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Estimating the Impact of Climate Change on Crop Yields: The Importance of Nonlinear Temperature Effects

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  • Wolfram Schlenker
  • Michael J. Roberts

Abstract

The United States produces 41% of the world's corn and 38% of the world's soybeans, so any impact on US crop yields will have implications for world food supply. We pair a panel of county-level crop yields in the US with a fine-scale weather data set that incorporates the whole distribution of temperatures between the minimum and maximum within each day and across all days in the growing season. Yields increase in temperature until about 29C for corn, 30C for soybeans, and 32C for cotton, but temperatures above these thresholds become very harmful. The slope of the decline above the optimum is significantly steeper than the incline below it. The same nonlinear and asymmetric relationship is found whether we consider time series or cross-sectional variation in weather and yields. This suggests limited potential for adaptation within crop species because the latter includes farmers' adaptations to warmer climates and the former does not. Area-weighted average yields given current growing regions are predicted to decrease by 31-43% under the slowest warming scenario and 67-79% under the most rapid warming scenario by the end of the century.

Suggested Citation

  • Wolfram Schlenker & Michael J. Roberts, 2008. "Estimating the Impact of Climate Change on Crop Yields: The Importance of Nonlinear Temperature Effects," NBER Working Papers 13799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13799 Note: EEE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Deschenes, Olivier & Greenstone, Michael, 2004. "The Economic Impacts of Climate Change: Evidence from Agricultural Profits and Random Fluctuations in Weather," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt6w7242cj, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
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    7. Beach, Robert H. & Thomson, Allison M. & McCarl, Bruce A., 2010. "Climate Change Impacts On Us Agriculture," Proceedings Issues, 2010: Climate Change in World Agriculture: Mitigation, Adaptation, Trade and Food Security, June 2010, Stuttgart- Hohenheim, Germany 91393, International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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