After examining worldwide climate and economic data from 1950 to 2003, Benjamin A. Olken, associate professor in the Department of Economics at MIT, concluded earlier this year that a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature in a given year reduces economic growth by an average of 1.1 percentage points in the world’s poor countries but has no measurable effect in rich countries. The precise reasons why higher temperatures lower economic output are likely to be complex, but Olken’s results suggest the importance of temperature’s impact on agricultural output. His data also provide evidence for a relationship between temperature and industrial output, investment, research productivity and political stability.
In terms of poor people around the world, global warming has more of an effect simply because it will cause more of a food and water shortage. It will also be harder for the worlds poor to deal with more extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.
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