Do you think India and China should become the legaly binding party of the Kyoto Protocol as of now? and if yes/no why?
Bob Watson:
I believe the Kyoto Protocol as written is appropriate. That is to say it recognizes that industrialized countries should take the first steps, and then there will be differentiated responsibilities for developing countries.

I would suggest that India and China should possibly become members of the second stage of the Kyoto Protocol; that is the second commitment period between 2012 and 2016. But that assumes that all industrialized countries have taken on real obligations. That is, not only Europe, Japan, Canada, but also the United States and the Russian Federation.

So, assuming that the U.S. and assuming that Russia do come on board the Kyoto Protocol in the near future, then in the second commitment period I believe it would be appropriate for India and China to become legally binding parties, but clearly their responsibilities would not necessarily be the same as the industrialized countries, and, indeed, there would need to be financial mechanisms to assist them to meet their obligations.

India and China have many, many poor people. Access to cheap but at the same time ecologically friendly energy is absolutely crucial. So, I would argue India and China should become members in the second commitment period, but there would need to be differentiated responsibilities and the industrialized world would have to assist them in meeting those obligations.

Morris Miller:
Given that humans are a very small factor in the climatic equation and that the model on which these mega prognoses are made is full of significant data gaps and uncertainties re relationships, how can we know how severe a reduction in carbon emissions by humans would be required to impact on global temperature levels? and if the reduction required - even as a rough guess - is several times greater than the Kyoto targets , what does this imply with regard to the global economy in terms of growth and its distribution?
Bob Watson:
Humans actually are a very large factor in the climate equation. While there is no doubt that the Earth's climate has changed over the last many hundreds of thousands of years, due to changes in the Earth's orbit and, hence, small changes in the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface, at this moment in time human actions are the dominant reason for why the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are changing and therefore, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded, most of the observed warming during the last hundred years is due to climate change. Therefore, given this conclusion of the IPCC, there is no doubt that the Kyoto Protocol, which was effectively debated and negotiated by governments and supported by many large private sector entities, is an important first step towards reaching the ultimate goal of stabilizing the Earth's climate.

There is also no doubt that the first steps to reach the Kyoto Protocol can be done as at a reasonable cost. That is to say, somewhere between $14 and $135 per ton of carbon avoided, as I mentioned in an earlier answer. Eventual stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations and the Earth's climate could also be done at a reasonable cost. And the IPCC concluded that over the next hundred years, the costs could be between $4 and $18 trillion to stabilize at 450 parts per million, significantly less if we want to stabilize at lower concentration. Only this would slow down the rate of growth of the world's economy by a few hundredths of a percent of the world's GDP. In other words, we can address climate change in a cost effective way, and we also have to recognize that while there are costs of action, there are costs of inaction. That is to say, there have been some estimates that, while uncertain, suggests that in a double CO-2 world where you would have about a 3-degree Celsius warming, there could be a loss of GDP in developing countries of 2 to 9 percent, and therefore it could be cheaper over the long run to mitigate climate change than to adapt to it.

Fundamentally, we have to do both.

Stuart Price:
What nations are most likely to suffer the brunt of climate changes in the next twenty years?
Bob Watson:
Climate change will predominantly affect the developing countries and predominantly affect the poor people in developing countries. And one of the major reasons is that developing countries do not have the ability to adapt to climate change. They have limited financial infrastructure, technological infrastructure, to deal with climate change. The issues are agricultural production, water resource management, human health, and sea level rise, and so the brunt is poor people predominantly in developing countries, especially Africa, small island states, and delta areas.

Thank you for participating in the discussion. To learn more about climate change, and to access more information on the issues Bob Watson mentioned during the discussion, see:


Discussion Transcript
World Bank Climate Change site


Chief Scientist and Director for Sustainable Development