Why are Cold Countries Richer than Hot Countries?

Claim: Northern People are Peaceful

As a Norwegian that is certainly a flattering suggestion. Norway today is certainly a country of fairly cool headed peaceful people.

Claim: Cold Climate Makes People More Innovative

This claim is really stretching it. Mathematics and science originally developed in quit hot areas such as:

  • Mesopotamia
  • India
  • Ancient Greece

The Real Reasons why Colder Countries Are Richer

The real reasons are far more complex than this video lets on.

Water in Cold Climates

One thing has dominated human development above all other things through the centuries and that is: water.

Water Power

But there was another important factor benefitting cold countries. You cannot build waterwheel effectively in hot climate due to the massive variation in water flow.

Tropical Disease and Water

Hot climates had another big problem, which the dutch discovered when they tried to dig canals in hot climate.


Stir quickly around in water and it will become hotter. Work invariably generates heat. And hence when humans work we produce heath. We have to get rid of this heath or we die. If we can’t, we have to simply slow down or take a break.

Economists Explained, Got it All in Reverse

EE tried to suggest that the North ended up better because people there lived under harsher conditions and hence had to become smarter to survive.

  • Less disease to deal with. A simple thing like infection kills you more readily in a hot climate.
  • Easier to think and work hard in cold climate.
  • Water power and water transport could readily be exploited.


Don’t trust simplistic quick explanations of complex phenomena in human civilization. Usually there are numerous indirect factors at play.



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Erik Engheim

Erik Engheim

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.