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Global economic inequality

May 2019: Evidence suggests that global warming increased global economic inequality by 25% between the world’s richest and poorest countries. Simultaneously, the study suggests that implementing climate change mitigating practices will stimulate economic growth in poorer countries.


New evidence suggests that global warming caused the gap between the economic output of the world’s richest and poorest countries to be 25% larger than it would have been without it. Further, it decreased the wealth per person in poorer countries by 17-30% than during scenarios without global warming. The study showcases that global warming contributed to the economic growth of colder countries while reducing the economic output of hotter tropical countries, indicating that there is an ideal temperature for optimal economic output. Within the ideal temperature range, crops and humans are more productive, since they tend to be healthier.

Implications & Opportunities

The data suggests that countries most responsible for causing global warming do not bear the brunt of the consequences; hence exacerbating the unfairness. The study further allows for the interpretation that there is an added economic benefit of implementing sustainable practices such as sustainable energy to stimulate economic growth in poorer countries. However, the emerging pattern underlines the difficulties in developing an equitable approach to global warming that incentivises the transition to a sustainable economy for both, poorer and richer countries.


The study is limited in its application in focusing on greenhouse gases and economic output alone. It does not consider additional factors that could explain the gap in economic outputs or influence the relationship between economic output and greenhouse gases including cost of disasters, adaptation and mitigation. Therefore, the study should be seen within the context of the its parameters.


National Geographic. (209). Inequality is decreasing between countries – but climate change is slowing progress. Retrieved from

Diffenbaugh, N. S., & Burke, M. (2019). Global warming has increased global economic inequality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201816020. doi:10.1073/pnas.1816020116 

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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.