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Climate Change, Humidity, and Mortality in the United States

Author

Listed:
  • Alan Barreca

    () (Department of Economics, Tulane University)

Abstract

Using data from the United States (c. 1968-2002), this paper estimates the effects of temperature and humidity on mortality rates in order to contribute insight into the potential costs of climate change. Previous research on the health effects of climate change has focused on the impact of temperature changes; this is the first research (that I know) to examine the potential consequences of humidity changes. This analysis leads to five important results: First, I find that failure to control for humidity overstates the importance of cold temperature as a determinant of mortality. Second, I find that there is a reverse-J shaped temperature-mortality relationship, and a reverse-J shaped humidity-mortality relationship. Third, the adverse effects from exposure to cold temperatures and low-humidity levels are both large and statistically significant. Fourth, interacted temperature-humidity models (e.g. "hot and humid") produce similar estimates to non-interacted models (e.g. "hot" or "humid"). Fifth, the effects are largest for cardiovascular and respiratory deaths and for individuals over 45 years of age. On the whole, these results imply that climate change may actually reduce mortality rates in the U.S. by a small amount in the coming decades; however, I demonstrate that failing to control for humidity overstates the health benefits of climate change.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Barreca, 2009. "Climate Change, Humidity, and Mortality in the United States," Working Papers 0906, Tulane University, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2009.
  • Handle: RePEc:tul:wpaper:0906
    as

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    File URL: http://econ.tulane.edu/RePEc/pdf/tul0906.pdf
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    File URL: http://econ.tulane.edu/RePEc/pdf/tul0906r1.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Olivier DeschĂȘnes & Michael Greenstone, 2011. "Climate Change, Mortality, and Adaptation: Evidence from Annual Fluctuations in Weather in the US," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, pages 152-185.
    2. Richard Tol, 2002. "Estimates of the Damage Costs of Climate Change, Part II. Dynamic Estimates," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, pages 135-160.
    3. Grossman, Michael, 2000. "The human capital model," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 347-408 Elsevier.
    4. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2004.048926_7 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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.
    6. Martens, W. J. M., 1998. "Climate change, thermal stress and mortality changes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 331-344.
    7. Richard Tol, 2002. "Estimates of the Damage Costs of Climate Change. Part 1: Benchmark Estimates," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, pages 47-73.
    8. Nicholas Stern, 2008. "The Economics of Climate Change," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 1-37.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    climate change; humidity; temperature; mortality; health;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • Q40 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - General
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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