Last week was a rough week for Britain. The “Beast from the East” and storm Emma swept through the country, bringing with them unusually heavy snowfall, which resulted in severe disruption across nearly all parts of the country. Some recent estimates put the cost of these extreme weather conditions at up to £1 billion per day. The construction industry suffering the biggest hit as work came to a halt for the best part of the week. Losses for the industry were estimated to be up to £2 billion.
Closed restaurants, empty shops and severely disrupted transport networks were all part of the effect that this extreme weather had on the overall economy. According to Howard Archer, chief economic adviser of the EY ITEM Club (a UK forecasting group):
It is possible that the severe weather [of the last few days] could lead to GDP growth being reduced by 0.1 percentage point in Q1 2018 and possibly 0.2 percentage points if the severe weather persist.
As the occurrence of freak weather increases across the globe due to climate change, so does the economic cost of these events. The figure above shows the estimated costs of extreme weather events in the USA between 1980 and 2012 and it is reproduced from Jahn (see link below), who also fits a quadratic trend to show that these costs have been increasing over time. He goes on to characterise the impact of different types of extreme weather (including cold waves, heat waves, storms and others) on different sectors of the local economy – ranging from tourism and agriculture, to housing and the insurance sector.
Linnenluecke et al (linked below) argue that extreme weather caused by climate change could influence the decision of firms on where to locate and could lead to a reshuffle of economic activity across the world and have important policy implications. As the authors explain:
Climate change-related relocation has been given consideration in policy-oriented discussions, but not in management decisions. The effects of climate change and extreme weather events have been considered as peripheral or as a risk factor, but not as a determining factor in firm relocation processes…. This paper therefore [provides] insights for understanding how firms can enhance strategic decision-making in light of understanding and assessing their vulnerability as well as likely impacts that climate change may have on relocation decisions.
The likelihood and associated costs of extreme weather events could therefore become an increasingly important matter for discussion amongst economists and policy makers. Such weather events are likely to have profound economic implications for the world.
- Firm relocation as adaptive response to climate change and weather extremes
Global Environmental Change, Vol 21, Issue 1, Martina K. Linnenluecke, Alexander Stathakis and Andrew Griffiths (February 2011)
- Economics of extreme weather events: Terminology and regional impact models
Weather and Climate Extremes, Vol 10, Part B, Malte Jahn (December 2015)
- Could the Beast From The East deliver a death-blow to more High Street names? Snow and cold will freeze retail sales and hit growth, experts warn
This is Money (1/3/18)
- Freezing weather costs UK economy £1bn a day
The Guardian, Phillip Inman, Gwyn Topham and Adam Vaughan (3/3/18)
- Explain how extreme weather can affect the decision of firms to locate between regions.
- Explain how extreme weather can affect the behaviour of consumers and the level of consumer spending.
- “The poorest countries are often the ones that are the most vulnerable to the effects of climatic change”. Discuss.