Working Papers

Climate Change and Social Inequality

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.

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