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POTSDAM: Burning fossil fuels warms the earth’s atmosphere prompting an increase in extreme rainfall and a negative economic impact.

Analysis by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) of over 1.500 regions in the past 40 years shows burning oil and coal has intensified daily rainfall and harmed the global economy.

“This is about prosperity, and ultimately about people’s jobs. Economies across the world are slowed down by more wet days and extreme daily rainfall – an important insight that adds to our growing understanding of the true costs of climate change,” said PIK/MCC lead researcher Leonie Wenz.

By loading the Earth's atmosphere with greenhouse gases from fossil power plants and cars, humanity is warming air that can hold more water vapour resulting in daily rainfall extremes.

“Our study reveals that it’s precisely the fingerprint of global warming in daily rainfall which have hefty economic effects that have not yet been accounted for but are highly relevant,” added co-author Anders Levermann, head of the Potsdam Institute’s Complexity Science domain, professor at Potsdam University and researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, New York.

“It’s rather the climate shocks from weather extremes that threaten our way of life than the gradual changes. By destabilizing our climate we harm our economies. We have to make sure that our burning of fossil fuels does not destabilize our societies, too.”

The U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports the global land and ocean surface temperature in 2021 was 1.51°F (0.84°C) above the 20th-century average. Last year was the sixth highest since records began in 1880 and since 1977 the 45th consecutive year of above-average temperatures. The NOAA says the years between 2013 and 2021 rank among the 10 warmest on record.

Since 1980 the US has sustained 310 weather and climate disasters at a total cost of US$2.155 trillion. Last year there were 20 such events with losses exceeding US$1 billion each including one drought, two floods, 11 severe storms, four tropical cyclones, one wildfire event and one winter storm.


‘The effect of rainfall changes on economic production’ by authors Maximilian Kotz, Anders Levermann and Leonie Wenz. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04283-8
 
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