Concepts and Cases
New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
Edited by Matthias Ruth and María E. Ibarrarán
Chapter 1: Introduction: Distributional Effects of Climate Change – Social and Economic Implications
Matthias Ruth and María E. Ibarrarán Climate change has global impacts relative to both its causes and its effects. These impacts, however, are not distributed evenly but can create dissimilar effects across different latitudes, altitudes and even groups of people, within the same location. For example, some parts of the globe may be impacted by a large number of hurricanes, while others suffer from frequent episodes of drought. Other parts may be more prone to vector disease due to temperature rise or to land loss from sea level rise. Simultaneously, different groups of people may be affected, to differing degrees, because the distribution of these effects combine with yet another important distinction – the coping capacity of different countries, and of the individuals within those countries. Access to information is a key issue in preventing, and adapting to, current and expected impacts from climate change. There is wide variation in the real availability of such information to different groups. Other key issues concern the ways in which stakeholders act on that information. Climate change tends to increase the frequency and the intensity of weather-related natural disasters. Depending on the location of populated areas, this puts many people at risk with respect to access to water, coastal flooding, disease and hunger. This can leave them with a more degraded environment. Economic, social and environmental impacts, in turn, further increase vulnerability to natural disasters and tend to set back development, destroy livelihoods (especially of the poor), and increase disparity both nationally...