Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to a new study, poor countries are enjoying economic growth, but by comparing observations to a hypothetical growth rate which could have been achieved without climate change, study authors concluded that climate change is slowing progress.
Climate Change Has Already Increased Global Inequality. It Will Only Get Worse
BY JUSTIN WORLAND
APRIL 22, 2019
A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that in most poor countries, higher temperatures are more than 90% likely to have resulted in decreased economic output, compared to a world without global warming. Meanwhile, the effect has been less dramatic in wealthier nations—with some even potentially benefiting from higher temperatures.
“We’re not arguing that global warming created inequality,” says Noah S. Diffenbaugh, the author of the study and a professor at Stanford University who studies climate change. But “global warming has put a drag on improvement.” The countries most likely to have lost out economically as a result of warmer temperatures have done the least to contribute to the problem, he adds.
Many of the world’s developing countries have called foul. “This problem is created somewhere else,” Abdur Rouf Talukder, Bangladesh’s Finance Secretary, told TIME earlier this month. “We are spending more on adaptation because we have to live.”
Bangladesh’s GDP per capita was 12% lower due to global warming than it would have been otherwise in the two decades preceding 2010, according to the study published Monday. The effect is more dramatic elsewhere, particularly in sub-Saharan African countries including Sudan, Burkina Faso and Niger, where climate change has driven GDP per capita more than 20% lower that it would have been absent climate change.
…Read more: http://time.com/5575523/climate-change-inequality/
The abstract of the study;
Global warming has increased global economic inequality
Noah S. Diffenbaugh and Marshall Burke
PNAS first published April 22, 2019 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1816020116
Understanding the causes of economic inequality is critical for achieving equitable economic development. To investigate whether global warming has affected the recent evolution of inequality, we combine counterfactual historical temperature trajectories from a suite of global climate models with extensively replicated empirical evidence of the relationship between historical temperature fluctuations and economic growth. Together, these allow us to generate probabilistic country-level estimates of the influence of anthropogenic climate forcing on historical economic output. We find very high likelihood that anthropogenic climate forcing has increased economic inequality between countries. For example, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) has been reduced 17–31% at the poorest four deciles of the population-weighted country-level per capita GDP distribution, yielding a ratio between the top and bottom deciles that is 25% larger than in a world without global warming. As a result, although between-country inequality has decreased over the past half century, there is ∼90% likelihood that global warming has slowed that decrease. The primary driver is the parabolic relationship between temperature and economic growth, with warming increasing growth in cool countries and decreasing growth in warm countries. Although there is uncertainty in whether historical warming has benefited some temperate, rich countries, for most poor countries there is >90% likelihood that per capita GDP is lower today than if global warming had not occurred. Thus, our results show that, in addition to not sharing equally in the direct benefits of fossil fuel use, many poor countries have been significantly harmed by the warming arising from wealthy countries’ energy consumption.Read more: https://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1816020116
Edited by Ottmar Edenhofer, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany, and accepted by Editorial Board Member Hans J. Schellnhuber March 22, 2019 (received for review September 16, 2018)
The authors don’t appear to have modelled the hypothetical impact not using fossil fuels would have had on economic development in poor countries, though perhaps a follow up study in Venezuela might shed some light on this issue.