Drought in India
A drought-hit region (Representational image) | Photo: Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg
Text Size:

New York: Hotter temperatures by 2100 could slash global GDP by more than 20%, according to new research, and the way the economic impact will be distributed threatens to turn climate change into an enormous driver of worldwide inequality.

A new analysis of the relationship between heat and economic performance released this week by Oxford Economics, a global forecasting firm, identified a divide between nations on either side of 15° Celsius (59° Fahrenheit), the “global sweet spot” for economic activity. A country whose average annual temperatures today are cooler than 15° C, including those in North America and Europe, stand to benefit slightly in the short term from rising temperatures. Tropical and subtropical countries whose average temperatures are already warmer than 15° C today, including the entire global South, face catastrophic economic degradation.

India is singled out by Oxford Economics as following a particularly ruinous trajectory, with GDP falling 90% by 2100 if countries don’t improve current policies. The grim forecast relies on capturing the historical relationship between GDP and temperature. Once established, researchers use climate projections for the rest of the century to produce GDP estimates. The paper assumes an emissions trajectory that could raise global average temperatures by 3°C before 2100 without more aggressive efforts to stop it.

The new analysis is an independent update to a landmark 2015 study in the journal Nature that introduced the technique for projecting the economic impacts of a hotter world. The top-line result—a 21% global GDP hit by 2100—is in line with the original work. The updated research includes an additional decade of data and 40 more countries, bringing the total under analysis to 203.  The original study has become influential tool, now that mainstream economists are building scientific projections of global warming into models of growth. The original 2015 study has gone on to inform the International Monetary Fund’s climate work and many others’.

Economists had long dismissed climate change as a future problem that remained decades away, said James Nixon, chief European economist at Oxford Economics and the author the new white paper. “Obviously, when you get into the literature, you realize that’s not quite the case,” he said. “Because we’re producing long-term forecasts for countries like India who are likely to be adversely affected by climate change, we need to find a way of quantifying and thinking about how much we should be writing down their forecast.”

Nixon produces estimates of “counterfactual” per-capita GDP—or what would have happened if the world hadn’t warmed 1.1°C above pre-industrial averages. In India, GDP might have been about 25% higher without warming that’s happened up to 2019; Nigeria’s economy would have seen GDP boosted by 35% without warming.

Climate economists have an unenviable job: Nixon describes his work as “trying to put a number on things that haven’t happened yet.” That draws a lot of criticism, with the complexity and uncertainty leaving projections open to dispute. Or, as the new Oxford Economics paper dryly puts it, “putting a number on the economic impact of global warming is extremely difficult.”

Nixon wanted to put it differently in his new paper: “The first sentence I had, before my editor took it out, was something like, ‘Putting a number on climate change is one of the most heroic things that economists can do.’”- Bloomberg

Also read: It touched 37°C in Siberia. That’s how bad the Arctic heatwave is


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism



  1. In the May 26 issue of PNAS a paper was published that predicted that up to one billion persons might have to migrate from India by 2070 (Future of the human climate niche, Chi Xu et al .Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of USA May 26, 2020 117 (21) 11350-11355 ).For politeness the word migrate is used instead of die. This paper was widely noticed all over the world except India. It was noticed by Nature News and Views which incidentally brought it to my notice also. As I am not the only person in India subscribing to Nature News and Views it must have been widely read by most persons interested in science including those who direct the governments science policy , as Nature is among the worlds top science magazines. Nevertheless the Indian response to this paper has been a deafening silence. This has not received any publicity at all while chest thumping articles about LAC ,Tablighi Jamaat , Article 370 and Rahul Gandhi dominate the headlines. Now the present study predicts an even bleaker future for India by 2100.It is only right and proper that the Government of India should not consider the people as illiterate fools but issue a white paper on the subject. If it feels that these studies are flawed then it should it should give cogent reasons for the same so that people are reassured. If not they should reconsider all their policies including internal and foreign policies in consultation with experts. I can state beforehand with confidence that consultations with President Trump or Ajit Doval or General Rawat or Yogi Aditiyanath or Baba Ramdev or QUAD will be useless as far as this particular threat which is emerging nearly 4000 years after the end of the Harappan period is concerned. 2070 is not far away. Most Indians below the age of thirty would be living in 2070 and thinking about the legacy that those in power today have bequeathed to them.It may be pointed out that this threat will affect China much less than India.India is in the eye of the hurricane of climate change. The calm it perceives( due to the mitigating effect of monsoons)is deceptive.

    • I would like to add that the Nature newsletter is now published as “Nature Briefing”. It is free and anyone can subscribe to it at Nature.com . Subscribers get a daily update of latest news in Science in their inbox from an authoritative source. It is especially useful for persons interested in science and for students who want to remain up to date with the latest happenings in science.

    • Climate change can happen in a lifetime. It is said in the initial Charles Dickens novels it used to snow in London. In later novels it did not.

  2. Huh!?…I am not even an adult yet! I am panicked. Something’s need to happen… It can’t continue! I don’t want to spend my retirement in a desert.

Comments are closed.