A new study shows that economic losses caused by climate change felt in one part of the world are producing ripple effects everywhere else, thanks to globalization.
Researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Columbia University in the United States looked at manufacturing and production data in 186 countries covering 26 global industries, ranging from mining to textiles and telecommunications, and matched up results with existing research on temperature effects on workers between the years 1991 and 2011. The results showed that heat-stress induced production losses have been further amplified by the global connectivity of today’s economies.
“Weather extremes are not really factored into the thinking of a lot of industries, and in particular not weather extremes far away,” says Anders Levermann, climate change researcher at the Potsdam Institute and co-author of the study. “But our study shows it’s really one world with respect to climate impacts.”
Scientists had already demonstrated that when temperatures goes up, labour productivity declines in an almost linear fashion. For instance, three of the global economy’s major industries -construction, agriculture and fishing and mining and quarrying – production declines have been shown to grow by 0.6, 0.8 and 4.2 per cent respectively for each degree in temperature hit above a threshold of 27 degrees Celsius.
The current study adds to the picture by showing how the trade dependencies and worldwide integrated supply chains of today’s economy almost ensure that locally-felt production declines such as those resulting from workers’ heat-stress will have their follow-through impacts on production and economies on the other side of the world.
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“The influence of this structural change has dominated over the effect of the comparably weak climate warming during this decade,” say the study’s authors. “Thus, particularly under future warming, the intensification of international trade has the potential to amplify climate losses if no adaptation measures are taken.”
Scientists have produced both positive and negative conclusions about globalization’s effects on climate change and the environment. On the one hand, efficiency gains linked to integrated supply chains combined with technological progress have been shown to lower stresses on the world’s water resources. On the other hand, critics argue that globalization has led to increased carbon emissions due to the global growth in transportation by land, sea and air.
Climate change is expected to disproportionately affect the health of vulnerable population groups including those living in developing countries, according to a recent report by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Extreme weather events, disease transmission, deterioration of water quantity and quality are all predicted to hit hardest those in developing countries and as well as people living in geographically vulnerable areas. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2030 climate change could put an additional 100 million people worldwide in extreme poverty.
Leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico will be meeting on June 29 in Ottawa to discuss transnational relations, with clean energy and climate change policy reported to be first and foremost on the agenda.