Climate Change Has Made Global Economic Inequality Worse

(CN) – Climate change has sped up the melting of the polar ice caps and now researchers with Stanford University say the global economy is another casualty, with poor countries more severely affected by rising temperatures.

Countries like India and Nigeria languish due to climate change, while more affluent countries in cooler regions are able to better weather the rise in temperatures, according to a new study published on Monday in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than a billion people will experience freshwater shortages by the year 2050 and more climate refugees will be forced to flee their homes.

Global warming has also hit people in their pockets.

Colder countries like Sweden have done better with a change in temperatures, while India has suffered according to the study that compared temperatures and the gross domestic product of each nation from 1961 to 2010.

Climate scientist and lead author Noah Diffenbaugh said rich countries are richer than they would have been due to the rise in global temperatures.

“Our results show that most of the poorest countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming,” Diffenbaugh said.

As a quality of life issue, people are more productive when the weather is not too hot or too cold. If the weather permits, crops are more abundant and people are healthier. But famine and drought has had an impact on the way of life for the poorest countries.

Climate change affected the wealth per person in the world’s poorest countries by 17% to 30%, while other nations that remained cool saw more growth.

Sweden and Norway benefited from global warming, while that rise in temperature was like a weight for poor countries.

The 50-year window that researchers examined included GDP data from 165 countries and 20 climate models and temperatures. The study calculated 20,000 versions of each country’s annual economic growth rate in the absence of global warming and found some interesting results.

“For most countries, whether global warming has helped or hurt economic growth is pretty certain. There’s essentially no uncertainty that they’ve been harmed,” study co-author Marshall Burke said.

A bigger mystery remains on how global warming affected the United States, Japan and China, which saw some economic growth during the studied time period.

Global warming also presents a slow death scenario, with a gradual wearing down of a country’s economy, like Sudan with a population of 41 million. That African nation saw a 36% decrease in its GDP. India has a population of 3.1 billion and saw a decrease of 31% while Brazil, with a population of 209 million, saw a decrease of 25%.

Meanwhile, countries like Norway, Canada, Sweden and other more affluent countries in colder climates, saw the exact opposite effect, with double digit gains in their GDP.

“A few of the largest economies are near the perfect temperature for economic output. Global warming hasn’t pushed them off the top of the hill, and in many cases, it has pushed them toward it,” Burke said. “But a large amount of warming in the future will push them further and further from the temperature optimum.”

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