Poor countries face 'unfair pattern' of temperature swings

Poor countries are expected to see the greatest swings in temperature as a result of climate change, a new study suggests.

Using models for the last report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, European researchers analyzed 37 climate-model simulations to calculate which regions would likely experience the higher highs and lowest lows until the year 2100.

Their study, published in the journal Sciences Advances, suggests temperature fluctuations amplified by climate change will hit the world’s poorest countries hardest.

The European study of 37 climate models revealed that most of the increased temperature fluctuations expected in the coming decades could be in the tropics, threatening food and water supplies. (Jayanta Shaw/Reuters)

For every degree of global warming, the study suggests temperature variability will increase by up to 15 per cent in the Amazon and southern Africa, and up to 10 per cent in the Sahel region of western and north-central Africa, as well as India and Southeast Asia.

The exception is Australia — considered a wealthy country — which was included on the list of regions on track to see the greatest fluctuations.

Drying soils

Climate models consistently project increases in temperature variability in tropical countries, the researchers said. However, developed countries that are outside the tropics and typically in the Northern Hemisphere are expected to not only escape the same increases in variability but should actually see a decrease on average.

“The countries that have contributed least to climate change, and have the least economic potential to cope with the impacts are facing the largest increases in temperature variability,” said lead author Sebastian Bathiany of Wageningen University.

One mechanism that plays a key role in the greater fluctuations is drying soils. The researchers said even a small increase in temperature can dry out a region’s soil, curbing the cooling effect of the available moisture.

The buffering against heat is due to evapotranspiration, the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and by transpiration from plants.

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