Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2192245
 
 

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


Alan I. Barreca


Tulane University

Karen Clay


Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Olivier Deschenes


University of California, Santa Barbara - College of Letters & Science - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Michael Greenstone


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Joseph S. Shapiro


Yale University, Department of Economics

December 20, 2012

MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 12-29

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.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 57

Keywords: climate change, health, adaptation, extreme temperature, air conditioning, mortality

JEL Classification: I10, I12, I18, Q54, N31

working papers series


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Date posted: December 21, 2012 ; Last revised: December 23, 2012

Suggested Citation

Barreca, Alan I. and Clay, Karen and Deschenes, Olivier and Greenstone, Michael and Shapiro, Joseph S., Adapting to Climate Change: The Remarkable Decline in the U.S. Temperature-Mortality Relationship Over the 20th Century (December 20, 2012). MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 12-29. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2192245 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2192245

Contact Information

Alan I. Barreca
Tulane University ( email )
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States
Karen B. Clay
Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
Olivier Deschenes
University of California, Santa Barbara - College of Letters & Science - Department of Economics ( email )
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) ( email )
P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany
Michael Greenstone (Contact Author)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )
50 Memorial Drive
E52-391
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Joseph S. Shapiro
Yale University, Department of Economics ( email )
37 Hillhouse Ave, Room 34
New Haven, CT 06510
United States
203-432-5075 (Phone)
203-432-6323 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://economics.yale.edu/people/joseph-s-shapiro
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