Rain Follows the Forest: Land Use Policy, Climate Change, and Adaptation
83 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2023
Date Written: January 26, 2023
Human actions can alter the local and regional climate, particularly via land use. We assess the impact of the Great Plains Shelterbelt, a large-scale forestation program in the 1930s which planted 220 million trees across six US Midwestern states. The program led to a regional increase in precipitation and decrease in temperature, with impacts persisting for several decades. The change in climate extended to adjacent unforested land up to 200km away—enabling us to directly study climate adaptation. In places facing more favorable growing conditions, crop yields increased by 43%. Adaptation accounts for up to half of the yield increase, with farmers switching to more water-intensive production. This paper highlights the endogeneity risk in using spatial variation in climate trends in estimating climate damages, as well as the potential for tree planting to mitigate climate change impacts.
Keywords: Climate, Forests, Adaptation, Land Use, Economic History
JEL Classification: N5, O13, Q15, Q23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation