Climate change to cut poor countries' GDP by 64% by 2100 - study

Even if all countries abide by the Paris Agreement, the damage will still be severe.

BIRDS FLY near factory emissions n Tangshan, China, in 2016. Waskow emphasizes the importance of using religion to fight climate change (photo credit: KIM KYUNG-HOON/FILE PHOTO/ REUTERS)
BIRDS FLY near factory emissions n Tangshan, China, in 2016. Waskow emphasizes the importance of using religion to fight climate change
(photo credit: KIM KYUNG-HOON/FILE PHOTO/ REUTERS)

The effects of climate change could cause a 64% hit to the Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) of the world's most vulnerable countries, according to a new study commissioned by Christian Aid.

The report is titled "Lost and Damaged: A study of the economic impact of climate change on vulnerable countries," and was coordinated by Marina Andrijevic, an economist at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. It highlighted the damage climate change could cause to the GDPs of the world's poorest nations, compared to if climate change was never a factor.

The countries studied are all members of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in the UNFCCC as well as members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF).

Global temperatures are expected to rise by 2.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. With this in mind, the GDPs of the world's poorest countries are expected to decline significantly. By 2050, they will see a reduction of 19.6%. By 2100, it would be 63.9%.

Should all nations abide by the Paris Agreement, the situation would still be difficult, but nowhere near as bad. Under the Paris Agreement, global heating should be kept to under 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. If this happens, the average GDP reduction for poor countries would be 13.1% by 2050 and 33.1% by 2100. This isn't nearly as bad, but it shows that an economic crisis would still happen even in this idyllic scenario, and a mechanism needs to be in place to cope with it.

Ethiopians, who fled the ongoing fighting in Tigray region, carry their belongings after crossing the Setit River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in the eastern Kassala state, Sudan December 16, 2020. (credit: MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS)Ethiopians, who fled the ongoing fighting in Tigray region, carry their belongings after crossing the Setit River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in the eastern Kassala state, Sudan December 16, 2020. (credit: MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS)

Countries in Africa will be particularly hard-hit, which is where eight of the top 10 worst-affected countries are located. Each of them will have a GDP reduction of over 70% by 2100 at the current trajectory. Even if the temperature rise is kept to just 1.5 degrees Celsius, they will still face a 40% reduction.

This itself is nothing new. Previous studies showed that Africa's GDP per capita is already 13.6% lower now than it would have been had temperatures not risen from 1991-2010.

But the country that will be hit the hardest out of all of them would be Sudan. The country was already hit hard by flash floods and heavy rains that impacted the lives of over 300,000 back in September. And at this rate, it will only get much worse. By 2050, it will see a GDP reduction of 32.4% and one of 83.9% by 2100. If rising temperatures are kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius, it would still be 22.4% in 2050 and 51.4% in 2100.

All of this doesn't even take into account the possibility of extreme weather events caused by rising temperatures, which could make these prospects even worse.

These findings come amid the UN global climate change conference known as COP26. There, Western states are committing to helping these poor countries adapt. But these poorer countries are also the ones with the lowest ability to adapt.

“Based on historical relationships between GDP growth and climate variables, here we extrapolate how a future under climate change might affect economic performance,” Andrijevic said in a statement.

“We get staggering numbers which imply that the ability of countries in the Global South to sustainably develop is seriously jeopardized and that the policy choices that we make right now are crucial for preventing further damage. It’s important to keep in mind that these numbers are just extrapolations, and focus on the impact of rising temperatures, not the effects of extreme weather events. It’s possible that these numbers are conservative estimates if extreme weather events continue to cause substantial economic harm themselves in the coming decades.”

“This report shows the scale of the economic disaster facing Africa due to climate change,” noted Mohamed Adow, director of the climate and energy think tank Power Shift Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya.

“The fact that eight of the 10 most impacted countries are from my continent underlines the threat that we face if we don’t tackle global emissions urgently, but also shows the glaring need for a concrete loss and damage mechanism to deal with this economic fallout. Africa has the done the least to cause climate change yet this report shows it will face the most severe consequences. That is deeply unjust. The fact rich countries have consistently blocked efforts to set up a loss and damage fund to deal with this injustice is shameful. That attitude needs to change here in Glasgow. Not only because it is needed, but the bill will only get bigger if rich countries continue to ignore the needs of the most vulnerable.”