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by Mike Zazaian October 31, 2006 - 2:43pm, 3 Comments

Water levels have risen in Washington's Diablo Lake in recent years

A report by a former World Bank Chief Economist warns that irresponsible attitudes toward global warming could shrink the world’s GDP by 20 percent and displace millions of people.

Drafted by Sir Nicholas Stern, the 700-page report suggests that as many as 200 million world citizens could become refugees as a result of floods and droughts caused by global warming. Stern, a former chief economist for the World Bank, urges that unless countries unify to spend at least one percent of the world’s gross domestic product to remedy the causes of global warming, future disasters could cost the world twenty times that amount or more. Said Stern:

This disaster is not set to happen in some science fiction future many years ahead, but in our lifetime. Investment now will pay us back many times in the future, not just environmentally but economically as well.

Stern stipulates that the action needed to curb the effects of global warming would have to be conducted on a global scale. Every country would have to band together and spend proportional amounts of their respective GDPs in order to take an effective stance against global warming and its effects. Stern warns that if such action isn’t taken, the following disasters would change the global landscape as we know it:

  • Floods from rising sea levels could displace up to 100 million people
  • Melting glaciers could cause water shortages for 1 in 6 of the world’s population
  • Wildlife will be harmed; at worst up to 40% of species could become extinct
  • Droughts may create tens or even hundreds of millions of climate refugees

Chart on possible impacts of climate change

UK Chancellor Gordon Brown, who commissioned the report, has recruited Al Gore as an adviser on the country’s environmental matters. The report prompted Brown to draft a number of environmentally-friendly directives for the UK and Europe. Brown says that the UK will aim to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2020, and 60 percent by 2050. This will be achieved with increased dependence on biofuels, developing sustainable forestry in South American countries, and working with China to further clean coal technologies among many reasons.

According to Stern such immediate and large-scale action will be the key to averting global environmental and economic disaster:

I’m optimistic - having done this review - that we have the time and knowledge to act. But only if we act internationally, strongly and urgently.

Via BBC News