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Climate change and development are closely intertwined. Poor people in developing countries will feel the impacts first and worst (and already are) because of vulnerable geography and lesser ability to cope with damage from severe weather and rising sea levels. In short, climate change will be awful for everyone but catastrophic for the poor.
Preventing dangerous climate change is critical for promoting global development. And saving tropical forests is essential to doing both. Frances Seymour and Jonah Busch's new book, Why Forests? Why Now?, illustrates how today—more than ever—saving forests is more feasible, affordable, and urgent.
Historically, the responsibility for climate change, though, rested with the rich countries that emitted greenhouse gases unimpeded from the Industrial Revolution on — and become rich by doing so. Now, some of the most quickly developing countries have become major emitter themselves just as all countries are compelled by the common good to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A major challenge of reaching a global deal on climate change was to find a way for poor countries to continue developing under the planetary carbon limits that rich countries have already pushed too far. That will involve scaling up finance to deploy clean technologies, to adapt to the effects of climate change, and to compensate countries that provide the global public good of reducing emissions, especially by reducing tropical deforestation.
CGD’s research and policy engagement on climate and development has had two aims: to strengthen the intellectual foundation for a viable international accord to come out of the COP 21 in Paris and to provide data, research, and analysis that policymakers and others can act upon even in the absence of an international agreement.
The story of climate change and development can be told in three simple pie charts: Developing countries are hurt most by climate change (chart #1). Historically, developed countries were most responsible for climate change (chart #2). But now, developing countries are most responsible for climate change (chart #3). That shift may be what leads to a successful climate agreement this December in Paris.
In this new book, Bill Cline, a joint senior fellow at CGD and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, provides the first ever estimates of the impact on agriculture by country, with a particular focus on the social and economic implications in China, India, Brazil, and the poor countries of the tropical belt in Africa and Latin America. His study shows that the long-term negative effects on world agriculture will be severe, and that developing countries will suffer first and worst.
“This important book sets a sensible and specific way forward. It should be read by all involved in economic development and international action on climate change.”
—Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern Review