Climate Change Is Increasing Economic Inequality, According to Stanford Study

While there are many people who don’t believe in climate change or aren’t doing their part to better the environment, there are many people and organizations that do care. About 40% of recent survey participants agreed they would like a home that’s environmentally friendly and there are numerous efforts to help clean up the planet. However, climate change is still happening and it’s impacting more than just the environment. According to a new study, climate change is also further increasing the economic gap between the rich and poor.

The study from Stanford University found that while increasing temperatures between 1961 and 2010 have slowed economic growth in tropical areas, countries that experience cooler climates have seen economic growth.

Noah Diffenbaugh, climate scientist and lead author of the study explained, “Our results show that most of the poorest countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming.”

The researchers took data drom several other studies that have done in the past to look at annual temperature changes over the past 50 years as well as the economic growth data from 165 countries. It’s already been proven that low-income communities experience poor natural disasters, like flooding and famine, that are related to climate change.

The data showed a wide range of impacts of climate change on gross domestic product (GDP) — the U.S. was in the middle with a decreased GDP by 0.2% between 1961 and 2010. But other countries did not fare so well. It was estimated that Sudan has a 36% smaller GDP today because of climate change. India and Nigeria followed closely behind, with decreases of 31% and 29% respectively.

Unlike the warmer climate areas, colder areas in the world saw an increase in their GDP. Norway had the highest increase in GDP of 34%, Canada’s GDP is 32% higher, and Russia was also said to see a big increase as a result of global warming.

According to Marshall Burke, a Stanford assistant professor of Earth system science and co-author of the study, “The historical data clearly show that crops are more productive, people are healthier, and we are more productive at work when temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold. This means that in cold countries, a little bit of warming can help. The opposite is true in places that are already hot.”

As for how global warming truly impacts GDP, the researchers used Costa Rica as an example. The study estimated a 21% lower GDP-per-capita in this country than it would have seen without climate change — in this country, coffee is a huge source of money and coffee farmers are seeing decreased yields and an increased number of diseased crops that have been caused by climbing temperatures.

So while some countries have seen drastic losses and devastation from climate change, others are thriving. Looking at something as simple as how 76% of Americans choose to purchase organic food because of the health benefits while people in other countries are experiencing famine can show how big the differences really are.

This study has encountered skepticism, with other researchers saying that higher temperatures may temporarily reduce GDP but could increase it in the following years. And there are a wide variety of factors relating to global warming, like how many people drive cars in a certain country, with the average age of vehicles in the U.S. being 11.6 years. But wealthier countries have been seen to benefit from greenhouse gas emissions in the past.

While there are several factors in play, the researchers at Stanford did find that climate change has a drastic impact on GDP and how well a country does economically in the face of rising temperatures.

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