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Climate Change Places A Major Economic Burden On Future Generations


A new study is looking even farther ahead at how rising temperatures might affect our children — but not so much in terms of their physical health. Rather, the researchers ask how might climate change impact their financial health as adults. Published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study was conducted by researchers at Stanford, the University of California, Berkeley, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The results lead researchers to conclude there could be a link between heat waves during childhood and lower earnings in adulthood.

The study found that for every day in a child’s life between conception and age one when temperatures rose above 32 ˚C (roughly 90 ˚F) is associated with a 0.1 percent decrease in average income at age 30. It sounds abstract, but this means that too many sweltering days of youth corresponds to a slightly lower chance of ultimately achieving a higher income.

While these findings might seem, at first, possibly coincidental or accidental, as they are so astounding, Patrick L. Kinney, Sc.D., a Beverly A. Brown Professor of Urban Health and Sustainability in the Department of Environmental Health at the Boston University School of Public Health, first reacted to these findings in a phone call to Futurism, stating simply: “that’s bizarre.” But Kinney later explained, in an email to Futurism, that this ” study is very intriguing and as noted in the commentary, is significant in suggesting that climate warming has long-term negative consequences for wage earnings.” He continued that “we know that health is closely tied to economic status. Until now, most studies only show short-term effects on health outcomes. The long-term aspect is what’s new. Very interesting and seemingly well-done study.”

As global temperatures continue to rise, we may see this correspondence become a more noticeable phenomenon. The paper notes that fetuses and infants are “especially sensitive to hot temperatures because their thermoregulatory and sympathetic nervous systems are not fully developed.” While the research doesn’t directly explain how this sensitivity leads to financial instability later in life, there is a fairly extensive body of research exploring how the conditions of our early life affect our health later on.