Climate Change’s Impact on Human DevelopmentDecember 13, 2012 By Carolyn Lamere
One of the greatest challenges in addressing climate change is the uncertainty of outcomes. The world is warming and greenhouse gases are accumulating at an unprecedented rate – what does that mean for the future of human development? In Barry B. Hughes, Mohammod T. Irfan, Jonathan D. Moyer, Dale S. Rothman, and José R. Solórzano’s paper, “Exploring Future Impacts of Environmental Constraints on Human Development,” they describe three possible futures for the world (a base line scenario, an environmental challenge scenario, and an environmental disaster scenario) and their potential impact on the indicators of the Human Development Index (HDI). The environmental disaster projection features a flat-lining HDI starting around 2015, with global life expectancy at birth seven years shorter than the baseline in 2060. The report also notes that the future of the planet will be drastically different if the world population peaks “well before 2100,” as is the case in the base line scenario, or continues to grow, as it does in the other scenarios.
Continuing the theme of looking at climate and development together, Benjamin Jones and Benjamin Olken consider the impact of climate on trade in their paper “Climate Shocks and Exports,” appearing in American Economic Review. Jones and Olken examine countries’ exports of certain products and the weather in a given year. They find that “higher temperatures in poor countries lead to large, negative impacts on the growth of their exports,” both of agricultural and manufacturing products. This result only holds true of poor countries, however; wealthier states are more insulated than developing countries and have the resources to adapt to a changing climate. The authors note that this finding aligns with other research declaring that poor countries will experience the brunt of the negative impacts of climate change, but that wealthy countries may be indirectly affected as their imports from developing countries decrease – and also lends credence to closer integration between climate adaptation and aid.
Sources: American Economic Review, Sustainability, UNDP, World Bank.