I’m going to comment on a recent BBC article titled How global warming has made the rich richer because it perfectly illustrates how the mainstream media collaborates with ideologues in the social sciences to smear capitalism.
Temperatures may be rising globally, but not all of us feel the impact in the same way. Over the past half century, climate change has increased inequality between countries, dragging down growth in the poorest nations whilst likely boosting prosperity in some of the richest, a new study says.
What exactly does this study, Global warming has increased global economic inequality, say? Here is an excerpt from it:
Here, we build on past work linking economic growth and fluctuations in temperature to quantify the impact of historical anthropogenic climate forcing on the global distribution of country-level per capita GDP.
One must go back to these sources to see how economic growth and temperature are linked. From the abstract of the first reference, Global non-linear effect of temperature on economic production:
We show that overall economic productivity is non-linear in temperature for all countries, with productivity peaking at an annual average temperature of 13 °C and declining strongly at higher temperatures. The relationship is globally generalizable, unchanged since 1960, and apparent for agricultural and non-agricultural activity in both rich and poor countries.
The same abstract summarizes the conclusions drawn by its authors:
These results … establish a new empirical foundation for modelling economic loss in response to climate change, with important implications. If future adaptation mimics past adaptation, unmitigated warming is expected to reshape the global economy by reducing average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widening global income inequality, relative to scenarios without climate change.
This conclusion assumes a causal relationship between temperature and economic output, based on their correlation. Therefore, unequivocally declaring that warming leads to global income inequality is unfounded. In my opinion, this shows that the study’s authors are biased.
The second supporting study, What do We Learn from the Weather? The New Climate-Economy Literature, is a survey of a further set of studies. One telling quote:
Barrios, Bertinelli and Strobl (2010) focus on Sub-Saharan Africa over the 1960-1990 period, using a subsample of 22 African and 38 non-African countries and weather variation occurring across five year periods. The authors find that higher rainfall is associated with faster growth in these Sub-Saharan African countries but not elsewhere. They estimate that worsening rainfall conditions in Africa since the 1960s can explain 15-40% of the per-capita income gap between Sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the developing world by the year 2000.
Assuming that their estimate is correct, if we charitably attribute 30% of the decrease in rainfall to man-made global warming (as opposed to the overwhelming natural trend, which caused far more warming during that time period), only 5-15% of difference in GDP growth is due to warming. Without going to yet another level of indirection, its hard to see how the estimate was made, but it would be unreasonable to rule out bias.
The BBC’s article quotes the flowing conclusion in the first study:
The gap between the world’s poorest and richest countries is about 25% larger today than it would have been without global warming.
And since most warming has been natural, that means a much smaller percentage is actually due to the burning of fossil fuels.
India – which the IMF says will become the world’s fifth largest economy this year – had a GDP per capita 31% lower in 2010 because of global warming.
India is also one of the biggest emitters, and made no commitment to reduce or even limit its emissions, despite signing the Paris accord.
If they were to consider global warming since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, they say the observed effects would be larger.
And yet there were no significant man made carbon dioxide emissions before the 1950’s, which means the additional historical effect, like much of the later effect, was due to natural global warming. As you can see below, emissions from fossil fuels didn’t really take off until then.
“The findings of this study are consistent with what has been known for years, that climate change acts as a threat multiplier, and takes existing vulnerabilities and makes them worse,” says Happy Khambule, senior political advisor at Greenpeace Africa. “This means that the poorest and most vulnerable are on the frontlines of climate change, and developing countries have to deal with the increasingly extreme climate impacts at the expense of their own development.”
I won’t argue with this, and it is clear from satellite data that we are accelerating the natural global warming with our CO2 emissions.
“Not only have poor countries not shared in the full benefits of energy consumption, but many have already been made poorer (in relative terms) by the energy consumption of wealthy countries,” the study says.
And yet vast resources have been diverted to the third world by our governments.
“In the long term, climate change benefits no-one,” Khambule says. “If it continues unabated, we will face runaway climate change. It is critical that the world’s largest emitters act to reduce their emissions urgently.”
We have little influence over China and India, who are two of the worst emitters. One huge source of emissions is shipping. If we did more local manufacturing and imported less from China, we’d be doing our part.
“Policy makers need to take climate change much more seriously than they currently do, and ensure that there is an urgent transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.”
If policy makers are serious about reducing emissions, they need to eliminate all tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry and get serious about nuclear power, a clean, reliable alternative that we already have. Electric cars don’t help if they’re running on electricity generated by coal fired power plants. Until we have the technology to generate enough power from renewable energy sources (or fusion), nuclear is our best alternative.