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Impact, distribution, and adaptation: How weather extremes threaten the economic network


Kuhla,  Kilian
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Levermann,  Anders
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Winkelmann,  Ricarda
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Keller,  Klaus
External Organizations;

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Kuhla, K. (2022): Impact, distribution, and adaptation: How weather extremes threaten the economic network, PhD Thesis, Potsdam : University of Potsdam, vii, 309 p.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_27823
Weather extremes pose a persistent threat to society on multiple layers. Besides an average of ~37,000 deaths per year, climate-related disasters cause destroyed properties and impaired economic activities, eroding people's livelihoods and prosperity. While global temperature rises – caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions – the direct impacts of climatic extreme events increase and will further intensify without proper adaptation measures. Additionally, weather extremes do not only have local direct effects. Resulting economic repercussions can propagate either upstream or downstream along trade chains causing indirect effects. One approach to analyze these indirect effects within the complex global supply network is the agent-based model Acclimate. Using and extending this loss-propagation model, I focus in this thesis on three aspects of the relation between weather extremes and economic repercussions. First, extreme weather events cause direct impacts on local economic performance. I compute daily local direct output loss time series of heat stress, river floods, tropical cyclones, and their consecutive occurrence using (near-future) climate projection ensembles. These regional impacts are estimated based on physical drivers and local productivity distribution. Direct effects of the aforementioned disaster categories are widely heterogeneous concerning regional and temporal distribution. As well, their intensity changes differently under future warming. Focusing on the hurricane-impacted capital, I find that long-term growth losses increase with higher heterogeneity of a shock ensemble. Second, repercussions are sectorally and regionally distributed via economic ripples within the trading network, causing higher-order effects. I use Acclimate to identify three phases of those economic ripples. Furthermore, I compute indirect impacts and analyze overall regional and global production and consumption changes. Regarding heat stress, global consumer losses double while direct output losses increase by a factor 1.5 between 2000 – 2039. In my research I identify the effect of economic ripple resonance and introduce it to climate impact research. This effect occurs if economic ripples of consecutive disasters overlap, which increases economic responses such as an enhancement of consumption losses. These loss enhancements can even be more amplified with increasing direct output losses, e.g. caused by climate crises. Transport disruptions can cause economic repercussions as well. For this, I extend the model Acclimate with a geographical transportation route and expand the decision horizon of economic agents. Using this, I show that policy-induced sudden trade restrictions (e.g. a no-deal Brexit) can significantly reduce the longer-term economic prosperity of affected regions. Analyses of transportation disruptions in typhoon seasons indicate that severely affected regions must reduce production as demand falls during a storm. Substituting suppliers may compensate for fluctuations at the beginning of the storm, which fails for prolonged disruptions. Third, possible coping mechanisms and adaptation strategies arise from direct and indirect economic responses to weather extremes. Analyzing annual trade changes due to typhoon-induced transport disruptions depict that overall exports rise. This trade resilience increases with higher network node diversification. Further, my research shows that a basic insurance scheme may diminish hurricane-induced long-term growth losses due to faster reconstruction in disasters aftermaths. I find that insurance coverage could be an economically reasonable coping scheme towards higher losses caused by the climate crisis. Indirect effects within the global economic network from weather extremes indicate further adaptation possibilities. For one, diversifying linkages reduce the hazard of sharp price increases. Next to this, close economic interconnections with regions that do not share the same extreme weather season can be economically beneficial in the medium run. Furthermore, economic ripple resonance effects should be considered while computing costs. Overall, an increase in local adaptation measures reduces economic ripples within the trade network and possible losses elsewhere. In conclusion, adaptation measures are necessary and potential present, but it seems rather not possible to avoid all direct or indirect losses. As I show in this thesis, dynamical modeling gives valuable insights into how direct and indirect economic impacts arise from different categories of weather extremes. Further, it highlights the importance of resolving individual extremes and reflecting amplifying effects caused by incomplete recovery or consecutive disasters.