Global warming might bring to mind the image of a polar bear standing on an ever-shrinking patch of ice, or it might bring to mind another devastating image. Yet despite all the ways in which climate change is predicted to damage the environment, a new study has found that for some developing countries, it could bring a rare benefit: increased trading opportunities.

A study by researchers at Stanford University, the World Bank and Purdue University found that open trading policies will benefit nations around the globe as climate shifts become more dramatic and new countries become better equipped to grow and distribute crops like corn.

Tanzania, for example, is poised to grow increasingly wet, while major consumer countries like the United States, China and India are predicted to become hot and dry. The African nation could take advantage of this climate shift by growing and exporting corn to countries expected to become too arid to grow the crop themselves.

But these benefits are only possible with open trade policies, the study found. Trade restrictions would prevent countries like Tanzania from importing the crops it needs in bad climate years and taking advantage of economic opportunities in good climate years.

There are currently several policies in place that restrict trade in Tanzania.

“This study highlights how government policies can influence the impact that we experience from the climate system” said study co-author Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford. “Tanzania is a particularly interesting case, as it has the potential to benefit from climate change if climate model predictions of decreasing drought in East Africa prove to be correct, and if trade policies are constructed to take advantage of those new opportunities.”

Main photo credit: Fanny Schertzer