23 April 2019   Leave a comment

The Economist has a fascinating article entitled “Where growth is concerned, is population destiny?” It rightly points out that for much of the past, the more populous nations, such as CHina, were the center of the global economy. The period where European, and subsequently US dominance since the 1500s is an anomaly because these nations were much smaller. The question is straightforward:

“For centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution, Asia’s massively populous societies made the continent the world’s centre of economic gravity. Industrialisation in Europe and North America in the 19th century briefly knocked it from its perch. But now their collective economic might, measured in real output on a purchasing-power-parity basis, is forecast to account for more than half of global production by 2020. Was the West’s period of dominance an anomaly, which could only ever have been short-lived? Is population destiny?”

As economic activity shifts to Asia, it seems as if China is destined to return to its former place. But technological innovation propelled Europe to dominance and that dynamic seems to be independent of overall population density.

The National Academy of Sciences has published new research which indicates that climate change has exacerbated economic inequality in the world. It is a very technical article, but the authors detail the significance of their findings:

“We find that global warming has very likely exacerbated global economic inequality, including ∼25% increase in population-weighted between-country inequality over the past half century. This increase results from the impact of warming on annual economic growth, which over the course of decades has accumulated robust and substantial declines in economic output in hotter, poorer countries—and increases in many cooler, wealthier countries—relative to a world without anthropogenic warming. Thus, the global warming caused by fossil fuel use has likely exacerbated the economic inequality associated with historical disparities in energy consumption.”

I cannot say that I understood all the equations, but the findings are consistent with my own understanding of the dynamics of climate change. Climate change will definitely affect the poor and vulnerable far more than the people in rich countries who can probably afford to accommodate some of the worst effects of climate change. Jason Daley, writing for the Smithsonian magazine, provides clear examples:

“Warming for many economically powerful nations in the temperate region, including the United States, China and Japan, has pushed them into the perfect temperature ranges for economic output. Norway’s GDP, on the other hand, has grown an extra 34 percent due to warming and Iceland’s economic output is double what it would otherwise have been. That won’t last, the author’s warn, as temperatures increase over the next few decades.

“On the down side, India’s GDP is about 30 percent lower today than it would have been without rising global temperatures. Diffenbaugh tells McKenna that’s on the same order of magnitude as the impacts of the Great Depression in the United States. Lydia DePillis at CNN reports that Costa Rica, which according to the study has experienced a 21% lower GDP, has seen lower yields of coffee and more disease among the crop all due to increasing temperatures.”

Posted April 23, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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