Bryan Caplan  

What Do We Know About Climate Preferences?

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Suppose you surveyed a random sample of Americans with the following question:

"Overall, would you rather the climate in the area you live got warmer, got cooler, or stayed the same?"

Has such a survey ever been done? My guess is that about 50% want warmer, 30% the same, and only 20% want cooler. Anyone else willing to hazard a guess? Or know of some real data?

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COMMENTS (12 to date)
Arnold Kriegbaum writes:

I am not disinterested in the question, but what could have been the genesis point for such an inquiry? In other words, why ask such a thing?

Dennis Mangan writes:

The fact that California has been filled to the brim despite bad government, illegal immigration, high taxes, and ruinous house prices suggests that many people will pay a high price for sunshine and warm weather. At least 35 million of them, or whatever the current population is.

Daniel writes:

What discount rate are you assuming, and how seriously do you buy the claims of eventual environmental consequences? Have any economists challenged the actual scientific models (as opposed to the policy proposals and the popular assumption that climate change necessarily implies that the costs of proposals exceed benefits)?

It strikes me that this simplistic an approach is kind of like asking the median voter whether they think the minimum wage is a good idea or not. Sure they like the idea of legislating a wage floor, but might not know of the eventual consequences (because of rational irrationality and such).

aaron writes:

Definitely warmer, except when it's hot out.

Nathan Smith writes:

From the perspective of theological environmentalism, this is an inappropriate question. What right do we humans have to change the climate and make it warmer, just because we want to, and we can? Whose Planet Earth is it anyway?

Jeff R. writes:

I wonder how many of the people surveyed were alive in 1700? It is climate, not weather.

mjh writes:

I would tend to agree with the other posters who say that this is an unfair question. It seems to me that most people are willing to let someone else deal with externalities. The question of temperature preference might very well be answered in favor of warmer. However, if posed with the same question and also given the cost of the externalities, they might answer differently.

What that tells me is that the answer is not very interesting:

  • Would you like a nicer car? Sure.
  • Do you want to pay for one? No, that's why I don't have one.
  • The answer to the first question doesn't tell me nearly as much as the answer to the second question.

    Steve writes:

    For most of hate U.S., the answers is more temperate. This the desirability of living on the Pacific Coast, where it doesn't tend to get too cold or too hot, and the undesirability of North Dakota, which gets way too hot and way too cold.

    But why just Americans? Let's ask people in Bangladesh.

    atown writes:

    I Don't agree with the percentages that have been made. If the climate in the area was a big issue Im sure someone would just move, but someone who lives in a particular area must know about the climate/weather before moving into that area. I think that the most popular anwser to the question would be I wouldnt want it to be cooler or warmer just to stay the same.

    Liz writes:

    I would say warmer, and i have to agree with another person who commented, why ask that question?

    Leah writes:

    Well, I don't really think people have much of say in what the climate turns out to be. We, of course, can choose the area in which we live fulfilling our preference in hotter or cooler climates. The climate is going to be what it's going to be, but I'm sure everyone comments, complains, or just passingly says what they wish the weather could or would be. I know when it's freezing outside, I wish that it was warm because I'm so cold. And I do prefer warmer weather, so I never hear myself say in the spring or summertime that I wish it was cold. The extremes can be unbearable, as well, so I'm sure a more temperate climate might be prefered by a number of people. So, I think everyone has their preference, but no one can really do anything about it besides live in an area which has the climate that they prefer.

    Student writes:

    Personally I don't really see the point to the question because we all have our own opinions about the weather. There are too many Americans to give a random survey to and even if they were listed to do the survey half of them wouldn't even respond. It all depend on where they live and what they are use to. In my opinions I don’t like statistic anyways because if you really want a real answer, go up to each and every single American. I rather judge from what I know and not what other say.

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