Environment Increasing temperatures hit poorest countries hardest

Increasing temperatures hit poorest countries hardest

It’s the world’s poorest countries that are feeling the most heat from human-caused climate change, new research has found.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, based at UNSW, has found poorer countries have had substantially greater increases in hot days and warm nights as a result of human-caused climate change, compared to wealthy countries.

“We know that hot days at the extreme end of the spectrum can have significant health and economic impacts, particularly for those countries that can least afford to adapt,” said lead researcher Dr Nicholas Herold.

“What we’ve shown is that these hot days have been increasing at a substantially higher rate in the poorest countries compared to the richest countries for more than 20 years.”

“Meanwhile the “free-riding” wealthy countries who have experienced fewer impacts and are most responsible for global warming have quibbled over the money needed to help their neighbours who are already paying more,” he said.

For the period 1961-1990, wealthy and poor countries averaged around the same number of extremely hot days and nights.

But, by 2010, the poorest nations were experiencing around 37 more days of extreme temperatures than rich nations.

This result is largely due to the location of the poorest nations, which are mostly found in equatorial regions, while wealthier countries tend to be found in temperate zones.

When the high temperatures of the tropical regions are coupled with low variability and high humidity, even small temperature increases have a big impact.

“The human body can only acclimatise so much before temperatures surpass the physiological limits of our body,” Dr Herold said.

“Without the proper infrastructure – which most poor countries can barely afford – vulnerable people living in tropical zones become very susceptible to climate change impacts.”

“The leaders of wealthy countries, which have contributed the most to human-caused climate change, must recognise they now have a moral responsibility to aid the poorest nations because their actions put these nations in harm’s way.”

Read more about these research findings here. Story credit: UNSW newsroom.

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