The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released a report outlining the potential effects of natural disasters, including the impending El Niño shift, on the global economy. The report estimates that since 1970, natural disaster-related phenomena have cost the world over $4 trillion. However, El Niño in particular is expected to impose an immediate and massive economic cost. Recent studies suggest that climate change will make future El Niños worse, potentially costing the global economy up to $84 trillion by the end of this century. The El Niño phenomenon is known to cause significant economic disruption, with each of the last 60-year cycles setting back the global economy by around $4-5 trillion. Even five years after the event, 56% of countries are still subject to slowed economic development. Tropical and poorer countries are most severely impacted, but even advanced economies like the US experience setbacks.
In addition to economic concerns, El Niño is a weather phenomenon that affects ecosystems around the world, and climate experts are worried that El Niño could exacerbate the catastrophic effects of climate change by adding extra heat to the atmosphere. The oceans cover over 70% of the planet and play a significant role in regulating the climate system. However, experts fear that El Niño could cause atmospheric tantrums due to the excess heat it provides. Since the last El Niño, global ocean temperatures have risen by approximately 0.04°C, and scientists expect a strong El Niño event to occur this time. Craig Donlon, the Chief Marine Scientist at the European Space Agency, has warned that the oceans are at their hottest since records began.
While climate models are still developing and scientists cannot predict precisely how climate change will interact with El Niño, it is clear that a significant economic cost and ecological impact await.