One of the most common arguments against limit carbon dioxide emissions is that such regulations will hurt the economy and kill jobs. But that point is belied by a new study published in the scientific journal Nature, which indicates that if we do nothing to combat climate change, the economic effects could be far more disastrous.
The study, by Stanford University earth scientist Marshall Burke and University of California-Berkeley economists Solomon M. Hsiang and Edward Miguel, finds that most of the world's countries will suffer economically if climate change continues without interference, with the average income across the planet shrinking by 23 percent.
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But global warming won't hurt all nations equally, and some actually will benefit. The researchers found that a warmer planet will enrich nations such as Russia, Mongolia and Canada, and Europe will do slightly better as well. The United States and China, in contrast, would be worse off economically with higher temperatures, and the rest of Asia, plus all of Africa, South America and the Middle East, would be far worse off, they concluded.
The researchers examined 50 years of economic data in 160 countries, and even drilled down to county-by-county data in the United States.
They found what Burke has called "the Goldilocks zone," an annual average temperature of around 55.4 degrees Fahrenheit, which is optimal for humans to produce things.
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The planet already is over that threshold. Last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average global temperature hit 58.24 degrees F. By 2100, if worst-case scenarios hold, it could rise into the mid-60s. That shift would be enough to alter growing seasons and make it too warm in some places for many species with limited heat tolerance to survive.