Sunday, November 1, 2015

Poor Nations Getting 'Ambushed' By Global Warming

In his popular essay, 'Ambushed - The Warming of the World' - in the book 'Billions and Billions', Carl Sagan left open the possibility that much of our planet would indeed be 'ambushed" if we didn't pay enough attention. Now, it turns out that this is happening especially to poorer nations, which are going to be taking a disproportionate hit.

As reported recently (Denver Post, Oct. 22, p. 9A) with each upward degree "global warming will singe the economies of  three quarters of the world's nations and widen the north-south gap between rich and poor countries". This is according to a new economic and scientific study authored by Marshall Burke of Stanford University and Solomon Hsiang an economist and public policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

The pair examined 50 years of economic data in 160 countries and even county-by-county data in the U.S.  and found what Burke calls "the Goldilocks zone in global temperature at which humans are good at producing stuff" and relatively comfortable. This turns out to be for an annual temperature of 55.4 degrees give or take a degree. For all those nations at or above that temperature, every added degree slows productivity and increases discomfort.

The authors note that right now the U.S. is "close to the global optimum" - ignoring all the recent rain events including in South Carolina and Texas,  which are surely tied to global warming (given a warmer atmosphere holds much more moisture).  But, as it warms the U.S. will fall off that peak and become more like poorer nations now. For example, the authors calculate a warmer U.S. in 2100 will have a GDP per person that's 36 percent lower than now.

The authors' main figures are based on the premise and assumption that global temperatures will continue to rise at the current trajectory. But if it is out by as much as 50 percent (and many climate scientists now assert warming by 2100 will mark an increase of 4C not 2C) all the forecasts will collapse. The loss in GDP per person could easily be as much as 70 or 80 percent - especially if power grids are also adversely affected.

Meanwhile, if heat trapping CO2 continues to grow at the current rate they forecast the average global income will shrink by 23 percent at the end of the century. Again, if the increase is 4C and not 2C the gutting of income will be much worse,

As Prof. Hsiang puts it(ibid.):

"Climate change is essentially a massive transfer of value from the hot parts of the world to the cooler parts of the world. This is like taking from the poor and giving to the rich."

But left out of the authors' projections is that as the world continues to warm it will set off a mass migration of those from the hot regions that will dwarf the current migration to Europe. Some estimates put the humans fleeing the hot - destitute regions as high as 200 million and possibly 300 million, by 2025. They will assuredly all be seeking that elusive "equality".

Will the cooler regions be ready for that? We will have to see. But if the current migration from the Middle East to Europe is any indicator, we won't.

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