Climate change is affecting nations in a disproportionate manner with tropical low-income countries with a lesser share in emissions bearing the brunt in comparison to wealthy nations that are more responsible for global warming.
A research paper published in Science Advances recently estimated the economic loss faced by countries due to climate change over a period of 20 years.
From 1992 to 2013, the global economy suffered losses amounting to around $5 trillion-$29 trillion due to global warming. But the insurmountable global loss in terms of economy, the research suggests, was not equally shared. Worryingly, the national income of low-income tropical countries declined by around 6.7% while wealthy nations suffered a decline of only about 1.5%.
The study actually underlines the crying need of this time – climate policies addressing environmental injustice. Experts believe that the estimates laid forth in the study may be a helpful document for the ongoing COP27 summit in Egypt.
The disproportionate losses due to climate change and the consequent global warming have been talked about for quite a long time but mostly in a qualitative manner. The study brings out a real quantitative assessment which shows the worrisome scenario of losses in real terms. Moreover, the study “includes parts of the world that are often excluded from studies on heatwaves owing to a lack of data,” said Vikki Thompson, a climate scientist at the University of Bristol, UK.
For their estimation of the extreme heat caused by greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers combined data from the average annual temperatures of countries and the five hottest days of each year from 1992 to 2013 using computational climate models.
Commenting on the data choice, co-author of the study Christopher Callahan said in a statement, “Days that are very, very hot are one of the most tangible ways that we feel climate change. We know that they destroy crops, they reduce labor productivity and they cause more workplace injuries.” Callahan is a climate modeling researcher at the Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA. The team looked at how heatwaves are linked to economic trends at both global and national scales.
The models incorporated in the research found that low-income countries in tropical regions, which usually have warm weather, suffered the most from global warming. Notably, these countries contribute much lesser to global emissions in comparison to wealthier nations.
The research found a very important reality – Brazil, Venezuela and Mali have been the worst-hit countries with their per capita GDP going down by 5% annually compared to what would it have been if human-made heatwaves were not there. On the other hand, the decline in GDP of these countries like Canada and Finland is only around 1%.
Commenting on the implication of the findings on future policy making, Callahan said, “The fact that we were able to sort of pinpoint this effect of the five hottest days of the year on the whole year, as economic effects, implies that those few days have really outsized effects. So, investment targeted at mitigating the effects of heat extremes in the hottest parts of the year could deliver major economic returns.”
Importantly, the unequal burden of climate change due to historical emissions hints that the Global North (developed countries) needs to lend a helping hand to the Global South (the developing countries).