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Climate Adaptation

Economists Warn That a Hotter World Will Be Poorer and More Unequal

What happens when economic models absorb climate projections? Global GDP drops by 20% over the next 80 years.

Commuters exit the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus railway station in Mumbai on July 6.

Commuters exit the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus railway station in Mumbai on July 6.

Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

Hotter temperatures by 2100 could slash global GDP by more than 20%, according to new research, and the way the economic impact will be distributed threatens to turn climate change into an enormous driver of worldwide inequality. 

A new analysis of the relationship between heat and economic performance released this week by Oxford Economics, a global forecasting firm, identified a divide between nations on either side of 15° Celsius (59° Fahrenheit), the “global sweet spot” for economic activity. A country whose average annual temperatures today are cooler than 15° C, including those in North America and Europe, stand to benefit slightly in the short term from rising temperatures. Tropical and subtropical countries whose average temperatures are already warmer than 15° C today, including the entire global South, face catastrophic economic degradation.