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What the World Bank Can Do About Climate Change

As the World Bank undergoes a change in leadership and prepares to adapt its mission to address global warming, it should focus on what it does best. In addition to financial resources, its greatest strength lies in its ability to generate evidence-based solutions and bring them to policymakers’ attention.

NEW HAVEN – Few institutions have shown as much versatility and adaptability as the World Bank. Initially founded to address global capital-market imperfections after World War II, the institution’s primary mission evolved over time to focus on fighting extreme poverty. But now that the World Bank is welcoming a new president this July, it should adapt again, this time to address climate change.

Poverty reduction, of course, should remain a high priority, considering that the COVID-19 pandemic has left many low-income countries in dire straits. But climate change has emerged as an equally important threat to these countries’ futures – as well as to the entire planet. Poverty reduction therefore must go hand in hand with the goal of addressing climate change.

But grounding these efforts in evidence-based research is easier said than done. One often hears that low-income countries should focus on climate change because they have the most to lose from its consequences (natural disasters, soil degradation, water shortages, and so forth). That conclusion may be right; but the argument is flawed, because it is based on a spurious comparison.

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