New Study Finds Global Wealth Inequality Is Tied to Climate Change

By Ayana Byrd Apr 23, 2019

As the world continues to see higher temperatures as a result of climate change, a new study says that some countries are actually increasing their wealth as their temperatures rise.

On Monday (April 22), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study by two professors at Stanford University that explores how climate change—specifically an increase in greenhouse gas emissions—impacts global wealth inequality.

The study, “Global Warming Has Increased Global Economic Inequality,” according to The New York Times, “estimated that the gap in per capita income in the richest and poorest countries is 25 percentage points larger than it would have been without climate change.”

Researchers looked at what each nation’s economic performance could have been without climate change-related temperature increases since 1960. They found that Norway was 34 percent richer due to climate change. Both India and Nigeria would have had close to 30 percent more wealth had it not been for climate change. Nations with temperate climates, like the United States and China, were not dramatically impacted.

The study highlights a critical component of the fight for environmental justice: less wealthy countries, often inhabited by people of color, not only are disproportionately affected by climate change, but bear a significant portion of the price tag to combat it. Findings, notes The Times, "[could] carry enormous implications for the global debate about who should bring down greenhouse gas emissions the fastest—and who should pay for the havoc they are causing, especially in poor countries.”

“They didn’t cause the problem,” researcher and economist Marshall Burke told The Times. “They’re being harmed by it. There’s a clear equity dimension here.”