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Scientists have overlooked a critical factor in assessing the economic impact of climate change – rainy days Research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.
“More rainy days: That is bad for the economy,” says Leonie Wenz, deputy head of the Complexity Science department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and one of the research authors. “Droughts and extreme rainfall, as well as the number of rainy days … are all changing due to climate change.”
The survey in 1,554 regions in 77 countries showed that the societies are poorly equipped for unusual weather.
The effect of even minor changes was considerable. An increase in the number of rainy days that would normally be expected over a six year period could reduce annual economic growth by more than 1 percentage point. More extreme storms and droughts are also damaging.
In already humid places like Northern Europe, the effects of more days of umbrella were less than in normally sunny countries, where companies were less adapted to working in wet conditions.
In places like Spain, unusually heavy rainfall can cause serious disruptions that affect the economy. After a record-breaking heat wave in summer, Madrid was overwhelmed by the second worst summer storm of the last 100 years. The flood paralyzed the city, flooded tunnels, disrupted subway and regional traffic, and clogged highways with traffic jams from weather-related accidents.
The effects of additional rain are not always as dramatic, but the cumulative effect of more frequent and more intense rainfall can delay workers, disrupt supply chains, and cause minor damage from small floods or falling branches, which can have significant economic effects.
“In general, anything that deviates from the usual can be bad,” says Wenz.
“These costs have not yet been included in estimates of the costs of climate change,” says Manuel Linsenmeier, a researcher at the London School of Economics who was not involved in the study.
Scientists found that rich countries were harder hit because their larger service and manufacturing sectors are more susceptible to increased rain than developing countries, where agriculture usually makes up a larger proportion of the economy.
This is “bad news,” said Linsenmeier, because “the extent to which economic development can be used to cushion rain shocks in the wake of future climate change seems limited.”
The problem is expected to increase as climate change disrupts precipitation patterns.
“If we don’t stabilize the climate, it will be much more expensive,” said Wenz.
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