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Global warming will cause huge unpredictable changes to natural resources

times   2016-02-26
Many studies have shown that critical natural resources, including fish stocks, are moving poleward as the planet warms. A new Yale-led study suggests that these biophysical changes are also reallocating global wealth in unpredictable, and potentially destabilizing, ways. On its surface, these biophysical movements will shift resources from communities and nations closer to the equator into places closer to the poles. In many cases this would seem to exacerbate inequalities between richer and poorer communities.
 
But writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, the researchers suggest that the impacts on net global wealth may not be that straightforward. In fact, they make the case that changes are more likely than not to produce an overall net loss in global wealth. 
 
The reason, says lead author Eli Fenichel, is the inevitable and unpredictable price impacts in places where the quantities of fish stocks increase depending on the quality of its resource management, existing institutions, and fishing regulations.
 
"People are mostly focused on the physical reallocation of these assets, but I don't think we've really started thinking enough about how climate change can reallocate wealth and influence the prices of those assets," said Fenichel, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. "We think these price impacts can be really, really important."
 
"We don't know how this will unfold, but we do know there will be price effects. It's just Economics 101 -- prices reflect quantity and scarcity and natural capital is hard for people to move," he said. "It's as inevitable as the movement of these fish species."
 
These impacts on the value of natural capital highlight the need for coherent climate policies that integrate biophysical and social measurements, the authors say.