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Increased economic drought impacts in Europe with anthropogenic warming

Abstract

While climate change will alter the distribution of water in time and space, quantifications of drought risk under global warming remain uncertain. Here, we show that in Europe, drought damages could strongly increase with global warming and cause a regional imbalance in future drought impacts. In the absence of climate action (4 °C in 2100 and no adaptation), annual drought losses in the European Union and United Kingdom combined are projected to rise to more than €65 billion per year compared with €9 billion per year currently, or two times larger when expressed relative to the size of the economy. Drought losses show the strongest rise in southern and western parts of Europe, where drought conditions at 4 °C could reduce regional agriculture economic output by 10%. With high warming, drought impacts will become a fraction of current impacts in northern and northeastern regions. Keeping global warming well below 2 °C would avoid most impacts in affected regions.

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Fig. 1: Fraction of area exposed to changes in drought occurrence for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) European subregions.
Fig. 2: Expected annual damage in the baseline and at GWLs for the EU + UK and IPCC AR5 subregions, assuming static and 2100 economic conditions.
Fig. 3: Sector shares in total drought damages under base (2015) and 2100 socioeconomic conditions for EU + UK and IPCC AR5 European subregions.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from several databases listed in the Methods of the manuscript and the referred studies. Data are available from the authors on reasonable request and following data restrictions from the sources.

Code availability

The code that supported the findings of this study is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

The research that led to these results received funding from DG CLIMA of the European Commission as part of the ‘PESETAIV-Climate Impacts and Adaptation in Europe’ project (Administrative Agreement JRC 34547–2017 / 340202/2017/763714/SER/CLIMATE.A.3). We further thank Munich Re for providing loss data from the NatCatSERVICE database.

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The authors co-designed the experiment. L.M. and C.C. conducted the drought hazard analysis; G.N. and L.F. conducted the exposure analysis; G.N., C.C. and L.F. conducted the vulnerability analysis; G.N. and C.C. conducted the impact analysis. G.N. and L.F. interpreted the results and wrote the manuscript with contributions from all authors.

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Correspondence to Gustavo Naumann.

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Supplementary methods, Figs. 1–7 and Tables 1–9.

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Naumann, G., Cammalleri, C., Mentaschi, L. et al. Increased economic drought impacts in Europe with anthropogenic warming. Nat. Clim. Chang. 11, 485–491 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-021-01044-3

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