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In a new paper released by Stanford University, climate change scientists have revealed that climate change is already responsible for keeping some countries poorer, furthering the divide between wealthy and non-wealthy nations. 

“We find very high likelihood that anthropogenic [human-caused] climate change has increased economic inequality between countries,” reads the paper, titled Global warming has increased global economic inequality.

Climate change has been shown to change economic growth, but its effect varies by latitude.

In colder countries, such as those in northern and western Europe, per capita economic output grows slightly faster when the weather is warmer than normal.

In warmer countries, hotter-than-normal temperatures slow down growth. Unusually high temperatures make workers less productive and reduce agricultural output. They also lead to worse health outcomes for residents, which itself has an economic impact.

Climate change linked to energy consumption

Thanks to climate change, India’s per capita economic output is today 30% lower than it would be otherwise, while Norway’s is 34% higher, the paper found. That means “in addition to not sharing equally in the direct benefits of fossil fuel use, many poor countries have been significantly harmed by the warming arising from wealthy countries’ energy consumption,” according to the authors.

“We’re not arguing global warming created inequality between rich and poor countries,” emphasised Noah Diffenbaugh, one of the study’s authors and a professor at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

In the last half century, the gap between wealthy countries and poorer countries has shrunk dramatically. However, this economic inequality “has declined more slowly than if global warming had not occurred,” Diffenbaugh said.

In the future, the authors note, “although some wealthy countries in cooler regions could benefit from additional warming, most poor countries are likely to suffer.

This article was originally published on Green Building Africa and is republished with permission with minor editorial changes.

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