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Climate Change Threatens Trouble in the Near Future, World Bank Says

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The World Bank is beginning to commit billions of dollars to flood prevention, water management and other projects to help major Asian cities avoid the expected impact of climate change, a dramatic example of how short the horizon has become to alleviate the effects of global warming.

Places such as Bangkok, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City are now considered "hot spots" that will bear the brunt of the impact as sea levels rise, tropical storms become more violent, and rainfall becomes both more sporadic and - in the rainy season - more intense.

Bank officials said this week that those effects are not considered a distant risk anymore, but rather are a near certainty "in our planning period" of the next 20 years or so.

In a study released Wednesday, the bank, for example, projected that major portions of Bangkok would be flooded by 2030. A flood control system built for Ho Chi Minh City only a decade ago is now considered inadequate and needs a $2 billion overhaul, said Rachel Kyte, the bank's vice president for the environment and sustainable development.

The system "was built for a scenario that no longer exists," Kyte said. "The investment they made is obsolete" for the sea level rise projected in coming years - about half a foot by 2030 under current projections, and double that a decade later.

World leaders have committed to try to curb greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit the global temperature increase to about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius. A World Bank report last year projected that the world is on pace for an increase of perhaps twice that over the next century - potentially devastating water and food supplies in some parts of the world and leading to tens of millions of refugees fleeing a degraded environment.      
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