Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Climate change and economic inequality

CNN reports: 

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science finds that global warming has slowed GDP-per-capita growth in hotter, poorer countries, and possibly sped it up in cooler countries, which tend to be wealthier already.

Economic inequality gets worse under climate change, study finds - CNNClimate change has worsened global economic inequality

Here's an excerpt from the piece by National Geographic: 

Inequality is decreasing between countries—but climate change is slowing progress

Forecasts have painted a difficult picture for the future. But one new study argues that climate change has already imposed an economic penalty on many countries.



SCIENTISTS HAVE KNOWN for decades that climate change is reshaping the physical face of the planet. But according to new research, warming has also had a measurable impact on economies, providing a boost to some countries and a penalty to others.

Inequality between countries has decreased over the past few decades. But between 1961 and 2010, the country-to-country gap would have narrowed more if not for climate change, says new research published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The difference between the richest and poorest countries in the world is some 25 percent wider than it would be in a world without global warming, the authors say.

Until now, we didn't have a number that showed “how much the global warming that's already happened has impacted the growth of existing countries, and the harm that’s already occurred," says Noah Diffenbaugh, an author of the study and a climate scientist at Stanford University. And critically, he says, “The countries that are most responsible for global warming are different from the countries that are bearing the brunt of global warming.”

Climate change and economic inequity: 
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New research shows that global warming has already affected the economies of nations around the world. It has hit some places—mostly in the tropics—harder than others. And the countries that have paid the highest price tend to be those least responsible for causing the problem, emitting much less carbon dioxide per capita over past decades than richer countries.

The Goldilocks zone

Economists, development experts, and world leaders have long warned that climate change is likely to hurt poor countries more than rich ones. Recovering from disasters like hurricanes or floods or drought is more challenging when resources are thin, and extra heat hurts more when humans and crops are already near their limits— the case for many countries in the climate-sensitive tropics.

“So even without this added economic penalty, those poorer places would bear the brunt of climate change,” says Amir Jina, an environmental policy expert at the University of Chicago.

Much of the research on the social and economic impacts of climate change looked into the future, years or decades or centuries ahead. But in recent years, scientists have begun to tease out exact calculations of how much climate change has already affected us. In 2017, for example, they established that Hurricane Harvey dumped about 15 percent more rain than it would have in an un-climate-changed world.

Diffenbaugh and Marshall Burke, the authors of the new study, realized they could apply the same kind of approach to economies. Burke and colleagues had shown a few years prior that there is a remarkable relationship between the average annual temperature in a country and its economic output. Places whose temperature hovered around 13 degrees Celsius, or about 55 degrees Fahrenheit (like China and the U.S.), have the highest economic productivity in the world. The farther away from that peak a country was, the less productive they were.

It didn't matter if a country was rich or poor: The Goldilocks-esque relationship held. Colder countries didn't produce as much. Nor did hotter countries, and their economic penalty was even greater, especially when average temperatures crept above 20 degrees Celsius, or 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

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