Study: Global warming has increased economic inequality since the 1960s

A new Stanford University study shows global warming has increased economic inequality since the 1960s. Temperature changes caused by growing concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere have enriched cool countries like Norway and Sweden, while dragging down economic growth in warm countries such as India and Nigeria.

“Our results show that most of the poorest countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming,” said climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, lead author of the study published April 22 in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “At the same time, the majority of rich countries are richer than they would have been.”

Although economic inequality between countries has decreased in recent decades, the research suggests the gap would have narrowed faster without global warming.

While the impacts of temperature may seem small from year to year, they can yield dramatic gains or losses over time. For example, after accumulating decades of small effects from warming, India’s economy is now 31 percent smaller than it would have been in the absence of global warming.

At a time when climate policy negotiations often stall over questions of how to equitably divide responsibility for curbing future warming, this analysis offers a new measure of the price many countries have already paid. “Our study makes the first accounting of exactly how much each country has been impacted economically by global warming, relative to its historical greenhouse gas contributions,” said the authors.

While the biggest emitters enjoy on average about 10 percent higher per capita GDP today than they would have in a world without warming, the lowest emitters have been dragged down by about 25 percent. The researchers emphasize the importance of increasing sustainable energy access for economic development in poorer countries.

More information about the study here

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