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

68 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2015

See all articles by Alan I. Barreca

Alan I. Barreca

UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Karen Clay

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Olivier Deschenes

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

Michael Greenstone

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; Becker Friedman Institute for Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Joseph S. Shapiro

University of California, Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Abstract

A critical part of adapting to the higher temperatures that climate change brings will be the deployment of existing technologies to new sectors and regions. This paper examines the evolution of the temperature-mortality relationship over the course of the entire 20th century in the United States both for its own interest but also to identify potentially useful adaptations that may be useful in the coming decades. There are three primary findings. First, the mortality impact of days with a mean temperature exceeding 80° F has declined by about 70%. Almost the entire decline occurred after 1960. There are about 14,000 fewer fatalities annually than if the pre-1960 impacts of high temperature on mortality still prevailed. Second, the diffusion of residential air conditioning can explain essentially the entire decline in hot day related fatalities. Third, using Dubin-McFadden's discrete-continuous model, we estimate that the present value of US consumer surplus from the introduction of residential air conditioning (AC) in 1960 ranges from $83 to $186 billion ($2012) with a 5% discount rate. The monetized value of the mortality reductions on high temperature days due to AC accounts for a substantial fraction of these welfare gains.

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

JEL Classification: I18, J10, Q54

Suggested Citation

Barreca, Alan I. and Clay, Karen B. 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. IZA Discussion Paper No. 8915. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2586418

Alan I. Barreca (Contact Author)

UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability ( email )

Los Angeles, CA
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Karen B. Clay

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

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Olivier Deschenes

University of California, Santa Barbara - College of Letters & Science - Department of Economics ( email )

UC Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Michael Greenstone

University of Chicago - Department of Economics

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Becker Friedman Institute for Economics ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Joseph S. Shapiro

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://joseph-s-shapiro.com

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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