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Climate Change and Social Inequality

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  • S. Nazrul Islam
  • John Winkel

Abstract

This paper offers a unifying conceptual framework for understanding the relationship between climate change and “within-country inequalities,” referred here collectively as “social inequality.” Available evidence indicates that this relationship is characterized by a vicious cycle, whereby initial inequality causes the disadvantaged groups to suffer disproportionately from the adverse effects of climate change, resulting in greater subsequent inequality. The paper identifies three main channels through which the inequality-aggravating effect of climate change materializes, namely (a) increase in the exposure of the disadvantaged groups to the adverse effects of climate change; (b) increase in their susceptibility to damage caused by climate change; and (c) decrease in their ability to cope and recover from the damage suffered. The paper presents evidence to illustrate each of the processes above. It also notes that the same analytical framework can be used to discuss the relationship between climate change and inequality across countries. Finally, it points to the ways in which the analysis can be helpful in making relevant policy decisions.

Suggested Citation

  • S. Nazrul Islam & John Winkel, 2017. "Climate Change and Social Inequality," Working Papers 152, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
  • Handle: RePEc:une:wpaper:152
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Climate change; inequality; exposure; susceptibility; ability to cope and recover; adaptation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • Q59 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Other

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