The devastating El Niño phenomenon causes damages worth billions of euros. And maybe we’ll have to deal with it again this year

El Niño and its cold sister, La Niña, alternate every few years. A “super El Niño” is expected this year. This warm Gulf Stream has devastating consequences for weather, nature, and society. The economic damage of El Niño runs into the trillions.

The flow of unusually warm ocean water around the equator, stretching from South America to Asia, is causing weather patterns to change around the world, although we notice relatively little of this here in the Netherlands. The United States and certainly the tropical countries in and around the Pacific are hardest hit. For example, the West Coast of the United States experiences warmer, wetter winters with more flooding and severe droughts worldwide. Fish populations are collapsing and more tropical diseases are emerging. In general, El Nino causes global warming. This is a big problem for many countries. Therefore, American researchers estimated the effect of repetition El Niño Southern OscillationThe impact of ENSO on tropical developing countries and the global economy as a whole.

astronomical amounts
The consequences of the ENSO effect are enormous, and in the case of “super El Niño” events such as those that occurred earlier in 1972-1973, 1982-1983 and 1997-1998, it lasted for years. The costs appear to be in the trillions of euros and therefore much greater than previously thought The new study to economic activity in the world after the severe El Ninos crisis in the early 1980s and late 1990s. There appears to be a “recurring pattern” of slowing economic growth in the next five years. This cost the global economy $4,100 billion and $5,700 billion, respectively. The bulk of these astronomical amounts are accounted for by the poorest countries in the tropics. Even more serious: the economic losses for the entire 21st century amounted to about $84 billion. This quantity is independent of the economic consequences of global warming due to greenhouse gases.

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years of impact
We can say with certainty that economies will not be damaged and only recover. Damage after an El Niño can reverberate for up to fourteen years, said lead researcher Christopher Callahan. Dartmouth College. “In places where the effects of the natural phenomenon have been severely damaged, a recurring pattern of slowing growth can be seen, which will continue for at least five years. The overall picture has not been examined. This is why it is necessary to include all the ‘lost’ growth, not just the damage in the months in which it was caused. El Niño ruin.”

Percentage loss in GDP due to El Niño in 1997-1998. Poor countries have been particularly hard hit. Photo: Chris Callahan

“It’s good for people to focus on climate change and the costs that come from it. But if you don’t include the devastating impact of El Niño, you’re still underestimating the problem and costs of global warming,” said US researcher Justin Mankin. “Our well-being depends on the global economy, and the economy is again linked to climate. If you ask how much climate change is costing us, you can start by calculating ENSO damage. We are showing that alternating El Niño and La Niña costs an enormous amount of money and is responsible for years of stagnant economic growth. That is why we have to adjust costs significantly.”

The poorest is the biggest loser
The gross domestic product of the United States fell by about 3 percent in the five years following the “super El Niño” of 1982-1983 due to the natural phenomenon. The same thing happened between 1997-1998 and 2003. The consequences were even greater for tropical countries like Peru and Indonesia: their economic growth was more than 10 percent lower due to the effects of the Gulf Stream in 1997-98. “El Niño is exacerbating the gaps between rich and poor that have already been created by climate change. It is the people who are least resilient who are hardest hit,” said Mankin.

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Sad record
The probability of another El Niño beginning at the end of summer is estimated at 80 percent. And that at a time when sea water temperatures were not that high before. The last major El Niño was in 2016 and helped make that year go down in the books as the warmest on record. Since then, global warming has accelerated. Plus, the world is currently emerging from an extended period of La Niña,” Callahan says. The two phases usually reinforce each other, so El Niño will also hit harder.

“It looks like a real ‘El Niño’ is coming this year. If it happens, it will undoubtedly cause huge economic losses. Tropical countries will suffer for up to ten years. El Niño will again cause billions of dollars in losses. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was broken.” Another sad record”, concludes Callahan.

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