Global Non-linear Effect of Temperature on Economic Production

Nature (Published online October 21, 2015; doi:10.1038/nature15725) / by Marshall Burke, et al.

[Washington Post] In a sweeping new study published Wednesday in Nature, a team of researchers say there is a strong relationship between a region’s average temperature and its economic productivity — adding another potential cost to a warming

Culling together economic and temperature data for over 100 wealthy and poorer countries alike over 50 years, the researchers assert that the optimum temperature for human productivity is seems to be around 13 degrees Celsius or roughly 55 degrees Fahrenheit, as an annual average for a particular place. Once things get a lot hotter than that, the researchers add, economic productivity declines “strongly.”

“The relationship is globally generalizable, unchanged since 1960, and apparent for agricultural and non-agricultural activity in both rich and poor countries,” write the authors, led by Marshall Burke of Stanford’s Department of Earth System Science, who call their study “the first evidence that economic activity in all regions is coupled to the global climate.” Burke published the study with Solomon Hsiang and Edward Miguel, economists at the University of California, Berkeley.

If the findings are correct, they add, that means that unmitigated global warming could lead to a more than 20 percent decline in incomes around the world, compared with a world that does not feature climate change. And this would also mean growing global inequality, since poorer countries will be hit by worse temperature increases — simply because “hot, poor countries will probably suffer the largest reduction in growth.” Indeed, some already wealthier countries with cold weather, like Canada or Sweden, will benefit greatly based on the study, moving closer to the climatic optimum…


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