June 20, 2013

Credit: Flickr

The World Bank is concerned about the effects of global warming and not in a distant-future sort of way. It believes climate change poses short-term risks and has begun dedicating billions of dollars to water management, flood prevention, and other projects to help “hotspots” like Bangkok, Jakarta, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where the threat of damage from climate change is exceptionally high. According to a new study released by the bank Wednesday, Ho Chi Minh City’s flood-control system, for example, is considered outdated and in need of a $2 billion makeover. It “was built for a scenario that no longer exists,” said the bank’s vice president for environmental and sustainable development. “The investment they made was obsolete.” The World Bank’s new spending initiative hopes to remedy other such systems in various hotspots that could become dangerous in the next 20 years or so.

The Washington Post reports:

"The impact is substantial, and falls most heavily on less developed nations in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as parts of Asia most prone to flooding and harsh tropical storms.

In Africa, areas relied on for corn and other crops may become too arid to farm, and grazing lands could wither. Bank officials said they are hopeful that advances in crop science and genetics by then will have produced drought-resistant varieties of corn and other plants adaptable to the emerging environment.

In Asia, the threat is from too much water as seas rise, mountain glaciers melt, and intense storms overwhelm urban systems. Rising ocean temperatures and saltwater intrusion into rivers could ruin local fisheries — a key source of protein — in countries such as Vietnam.

The issue has become a main concern for World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who sees it as a chief impediment to alleviating global poverty. The progress of the last 20 years, he argues, could be set back substantially if nations must devote resources to recovering from storms and natural disasters instead of investing in health, education and other services that could boost their societies.

As a result, Kyte said the bank is now focusing much of its planning in some countries on how to build infrastructure and re-engineer cities to better withstand environmental stress."

Funding for projects to assist poorer nations battle climate change increased among the world’s several development banks, from $10 billion in 2011 to nearly $25 billion in 2012, Kyte said, and is expected to continue rising.

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