By Alejandra Borunda
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.”
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.
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