Successful global efforts to substantially limit greenhouse gas emissions would likely boost gross domestic product (GDP) growth of poorer countries such as Malawi over the next 30 years, according to new research.
Researchers examined the impact global climate change mitigation would have on the economies of poorer countries – specifically here in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia.
Devastation in Mozambique and Malawi in March and last month caused by Cyclones Idai and Kenneth vividly demonstrated the crippling impact that extreme weather events can have on these economies, and climate change is widely expected to increase both the intensity and frequency of such extreme weather events.
The study shows that beyond the obvious benefits of reduced extreme weather in the long term, global mitigation efforts would also lower oil prices in coming decades, resulting in a significant economic boon for poorer countries.
“It is abundantly clear that many low-income countries will bear the brunt of climate change impacts over the long term, and that successful efforts to rein in emissions will lessen this blow,” said lead author Channing Arndt, director of the Environment and Production Technology Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
“Our research now provides another rationale for robust climate action: the economic benefits of mitigation arrive much sooner than previously thought.”
Lowering greenhouse gas emissions creates two sources of economic gain for poorer countries, he said. First, effective global mitigation policies would reduce changes in local weather patterns and lower the odds of damaging events such as unprecedented rainfall, recurring droughts, and extremely high temperatures, allowing for more economic growth than if climate change is unimpeded and more extreme weather damages economic activity.
Second, successful mitigation policies would cause oil prices to drop due to a reduction in oil demand. If richer nations take the lead in restraining their oil use, lower-income countries will be able to transition somewhat later while benefiting from much lower oil prices during the transition period. Since nearly all low-income countries are net oil importers, such price drops would represent a significant economic windfall.
The research suggests that by 2050 these two sources of economic benefit together could increase the average GDP of Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia by between 2 and 6 percentage points-gains that cannot occur if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.