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Study: Climate Change Hurts Poor Economies Most

A new MIT study measuring the economic impact of climate change shows that the world's poorest economies are most negatively affected as temperatures rise. WBUR's Sacha Pfeiffer explains.

The researchers looked at data from every country in the world over roughly the past half-century. Specifically, they compared changes in a country's temperature and precipitation with changes in its economic performance. MIT economist Ben Olken says with every 1 degree rise Celsius in a given year, poor countries experience about a 1 percent drop in economic growth.

"It could be that what's happening is that in poor countries agriculture does worse in hot years," Olken says. "Then that creates a mini-recession in that country and that recession spills over into the rest of the economy. So it could be that agriculture is the underlying cause of all these different effects that we see."

Olken says besides hurting agriculture, rising temperatures can also reduce industrial production, economic investment, and political stability.

But the study, which was presented at a recent conference of the American Economic Association, found that higher temperatures have no measurable effect on richer countries.

This program aired on March 17, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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