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Climate Change and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century

  • Melissa Dell
  • Benjamin F. Jones
  • Benjamin A. Olken

This paper uses annual variation in temperature and precipitation over the past 50 years to examine the impact of climatic changes on economic activity throughout the world. We find three primary results. First, higher temperatures substantially reduce economic growth in poor countries but have little effect in rich countries. Second, higher temperatures appear to reduce growth rates in poor countries, rather than just the level of output. Third, higher temperatures have wide-ranging effects in poor nations, reducing agricultural output, industrial output, and aggregate investment, and increasing political instability. Analysis of decade or longer climate shifts also shows substantial negative effects on growth in poor countries. Should future impacts of climate change mirror these historical effects, the negative impact on poor countries may be substantial.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14132.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14132.

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Date of creation: Jun 2008
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Publication status: published as Dell M, Jones B, Olken B. Temperature Shocks and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century. American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics. 2012;4(3):66-95.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14132
Note: EEE EFG
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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Web page: http://www.nber.org
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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.
  2. Olivier Deschenes & Enrico Moretti, 2007. "Extreme Weather Events, Mortality and Migration," NBER Working Papers 13227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Steve Bond & Asli Leblebicioglu & Fabio Schiantarelli, 2004. "Capital Accumulation and Growth: A New Look at the Empirical Evidence," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 591, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 02 Aug 2007.
  4. Jacob, Brian A. & Lefgren, Lars & Moretti, Enrico, 2005. "The Dynamics of Criminal Behavior: Evidence from Weather Shocks," Working Paper Series rwp05-003, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  5. Pritchett, Lant, 1995. "Divergence, big time," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1522, The World Bank.
  6. Olivier Desch�nes & Michael Greenstone, 2007. "The Economic Impacts of Climate Change: Evidence from Agricultural Output and Random Fluctuations in Weather," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 354-385, March.
  7. Richard Tol, 2002. "Estimates of the Damage Costs of Climate Change, Part II. Dynamic Estimates," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 21(2), pages 135-160, February.
  8. Mendelsohn, Robert & Dinar, Ariel & Sanghi, Apurva, 2001. "The effect of development on the climate sensitivity of agriculture," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(01), pages 85-101, February.
  9. Edward Miguel & Shanker Satyanath & Ernest Sergenti, 2004. "Economic Shocks and Civil Conflict: An Instrumental Variables Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 725-753, August.
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