Up to 13.5 million people across the Sahel could fall into poverty due to climate change-related shocks by 2050 if urgent climate adaptation measures are not taken, a newly released World Bank Country Climate and Development Report has warned.

The Sahel region consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger is particularly vulnerable to land degradation, experiencing more extreme droughts, floods, and other impacts caused by climate change.

Notably, the five countries are among the least developed in the world, and the current regular and growing climate shocks are causing large losses in outputs, reducing human capital accumulation, and leading to potentially devastating ecological and economic tipping points in the region.

The report found that Chad, Niger, and Mali rank among the top seven most vulnerable countries to climate change, and their ability to adapt is significantly constrained by poverty and fragility.

Researchers said the region is not only expected to experience temperature increases 1.5 times greater than the world average but it’s also particularly susceptible to land degradation and desertification.

Indeed, the region has been identified as being one of the world’s tipping points if the global average surface temperature rises by 3C above pre-industrial levels.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, most climate scenarios show that temperatures in the Sahel will rise by at least 2C by 2040.

The communities across the region are already bearing the devastating impact of frequent severe droughts and floods.

The report said an average of 248,000 people per year have been affected by floods that have damaged homes, roads, and other infrastructure and assets, and disrupted services since 2000.

Additionally, between 2016 and 2020, droughts harmed more than 20 million people in the region due to food insecurity or economic hardship.

“With the population projected to double to 160 million people over the next 20 years, Sahel countries need to accelerate growth and prioritize climate adaptation if they are to realize the demographic dividend and set the region on a sustainable inclusive growth pathway,” Ousmane Diagana, the World Bank vice-president for Western and Central Africa said.

The report said opportunities for a resilient and lower-carbon development of the Sahel countries are significant, suggesting that the countries can diversify their economies in more resilient and inclusive ways with judicious investments and policies.

It identified rapid, resilient, and inclusive growth as both the best form of adaptation to climate change in the region and the best strategy for meeting development goals in an effective, sustainable, and productive manner.