Global Inequality Is 25% Higher Than It Would Have Been In A Climate-stable World

A Mozambican standing in front of her home, destroyed by Cyclone Idai. More than 1,000 people died in the storm. Christian Jepsen/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Those least responsible for global warming will suffer the most. Poorer countries – those that have contributed far less to climate change – tend to be situated in warmer regions, where additional warming causes the most devastation. Extreme weather events such as Syria’s prolonged drought, South Asia’s catastrophic monsoon floods, and Cyclone Idai in South-East Africa, the third deadliest cyclone on record, are becoming more likely and more severe.

These events are disproportionately bringing death, displacement, and crop failure. As a result of this, projections estimate that the economies of poorer, warmer countries will be gravely harmed by climate change over coming decades, while the cooler, richer countries responsible for the vast majority of the extra CO2 in the air may even benefit in the short term. But as new research reveals, this is not just a future concern – the economic injustice of climate change has already been operating for 60 years.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared different countries’ GDP per capita – a measure of the average person’s economic standard of living – between 1961 and 2010. It then used climate models to estimate what each country’s GDP would have been without the effects of climate change. The findings are stark.

Many poorer countries’ economies have rapidly grown in the last 50 years, albeit often at great social and environmental cost and to the benefit of the globalised economy. But even that growth has been held back substantially by climate change – the gap in GDP per capita between richer and poorer countries is 25% higher than it would have been in a climate-stable world. And with most richer countries sitting below and poorer countries above the 13℃ average annual temperature at which economic productivity peaks, global temperature rise is an immediate driver of this inequality.

Of the 36 countries with the lowest historical carbon emissions, which are also some of the poorest and hottest countries in the world, 34 have suffered an economic hit compared to a world without warming, losing on average 24% of GDP per capita. The poorest 40% of countries, much of which are located in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, have lost between 17 and 31% of GDP in the last half century.

India, one of the lowest emitters per capita, has been regarded as an economic growth champion in recent decades – but climate change has slowed its progress by 30%. While the country’s services sector has boomed, the agricultural sector – which employs half of India’s total workforce – has suffered greatly. A three-fold rise in extreme rainfall events and increased severe droughts have reduced crop yields and cause between $9 and 10 billion in damage per year to the agricultural industry alone.

The same events also regularly bring India’s urban economic hubs to a standstill. With 12m inhabitants, Mumbai has the world’s largest population exposed to coastal flooding. Deluges in 2005 and 2014 forced the city’s international airport and roads to close, and cost millions in property damage.

Increasingly intense Indian summers that now regularly hit above 45℃ reduce productivity, kill thousands, and cause thousands more to commit suicide. Add to this the multi-billion pound costs of rescue and rebuilding from cyclones such as 1999’s Odisha storm, which left two million homeless, and it’s easy to see how climate change can stunt the economic growth of India and similarly affected countries.

Global warming has increased global economic inequality. Noah Diffenbaugh & Marshall Burke/Author provided

For the world’s wealthiest countries however, climate change has added to the coffers – 14 of the 19 highest-emitting countries now find themselves in a better economic position than they would have been if the planet’s temperature had stayed constant, with an average boost of 13%. The US economy has suffered, but by a miniscule 0.2%, while the UK finds itself 10% better off. The 2018 heatwave there posed its own risks to health and crops, but it also provided huge boosts to ice cream sales and tourism.

Cancel debts

As is becoming increasingly clear, there are no quick fixes or easy solutions to climate change or inequality. Reducing emissions is, sadly, not enough, and providing yet more high-interest loans to “help” poorer nations adapt to a warmer world will only deepen global inequality. Alongside radically changing the economies of the world’s wealthiest nations, we must demand that reparations for past injustices be paid, that the debts of the Global South be cancelled, that privatisation of local industries and lands be reversed, and that the brutal border regimes surrounding the world’s wealthy nations be torn down. Only then can global inequality truly be tackled.

About The Author

Nicholas Beuret, Lecturer, University of Essex

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

List Price: $26.00
Sale Price: $26.00 $14.27 You save: $11.73


List Price: $29.00
Sale Price: $29.00 $25.98 You save: $3.02


List Price: $18.00
Sale Price: $18.00 $11.60 You save: $6.40


enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfrdehiiditjakomsfaptruesswsvthtrurvi

LATEST VIDEOS

Siberia: The Melting Permafrost
by Arte Documentary
Russian geophysicist Sergei Zimov together with his son Nikita want to prevent the permafrost from thawing due to…
South Africa: Cities Without Water
by DW Documentaries
By the year 2050, a quarter of the every world’s cities will be facing water shortages. Cape Town is already running…
Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater
by USA TODAY
In places around the world, supplies of groundwater are rapidly vanishing. As aquifers decline and wells begin to go…
Why Climate Change Won't Be Solved Easily
by Thom Hartmann Program
Solutions for Climate Change are going to have to be much more radical and much more powerful than the solutions we…
The Counter-Intuitive Solution To Getting People To Care About Climate Change
The Counter-Intuitive Solution To Getting People To Care About Climate Change
by Kamyar Razavi
In a May episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Bill Nye the Science Guy took a blowtorch to a miniature globe.…
5 Ways To Be A Responsible Wildlife Tourist
5 Ways To Be A Responsible Wildlife Tourist
by Tracie McKinney
Imagine walking through a lush tropical forest. You hear a rustle overhead, and a half-eaten fruit plops onto the…
Climate Change Is Affecting Crop Yields And Reducing Global Food Supplies
Climate Change Is Affecting Crop Yields And Reducing Global Food Supplies
by Deepak Ray
Farmers are used to dealing with weather, but climate change is making it harder by altering temperature and rainfall…

LATEST ARTICLES

Siberia: The Melting Permafrost
by Arte Documentary
Russian geophysicist Sergei Zimov together with his son Nikita want to prevent the permafrost from thawing due to…
Refugee Corals Move To Escape Warming Seas
Refugee Corals Move To Escape Warming Seas
by U. Washington
Coral reefs are retreating from equatorial waters and establishing new reefs in more temperate regions, a new study…
How Israel Became A Leader In Water Use In The Middle East
by PBS NewsHour
Over the past few years in Israel, the country's water shortage has become a surplus. Through a combination of…
As Tundras Warm, Microbes Could Make Climate Change Worse
As Tundras Warm, Microbes Could Make Climate Change Worse
by John Toon
Rising temperatures in the tundra of the Earth’s northern latitudes could affect microbial communities in ways likely…
South Africa's Carbon Tax Matters -- For The Economy And Tackling Climate Change
South Africa's Carbon Tax Matters -- For The Economy And Tackling Climate Change
by Mmatlou Kalaba and Heinrich Bohlmann
Carbon tax is likely to be an effective way of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to climate change and…
With Petition to Congress, 100,000+ People Demand Green New Deal 'That Fixes Our Food System'
With Petition to Congress, 100,000+ People Demand Green New Deal 'That Fixes Our Food System'
by Jessica Corbett
"We can't solve the climate crisis without taking food & ag into account!"
South Africa: Cities Without Water
by DW Documentaries
By the year 2050, a quarter of the every world’s cities will be facing water shortages. Cape Town is already running…
Two Centuries Of Continuous Volcanic Eruption May Have Triggered The End Of The Ice Age
Two Centuries Of Continuous Volcanic Eruption May Have Triggered The End Of The Ice Age
by Joe McConnell
Around 25,000 years ago, during a period known as the Last Glacial Maximum, ice covered much of the world’s landmasses.