Planet Earth, 2100. Imagining two different potential scenarios: in the first one, the adopted strategies to combat climate change have been successful and the increase of temperature is kept in check. In the second one, the failure of environmental policies has allowed global warming to grow undisturbed.
Well, in the latter case, what will our planet look like? No one really knows but speaking at EmTech MIT 2016, Solomon Hsiang, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, presented results based on his recent analysis of economic and climate data that begin to more clearly define what the world might look like as temperatures continue to rise at their current rate. Global warming will dramatically damage agricultural yields and human health and will significantly reduce overall economic growth: the global GDP will be reduced by 23% by the end of the century if climate change progresses largely unabated. That decrease in economic output will hit the poorest 60% of the population disproportionately hard.
In doing so, it will surely exacerbate inequality between rich countries and poor countries, according to a rather simple scheme. The rise in temperature, indeed, can be an advantage for Northern rich countries (such as northern Europe), which generally have a thriving economy based on services rather than on agriculture, while it represents a difficulty for the hotter areas around the tropics (such as large parts of south Asia and Africa) which are also the poorest. The impact is much greater than previously expected, and it is not limited to poor countries. And here it is the news: the climate of the near future will put in crisis even the richest societies. The research found that the temperature is immensely influential on many different aspects of our lives. Extreme hot temperatures, indeed, have a strong negative impact on everything from manufacturing productivity to infant mortality to individual and group violence. However, new technologies and greater availability of data allow, for the first time, to figure out a preview of the specific economic and social changes related to climate change in order to minimize the damages and decide what type of world we want to live in.