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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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Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Barreca & Karen Clay & Olivier Deschenes & Michael Greenstone & Joseph S. Shapiro, 2013. "Adapting to Climate Change: The Remarkable Decline in the U.S. Temperature-Mortality Relationship over the 20th Century," NBER Working Papers 18692, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18692
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. David Albouy & Walter Graf & Ryan Kellogg & Hendrik Wolff, 2016. "Climate Amenities, Climate Change, and American Quality of Life," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 205-246.
    2. Dora L. Costa, 2015. "Health and the Economy in the United States from 1750 to the Present," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(3), pages 503-570, September.
    3. Joshua Graff Zivin & Solomon M. Hsiang & Matthew Neidell, 2018. "Temperature and Human Capital in the Short and Long Run," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(1), pages 77-105.
    4. Kahn, Matthew E., 2015. "Climate Change Adaptation: Lessons from Urban Economics," Strategic Behavior and the Environment, now publishers, vol. 5(1), pages 1-30, June.
    5. Kahn, Matthew E. & Walsh, Randall, 2015. "Cities and the Environment," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    6. Ziebarth, Nicolas R. & Schmitt, Maike & Karlsson, Martin, 2013. "The Short-Term Population Health Effects of Weather and Pollution: Implications of Climate Change," IZA Discussion Papers 7875, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Maria Waldinger, 2015. "The economic effects of long-term climate change: evidence from the little ice age," GRI Working Papers 214, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    8. Alem, Yonas & Colmer, Jonathan, 2013. "Optimal Expectations and the Welfare Cost of Climate Variability," Working Papers in Economics 578, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    9. Jonathan Colmer, 2013. "Climate Variability, Child Labour and Schooling: Evidence on the Intensive and Extensive Margin," GRI Working Papers 132, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    10. Shrader, Jeffrey, 2014. "Forecasts and Adaptation," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 170626, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    11. Tatyana Deryugina & Solomon M. Hsiang, 2014. "Does the Environment Still Matter? Daily Temperature and Income in the United States," NBER Working Papers 20750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Wilson, Daniel J., 2016. "The Impact of Weather on Local Employment: Using Big Data on Small Places," Working Paper Series 2016-21, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, revised 06 Apr 2017.
    13. Deschenes, Olivier, 2014. "Temperature, human health, and adaptation: A review of the empirical literature," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 606-619.
    14. Leard, Benjamin & Roth, Kevin, 2015. "Weather, Traffic Accidents, and Climate Change," Discussion Papers dp-15-19, Resources For the Future.
    15. Maria Waldinger, 2015. "The effects of climate change on internal and international migration: implications for developing countries," GRI Working Papers 192, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    16. McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen, 2016. "Measured, Unmeasured, Mismeasured, and Unjustified Pessimism: A Review Essay of Thomas Piketty’s Capitalism in the Twenty First Century," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 4, pages 153-195, August.
    17. Kussel, Gerhard, 2016. "Adaptation to climate variability: Evidence from German households," Ruhr Economic Papers 625, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    18. 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.
    19. Michael Greenstone & B. Kelsey Jack, 2013. "Envirodevonomics: A Research Agenda for a Young Field," NBER Working Papers 19426, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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