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How Has Climate Change Impacted Global Inequality?

Updated May 17, 2024
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The world is getting hotter, but in one important way, it's getting colder, too. Climate change has started an unprecedented elevation in global temperatures, and, in turn, that increase has worsened the economic conditions in already impoverished countries.

The results of a Stanford University study show that between 1961 and 2010, the per-person wealth in the world's poorest nations decreased by somewhere between 17 percent and 30 percent, depending on the country. "Most of the poorest countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming," said the study's lead author, climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh.

At the same time, the wealthiest nations have gotten richer. The overall effect is to create a gap between the richest and poorest people that is 25 percent wider than it would have been without global warming.

Meanwhile, although some of the nations that lie between the warmest and coldest -- the United States and China, to name the two largest -- have seen less of an economic impact, the continued warming trend will be felt in the near future. "Global warming hasn’t pushed them off the top of the hill, and in many cases, it has pushed them toward it," said co-author Marshall Burke, a Stanford assistant professor of Earth system science. "But a large amount of warming in the future will push them further and further from the temperature optimum."

Global changes:

  • The world's oceans are expected to grow murkier as global warming brings in more sediment and organic matter.

  • Analysts predict an increase in personal and military conflicts brought about by rising temperatures.

  • Volcanoes are predicted to erupt more often as the weight of the world shifts from land to sea, due to global warming.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon1004741 — On Apr 11, 2021

I suppose we are all dead--- Al Gore said the world would end in 2009.

The poor countries are poor because the collective IQ's are far below those of the richest countries. Can't change DNA.

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