Climate Change and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century
Because climate change is a global phenomenon and its potential effects diverse, understanding the economic impacts is highly complex. Agriculture, fishing, migration, health and tourism could all be affected; in many ways the impacts are likely to be negative, but some could be positive.
A 2008 paper by researchers from Harvard, MIT and Northwestern, “Climate Change and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century,” estimates the potential effect of climate change on nations’ economic growth. The authors do this by examining the relationship over the past 50 years between variation in temperature and precipitation levels on global economic activity.
The findings include:
- Global temperature increases have little effect on rich countries’ economic growth; at the same time, they significantly reduce poorer countries’ growth.
- In poorer countries, a temperature rise of 1 degree centigrade over a year reduces growth by 1.1 percentage points.
- Higher temperatures increase poorer nations’ political instability while reducing their agricultural output, industrial output and aggregate investment.
The researchers state that the results suggest that climate change may substantially widen the economic divide between well-off and poorer countries. They suggest that further work is needed to identify precise causal mechanisms. This paper suggests such analysis is of first-order importance, as the economic effects in poor countries appear large.
Tags: greenhouse gases, pollution, water
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "When the Smoke Clears in Russia, Will Climate Policy Change?"
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
Read the full study titled "Climate Change and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.