How would you eliminate almost half the planet by subtracting just 5% from it? This map shows you how: delete the countries that constitute the bottom 5% of global GDP contributors, and you scrap almost 3 billion people from the equation. Those people mainly live in Africa and South East Asia, as demonstrated by the disappearance of those areas beneath the waves.

This map was first shown on the political website FiveThirtyEight (“Politics done right”), in reaction to an argument that climate change would affect global GDP by “only” 5% over the next 100 years. Quite rightly, the point was raised that a reduction in potential GDP might not be an adequate measure of the human impact of such society-shattering change.

As per-capita GDP varies across the world’s countries by a factor of 800 (or 2,000 if you count Zimbabwe), this is a rather cynical (or at least cold-hearted) way of measuring the worth of human lives, making the average Rwandan life hundreds of times less important than that of the average Luxembourger.

To demonstrate the impact of a reduction of global GDP by a mere 5%, FiveThirtyEight erased the countries constituting the bottom 5% of global GDP (IMF estimates for 2008), in reverse order of magnitude:

Zimbabwe (1), Burundi, DR Congo, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Malawi, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Afghanistan, Togo, Guinea, Uganda, Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Nepal, Myanmar (Burma), Rwanda, Mozambique, East Timor, the Gambia (2), Bangladesh, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Lesotho, Ghana, Haiti, Tajikistan, the Comoros, Cambodia, Laos, Benin, Kenya, Chad, the Solomon Islands, Kyrgyzstan, India (3), Nicaragua, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Mauritania, Pakistan, Senegal, Sao Tome and Principe, Ivory Coast, Zambia, the Yemen, Cameroon, Djibouti, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Nigeria (4), Guyana, the Sudan, Bolivia, Moldova, Honduras, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Bhutan, Egypt (5), Vanuatu, Tonga, Paraguay, Morocco, Syria, Swaziland, Samoa, Guatemala, Georgia, the Congo, Iraq, Armenia, Jordan, Cape Verde, the Maldives, Fiji and Namibia (6).

All in all 81 countries (almost half of the 192 UN member states), representing nearly 2.9 billion people (about 43%) of the world population. But still, a mere 5% of world GDP…

Thanks to Jackson Wagner for providing me with this link to the FiveThirtyEight page.


(1) 0.02% of global GDP, or $55 p.p.

(2) the list of countries up til now represents only 0.27% of global GDP.

(3) apparently constitutes only 2% of global GDP, surprisingly

(4) the list of countries up til now represents 3.6% of global GDP.

(5) the list of countries up til now represents 4.4% of global GDP.

(6) these countries together constitute 4.99997% of global GDP.