Extreme heat, it turns out, is very bad for the economy. Crops fail. People work less, and are less productive when they do work.
That’s why an increase in extremely hot days is one of the more worrisome prospects of climate change. To predict just how various countries might suffer or benefit, a team of scientists at Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, have turned to historical records of how temperature affects key aspects of the economy. When they use this data to estimate how various countries will fare with a warming planet, the news isn’t good. (unless you are Russian or Canadian — see green on map)
The average global income is predicted to be 23 percent less by the end of the century than it would be without climate change. But the effects of a hotter world will be shared very unevenly, with a number of northern countries, including Russia and much of Europe, benefiting from the rising temperatures. The uneven impact of the warming “could mean a massive restructuring of the global economy,” says Solomon Hsiang, a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at Berkeley, one of the researchers who have painstakingly documented the historical impact of temperature. Even by 2050 (see map), the variation in the economic fates of countries is striking.