Climate crisis study finds heatwaves cost global economy $16 billion

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<p><figcaption class=Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP

Heat waves caused by human-induced climate breakdown have cost the global economy an estimated $16 billion since the 1990s, according to one study.

The research calculates the financial impact of oppressive heat on infrastructure, agriculture, productivity, human health and other areas.

“We have so far underestimated the true economic costs that we have suffered from global warming, and we are likely underestimating future costs,” said Justin Mankin, assistant professor of geography at Dartmouth College and lead author. of the study published in the journal Science Advances.

Related: The world is close to ‘irreversible’ climate breakdown, major studies warn

Although they have the lowest carbon emissions, it is the tropics and the global south that bear almost all of the economic burden of the extreme heat. This is because they are hotter and therefore harder hit by heat waves, and also because they are economically more vulnerable and therefore more susceptible to economic depression and the costs of adapting to the climate crisis.

Using data covering about 66% of the world’s population, the researchers looked at temperature measurements from the hottest five-day periods in the years between 1992 and 2013 and compared them to national economic data from the same period, segmented by regions.

The extreme heat had a wide range of effects on people and economies, said Christopher Callahan, a Dartmouth College researcher and lead author of the study. “We know that heat waves kill crops and cause illnesses like heat stroke, but they also have other effects such as increased interpersonal aggression, increased rates of work injuries and reduced mental performance.

Until recently, most studies on the subject were based on averages, but these can mask the effects of local and temporary events, according to Dr. Leonie Wenz, deputy director of the science research department of the complexity at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, which was not involved in the study.

“They do not fully reflect how we as humans experience temperature. What really matters to us, what affects our well-being, productivity and decisions, are the extremes and fluctuations of temperature. day or week to week.

The study found that the world’s wealthiest regions, such as parts of Europe and North America, suffered an average loss of 1.5% of GDP per capita per year due to heat. extreme. In comparison, low-income regions – such as India and Indonesia – saw a loss of GDP per capita of 6.7% per year.

The bill had been paid mostly by countries that had not benefited from industrialization, Mankin said, creating a vicious circle.

“Low-income countries have been urged to grow and industrialize in a global economy that strategically disadvantages them,” he said. “And they do it while being hammered by the impacts of global warming that has been generated by the global north. It’s kind of a double whammy. »

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