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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: May 2017

Climate change and world trade


ABSTRACT.There is now no doubt that human activity has increased and is increasing the temperature of the earth and the violence of the weather. Agriculture, fisheries and the supply of fresh water are all being affected. The falling cost of transport has driven a steep increase in world trade, now more than a quarter of world GDP. This has spread prosperity but increased the burning of fossil fuels. Technical remedies for climate change are available; the real difficulty is political solutions.

RÉSUMÉ.Il ne fait plus aucun doute aujourd'hui quant à la responsabilité de l'activité humaine de l'augmentation passée et actuelle de la température terrestre et de la violence météorologique. l'agriculture, la pêche et l'approvisionnement en eau douce en sont tous affectés. La baisse des coûts de transport a provoqué une augmentation considérable du commerce international qui représente aujourd'hui plus d'un quart du PNB mondial. La prospérité s'est par conséquent répandue mais la combustion des carburants fossiles a, de même, fortement augmentée. Il existe des remèdes techniques au changement climatique mais la difficulté principale réside dans les solutions politiques.


Climate change is one of the few scientific theories that makes us examine the whole basis of modern society including globalisation and the expansion of world trade. It is a challenge that has politicians arguing, sets nations against each other, queries modes of economic development and ultimately asks questions about humanity's relationship with the rest of the planet. The Fifth Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) published in 2013 and 2014 state that the evidence for climate change is unequivocal; with evidence over the last one hundred years of a 0.8°C rise in global temperatures and a 22cm rise in sea level. Depending on how much we control future greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions the global mean surface temperature could rise between 2.8°C and 5.4°C by the end of the 21st century. In addition, global sea level could rise by between 52cm and 98cm and there will be significant changes in weather patterns, with more extreme climate events. Significant changes in world trade will be needed if both the causes and impacts of climate change are to be addressed. For example, world trade through transport of goods is a major contributor to global GHG emissions.