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Adapting to Climate Change: The Remarkable Decline in the U.S. Temperature-Mortality Relationship over the 20th Century

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  • Alan Barreca
  • Karen Clay
  • Olivier Deschenes
  • Michael Greenstone
  • Joseph S. Shapiro

Abstract

Adaptation is the only strategy that is guaranteed to be part of the world's climate strategy. Using the most comprehensive set of data files ever compiled on mortality and its determinants over the course of the 20th century, this paper makes two primary discoveries. First, we find that the mortality effect of an extremely hot day declined by about 80% between 1900-1959 and 1960-2004. As a consequence, days with temperatures exceeding 90°F were responsible for about 600 premature fatalities annually in the 1960-2004 period, compared to the approximately 3,600 premature fatalities that would have occurred if the temperature-mortality relationship from before 1960 still prevailed. Second, the adoption of residential air conditioning (AC) explains essentially the entire decline in the temperature-mortality relationship. In contrast, increased access to electricity and health care seem not to affect mortality on extremely hot days. Residential AC appears to be both the most promising technology to help poor countries mitigate the temperature related mortality impacts of climate change and, because fossil fuels are the least expensive source of energy, a technology whose proliferation will speed up the rate of climate change.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18692.

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Date of creation: Jan 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18692

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  1. Olivier Deschenes, 2012. "Temperature, Human Health, and Adaptation: A Review of the Empirical Literature," NBER Working Papers 18345, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Alan Barreca, 2009. "Climate Change, Humidity, and Mortality in the United States," Working Papers, Tulane University, Department of Economics 0906, Tulane University, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2009.
  3. Barreca, Alan I. & Fishback, Price V. & Kantor, Shawn, 2012. "Agricultural policy, migration, and malaria in the United States in the 1930s," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 381-398.
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Cited by:
  1. Jonathan Colmer, 2013. "Climate Variability, Child Labour and Schooling: Evidence on the Intensive and Extensive Margin," Working Papers, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei 2013.81, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  2. Melissa Dell & Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2013. "What Do We Learn from the Weather? The New Climate-Economy Literature," NBER Working Papers 19578, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Alem, Yonas & Colmer, Jonathan, 2013. "Optimal Expectations and the Welfare Cost of Climate Variability," Working Papers in Economics, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics 578, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  4. Albouy, David & Graf, Walter & Kellogg, Ryan & Wolff, Hendrik, 2013. "Climate Amenities, Climate Change, and American Quality of Life," IZA Discussion Papers 7339, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Jonathan Colmer, 2013. "Climate Variability, Child Labour and Schooling: Evidence on the Intensive and Extensive Margin," Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Working Papers, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment 132, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
  6. Dora Costa, 2013. "Health and the Economy in the United States, from 1750 to the Present," NBER Working Papers 19685, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Nicolas R. Ziebarth & Maike Schmitt & Martin Karlsson, 2014. "The Short-Term Population Health Effects of Weather and Pollution: Implications of Climate Change," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 646, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  8. Michael Greenstone & B. Kelsey Jack, 2013. "Envirodevonomics: A Research Agenda for a Young Field," NBER Working Papers 19426, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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