A study published on May 17 in the journal Environmental Research Letters reveals that the poorest countries will experience the worst effects of climate change despite producing the least amount of carbon dioxide. The study’s research team cites countries such as those in the Horn of Africa and West Africa will suffer more frequent heat extremes.
Those who live near the equator, where many of the poorest nations are located, will experience the effects of climate change sooner. According to ETH Zurich’s Erich Fischer, these poor nations would also be unable to handle the impacts of climate change more easily than the wealthiest nations.
Previous research only investigated the effect of rising global temperatures on the frequency of heat extremes and how carbon emission increases global temperatures. The new study is the first one to investigate the link between frequent hot days and the cumulative emission of carbon dioxide.
The researchers utilised climate models to estimate the changes of daily temperatures in a local area over the 20th and 21st centuries as well as the cumulative carbon dioxide emission. According to Chris Jones from the Met Office Hadley Centre, they found that it only takes fewer cumulative carbon emissions for the poorest fifth of the global population to experience the increase in the frequency of hot days.
The findings uncover how the richest and poorest countries will disproportionately experience different increases in extreme heat if climate change is not solved. The researchers suggest reducing the cumulative emission of this harmful gas to prevent these consequences.
“Most importantly, this disparity in exposure to more frequent temperature extremes between the global rich and poor only becomes more pronounced as cumulative CO2 emissions continue to rise,” adds University of Reading’s Ed Hawkins. “This result is yet another piece of evidence demonstrating that limiting cumulative CO2 emissions over the 21st century will help avoid these impacts.”