Global warming is fuelling global inequality
Poor countries are becoming poorer as a result of global warming and more intense heat waves in the future will widen the inequality gap.
These are some of the research findings of Namhla Mkiva, a technical support staff member in the subject group Geography and Environmental Studies at the North-West University’s (NWU’s) Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.
She has written an internationally published article on climate extremes in the looming era of climate change.
“It is envisaged that under the influence of climate change, more intense heat waves will be experienced in the future,” says Namhla.
“In South Africa there is already significant realisation of this prediction, showing a marked increase in the frequency and duration of heat waves. The most remarkable duration of a heat wave recently in the North West was the seven consecutive day event during the 2015/16 austral summer season with a maximum temperature of 44,6°C in Taung.”
Why the North West province is vulnerable
Namhla points out that because it is landlocked, the North West province is more prone to continental climate influences.
“It is also situated within the South African subtropics, where the weather patterns are mainly dominated by high pressure belts which result in semi-arid conditions,” she adds.
In another recently published international research article titled “Global warming has increased global inequality”, Namhjla describes how massive weather events are wiping out entire communities and making life harder, more expensive and more dangerous for everyone.
“This is the reality of a world where carbon emissions are driving climate breakdown.”
Namhla’s research indicates that the economies of poor countries along the tropics would be 24% larger if it were not for global warming. “This is because the world is 1°C hotter than it was a century ago. As a result, crops fail, economic productivity goes down and people get sick or die because of the heat.”
According to her article, South Africa is between 10% and 20% poorer than it would have been without the global warming of the past six decades. Nigeria is 29% poorer and India is 30% poorer.
Conversely, the research shows that rich countries have benefited from global warming. By calculating temperature and economic growth between 1961 and 2010, it has been found that already rich countries, mostly in colder climates, have growth spurts during an unusually hot year. This is because hotter weather moves them closer to what is known as the “empirical optimum” — the closer a country’s average temperature is to 13°C, the more its economy thrives.
The 19 countries with the highest carbon emissions have seen their economies grow by an average of 13%. Norway, for example, is 34% wealthier thanks to increased temperatures. On the other hand, South Africa, with an average temperature of around 17°C, has seen its economy shrink.
The sad reality is that global warming is further fuelling global inequality.