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Freakonomics in the Times Magazine: The Price of Climate Change

The November 5, 2006, Freakonomics column examines the economic implications of a random series of ungovernable events: the weather.

From rain in 19th-century Bavaria and its effect on the price of rye to predictions about the effects of global warming, Dubner and Levitt take a look at the thing that everyone talks about but nobody does anything about. Click here to read their column. Click here to comment on the subject. And if you are so inclined, check out the following research:

  1. What happens when the price of a country’s staple food goes up? This recent paper by Halvor Mehlum, Edward Miguel, and Ragnar Torvik posits some interesting and counterintuitive answers in the case of Bavaria a couple hundred years ago. In this paper, William J. Collins and Robert A. Margo use rainfall as a variable to measure rioting in the 1960’s. (Nothing dampens the rioting spirit more, it seems.) Here, Edward Miguel, Shanker Satyanath, and Ernest Sergenti discover that drought is a reliable predictor of civil war in sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. In a new draft paper, Olivier Deschenes and Michael Greenstone make some dark predictions about the effect of global warming on U.S. mortality rates. (Click here for Greenstone’s webpage.) But in this one, they focus on U.S. agriculture and see a surprisingly brighter future.
  3. And finally, there is a lot of interesting weather research that didn’t make it into the column. This paper by Esther Duflo and Christopher Udry examines the effect of rainfall on household expenditures in the Ivory Coast. This one shows evidence for the relationship between African dust outbreaks and tropical cyclone activity. And in this paper, Emily Oster draws a link between cold temperatures and the witch hunt in Renaissance Europe.