LONDON The world should stop arguing about whether humans are causing climate change and start taking action to stop dangerous temperature rises, the president of the World Bank said on Wednesday.
Jim Yong Kim said there was 97 to 98 percent agreement among scientists that global warming was real and caused by human activity.
"If you disagree with the science of human-caused climate change you are not disagreeing that there is anthropogenic climate change. What you are disagreeing with is science itself," Kim told a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event in London.
"It is time to stop arguing about whether (climate change) is real or not," he said.
A study last month found that 97 percent of around 4,000 scientific reports giving an opinion about the cause of climate change since the 1990s said it was mainly human. Skeptics said the survey wrongly omitted thousands of papers which did not give a view.
Governments across the world have agreed to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).
Estimates differ over how high temperatures may rise and over what period of time.
The World Bank and others have estimated that the globe has already warmed by about 0.8 degrees C (1.4F) since the Industrial Revolution and 2 degrees C is widely viewed as a threshold to dangerous changes such as more floods, heatwaves and rising sea levels.
The World Bank wants more focus on the issue.
In a report on Wednesday, it cited Bangkok as an example, saying much of it could flood within the next two decades if global warming stays on its current trajectory.
Kim said that as extreme weather events continue, public opinion about climate change should start to change.
The lack of an international deal is a "lame excuse" to not tackling climate change, Kim said. In the meantime, any kind of agreements or action should be encouraged.
"The level of seriousness at the top in the United States couldn't be higher. As extreme weather events occur (such as) in the mid-west and Hurricane Sandy etc, other legislators will come around," Kim said.
He noted that China, the world's second largest economy, is also taking climate change very seriously.
Even though China is the biggest CO2 emitter in the world and is still building coal plants, it is investing more in solar and wind power than any other country and ramping up efforts to build cleaner cities and more efficient buildings.
China's efforts to develop its own national carbon market - similar to Europe's, is also positive sign for a global agreement, Kim said.
China launched its first emissions trading scheme this week in Shenzhen, marking a milestone in the country's climate policy.
"If we get China, the U.S. and the EU to agree on a price for CO2 we will have a market mechanism to fight climate change. I hope a practical solution will happen before 2020," he added.
The European Union currently operates the world's largest carbon market, which has been in place since 2005.
The rate of warming since the turn of this century, meanwhile, has slowed more than many scientists had expected after strong rises in the 1980s and 1990s. Some have interpreted this as a sign climate change is less of an immediate threat than thought.
Attempts to agree a plan of action to combat climate change failed at a U.N. conference in Copenhagen in 2009, primarily because of concerns over the economic impact.
(Additional reporting by Anna Yukhananov. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)