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International Development in Focus: Climate change and economic growth

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International Development in Focus: Climate change and economic growth

April 22, 2021

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

by Momina Khan from Bahria University

Climate change and economic growth

Humans beings have long ignored the consequence of their actions on the environment. Mankind’s careless actions have led to an increase in 2 degrees Fahrenheit of the average global temperature since 1800, which is the highest recorded in history.

Moreover, the fact that the temperature isn’t rising uniformly has made matters even more complicated. The polar regions have witnessed higher increases in temperature as compared to other parts of the world. This, of course, has led to a disturbance in tides and water levels. Even more, climate destabilization has led to heat waves, frequency in natural disasters, wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather conditions.

Contrary to common perceptions, the catastrophes linked with natural disasters are not limited to the environmental crisis only, as climate change can also lead to economic issues.

Climate change has now reached a point where it has become a risk for the stability of the global economy. The adverse effects linked with climate change can lead to property damage, hamper agricultural produce and fishery market, and slow down tourism.

All of this is supported by researchers who claim that if global temperature increases by 2-degree centigrade by the next century, then 22 economic sectors in the US can face a loss of US$520 billion each year.

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Alright, so how do we face this huge climate change problem, then?

The path to a healthy economic growth

First of all, strategies should be adopted to prepare businesses and companies to operate according to the current environmental challenges.

For this purpose, economic advisers have already started emphasizing the importance of recognizing policies that will allow the business to adopt practices that will not only reduce further environmental damage but will also prevent any damage that has already happened or can occur in the future.

Despite all the measurements that are being taken, economies have already started facing the dreadful effects that come with environmental problems. For instance, Hurricane Sandy cost the US a total loss of US$71 billion, and although it is not directly linked with climate, research and science suggest that higher sea levels and temperature can trigger natural disasters.

The occurrence of such incidents is an indication of how deep the link between climate change and the economy is, and perhaps it also signifies the importance of the environment for a stable economy.

But the negligence towards the issue, especially by developed nations, is still prevalent in our society. The effects, however, will be more dreadful for the underdeveloped countries. This is because the economies of such countries mostly run on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, tourism, fishery production, etc.

One also needs to understand that this will further increase the gap between the first world and third world, as where countries like India and Bangladesh will face a plethora of catastrophes, transitional economies like China and the USA are less vulnerable and may even benefit at low degrees of warming.

However, it won’t be right to limit the consequences of climate change to agricultural economies of third-world countries. We should also recognize that many sectors of developed countries, particularly infrastructural sectors, are also at potential risk.

Agricultural economist Gefforay Heal, a professor at Columbus Business School, has shed light on this by presenting an argument that an increase in sea level could cost the US a loss of up to five trillion dollars. He has linked this loss with damage to housing, airports at coastlines, railway lines, and even military bases.

Heal’s statement is perhaps a reflection of the economic instability that will come with climate change, but despite the fact that so many researches and studies have shown the adverse effects of climate change, still many economies continue to be ignorant.

The fatal ignorance

The root cause of this ignorance perhaps lies in the perception that climate change is a future issue. However, what many economies deliberately chose to ignore is that we have already come to this so-called future.

The recent Karachi Floods can be used as an example to support an argument against such limited perceptions. The flood did not only kill 41 people but also led to a loss of 71 million US dollars. It has been linked with poor provincial management from the city. However, factors like urbanization and climate change have also contributed to the disaster.

Karachi, which is also the country’s industrial hub, has seen a rapid increase in its population growth in the last few decades. But as Karachi is becoming more and industrialized, its environment is getting more and more neglected. Historical data has proven that the average temperature has increased over the years. The city is, however, failing to adapt to the current climate change situation. The failure to recognize climate change has become a factor that contributed to the recent catastrophic floods.

Development and progress relation to climate change

Human beings, ever since their evolution, have been inclined towards development and progress. However, our selfish practices to gain economic prosperity can often lead to consequences that can hamper economic growth.

Climate change is an essential issue that has been neglected for a long time because economies chose to ignore the catastrophic effects associated with climate change. What many economies fail to understand is that ignoring climate change for the pursuit of development will, in fact, become a hurdle in their path to achieving that very same development.

UNFCCC’s role

Over time, people are also becoming more and more aware of the consequences of climate change, and as a result, more actions are being taken.

Among the various organizations that are working for climate change, the efforts of the United Nations have been commendable. UNFCCC (United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change) is an environmental treaty addressing climate change. The treaty which has been negotiated and signed by 154 countries, focuses on limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

UNFCCC targets to reduce these greenhouse emissions that would prevent dangerous human-induced interference with the earth’s climate system. A very prominent initiative under this convention is the signing of “The Paris Agreement”.191 state parties were present at the conference which was held at Le Bourget, near Paris, France.

The Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal is to keep the rise in global average temperature to well below 2°C, above pre-industrial levels; and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F), recognizing that this would substantially reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

The agreement is another example of a prominent effort by the UN body to fight against climate change. United Nations’ continuous effort to fight against climate change has not only lead to agreements but has also spread awareness about the essential need of taking climate change seriously. As a result of this awareness, even common people are taking interest in an issue that was once limited to academic books.


The issue still remains, and so does the risk of consequences that can be a result of our ignorance. Therefore, it is suggested that strategies be adopted, which will enforce businesses to take measurements that will limit environmental damage and at the same time prevent these businesses from any damage that can be caused by the current environmental issues.

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