Climate change makes the poor poorer, the rich richer

As the Earth warms, fish and other important resources are migrating towards the two poles – and the wealth associated with these natural assets are moving with them, according to new research.

“What we find is that natural resources like fish are being pushed around by climate change, and that changes who gets access to them,” says Malin Pinsky at Rutgers University.

Together with colleagues at Princeton, Yale and Arizona State universities, he found that “inclusive wealth” – fish, plants, trees and other species important to human beings – are shifting out of temperate zones and towards the two poles. Climate change, rising global temperatures and ocean warming are behind this migration.

As developed countries tend to have stronger and more conservation-oriented natural resource management policies, they are more likely to benefit from their new access to this inclusive wealth, thus further exacerbating global inequality. In other words: the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.

According to a Rutgers University news release, the scientists used data Pinksy developed on fish migration and a mathematical formula developed by Yale University economist Eli Fenichel to illustrate the relationship between movement of resources and movement of wealth. Their findings were published in the latest issue of Nature Climate Change.

“We tend to think of climate change as just a problem of physics and biology,” Pinsky says. “But people react to climate change as well, and at the moment we don’t have a good understanding for the impacts of human behaviour on natural resources affected by climate change.”


Image credit: Jennifer Stahn, flickr/Creative Commons

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