Rainy days hurt the economy
Economic growth declines when the number of wet days and days with extreme rainfall increases, according to a team of Potsdam scientists. Rich countries are the hardest hit and here the manufacturing and service sectors, according to their study now published on the cover of the journal Nature. Analysis of data from over 1,500 regions over the past 40 years shows a clear link and suggests that the intensification of daily rainfall caused by climate change from burning oil and coal will harm the global economy. .
“It’s about prosperity and, ultimately, jobs. Economies around the world are being slowed by wetter days and extreme daily rainfall – an important insight that adds to our growing understanding of the true costs of change. climate,” says Leonie Wenz. from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) who led the study.
“Macro-economic assessments of climate impacts have so far focused primarily on temperature and have only taken into account – where relevant – changes in precipitation on longer time scales such as years or months, thus missing a full picture,” says Wenz. “While more annual rainfall is generally good for economies, especially those dependent on agriculture, the question is also how the rain is distributed over the days of the year. The intensification of daily rainfall s turns out to be bad, especially for rich, industrialized countries like the United States, Japan or Germany.”
A first-of-its-kind global analysis of the effects of subnational rainfall
“We identify a number of distinct effects on economic output, but the most important is really that of extreme daily rainfall,” says Maximilian Kotz, first author of the study and also at the Potsdam Institute. “That’s because extreme rainfall is where we can already see the influence of climate change most clearly, and because it’s intensifying almost everywhere in the world.”
The analysis statistically assesses subnational economic production data for 1,554 regions of the world over the period 1979-2019, collected and made public by MCC and PIK. Scientists combine them with high-resolution rainfall data. The combination of ever-increasing detail in climate and economic data is of particular importance in the context of rainfall, a highly local phenomenon, and has revealed new insights.
“It is the daily rainfall that threatens“
By loading the Earth’s atmosphere with greenhouse gases from power plants and fossil cars, humanity is warming the planet. The warmed air can hold more water vapor which eventually becomes rain. Although atmospheric dynamics complicate regional variations in annual means, daily rainfall extremes are increasing globally due to this water vapor effect.
“Our study reveals that it is precisely the fingerprint of global warming in daily precipitation that has important economic effects that have not yet been taken into account but are very relevant,” says co-author Anders Levermann , Head of Complexity Science at the Potsdam Institute, Professor at the University of Potsdam and Researcher at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, New York. “Looking more closely at short time scales rather than annual averages helps to understand what is happening: it is daily rainfall that poses the threat. It is climate shocks related to weather extremes that threaten our way of life rather than as gradual changes destabilize our climate, we are hurting our economies. We need to ensure that our burning of fossil fuels does not
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Materials provided by Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.