Sunday, December 18, 2011

The economics of climate change mortality

The Santa Barbara Independent: When considering the health consequences of climate change, most people imagine prolonged periods of extremely high temperatures and the associated physical outcomes - including mortality.

However, according to research conducted by Olivier Deschênes, associate professor of economics at UC Santa Barbara, the effects of climate change on physical health - and related economics - is much broader than that. Deschênes’ findings appeared in a recent issue of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

In his article “Climate Change, Mortality, and Adaptation: Evidence from Annual Fluctuations in Weather in the U.S.,” co-written with Michael Greenstone of M.I.T., Deschênes estimates the economic impacts of climate change on human health, and on expenditures for self-protection, such as air conditioning.

“I wanted to do a large-scale study of the entire continental United States, not just a handful of cities,” Deschênes said of his current research. “Too many observations about climate change and its impacts are based on isolated, extreme events, such as the 2003 heat wave in France. Second, I wanted to consider how households might adapt to extreme weather by using more energy to control their indoor climate. Third, I wanted to make predictions about future impacts that were based on state-of the-art climate models.”

...In his recent study of the United States, Deschênes predicts a net increase in mortality of about 2 percent by the end of the century. In other words, the reduction in cold-related mortality is not sufficient to compensate for the larger increase in heat-related mortality....

A hot day in Stockton, California, shot in 1942 by Dorothea Lange

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