By Kayla Matthews
An afternoon rainstorm might seem like an inconvenience at times, but rainfall is an essential part of the world ecosystem. Most of us know this.
But did you know that rainfall also inadvertently affects the economy, too?
Climate change is altering the global rainfall patterns, leaving industries around the world scrambling to adapt to these changes. How will the changes in the rainfall patterns affect the global economy?
Damaging weather patterns
We’ve seen changing weather patterns cause millions of dollars in home and business damage just over the past year. The drought in California, for example, which spurred unprecedented water restrictions across the state, ended with massive amounts of rain that caused extensive flooding. In one case, the deluge of water nearly compromised the Oroville Dam, sparking the emergency evacuation of more than 180,000 people.
The dams themselves aren’t built for this kind of extreme weather change, which will likely become a problem in the future. Scientists believe that these extreme drought-flood cycles will likely continue.
On the other side of the spectrum are storms. Places like Louisiana, which is known for its hurricanes, are being slammed with tornados. While it is difficult to pin the blame directly on climate change, many scientists believe that these aggressive weather trends are both tied to climate change and will continue to get worse as the planet continues to warm.
Property damage costs, as well as the cost of repair and reinforcement, will likely become a huge factor in the coming decades. While this can be beneficial for certain sections of the economy, it could slowly decimate the spending capability of the private sector, as well as drive up insurance prices in affected areas. These fluctuations mean protecting a home or business from unpredictable weather patterns is more difficult that it has been in previous years, and it will likely continue to get more difficult as the climate changes.
Impacts on agriculture
Much of the farming industry the United States relies on irrigation. The United States Geological Survey estimates 61 million acres are irrigated per year, using upwards of 128,000 gallons of water every single day. These numbers have dropped in recent years, with the introduction of more water-efficient irrigation systems.
Outside the United States, a good majority of organized agriculture relies on rainfall to sustain their crops. Around 60 percent of crops in developing countries would not survive without regular rainfall.
Climate change could result in one of two possibilities for these rain-fed areas — either there will be too much rain, and damaging storms will ruin the crops, or there will be too little rain, leaving the plants starved for water and farmers scrambling to find irrigation alternatives. Either way, climate change has the potential to negatively affect economies and make it more difficult for farms to produce food.
Ecosystems tend to change slowly, allowing the plants and animals to gradually adapt to the new environment. The changes we are observing in our global climate, however, are occurring faster than flora and fauna can adapt to, causing many of them to change their feeding and breeding patterns, move to new areas or even die out.
A study completed in 2015 found that one out of every six species is facing extinction due to climate change. This reduces the stability of local ecosystems, and if those ecosystems collapse, it could potentially devastate our ability to produce food, decimating the global economy. Take bees, for example — they are one of the most prolific pollinators for the majority of our fruits and vegetables and if they go extinct, so too does the majority of our food production ability. This year, they were added to the endangered species list.
It is no longer a theory. Climate change is happening, and it will affect the way we interact with the world around us. It will also have significant impacts on the global economy unless we do something to reduce its influence. Storm damage will make it too costly to build or rebuild in a variety of areas around the country, and collapsing ecosystems will make it impossible to grow food.
Even if you’re not as worried about the economic impact of climate change, consider this: If we destroy this planet, we’ve got nowhere else to go.
Image by Anjana Menon