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Moore on Climate Preferences

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A year ago, I asked:

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?"

While reading Henderson's encyclopedia, I came across an article by Thomas Gale Moore that answers this question. From Moore's Climate of Fear (free online):
We do know that, upon retiring, many people flee to southern and warmer locales. According to a 1966 survey of Americans turning 50 in 1996, almost 40 percent planned to move when they retired and the most important criterion in selecting their destination (40 percent) was a ‘‘more favorable climate’’ (USA Today, May 13, 1996, B1). People retire to Florida, not Minnesota. Presumably retirees, at least, find that higher temperatures improve their welfare. As air-conditioning has mitigated the rigors of hot summers, the population of the United States has been moving south and west, toward regions that suffer less extreme cold weather. Most Americans and Canadians taking vacations in the winter head to Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, or southern California. Exceptions crowd the ski slopes, but they are a minority.

To my knowledge only one study—summarized in the U.S. Department of Transportation research described in the previous chapter—has examined human preferences for various climates, an important measure of how weather affects human welfare (Hoch and Drake 1974). Many studies examining the quality of life in various urban areas, however, have found that warmer climates are correlated with a willingness to accept lower wages (Hoch and Drake 1974; Hoch 1977; Cropper and Arriaga-Salinas 1980; Cropper 1981; Roback 1982, 1988; Gyourko and Tracy 1991). As a gauge of preferences, that research and this chapter both use workers’ willingness to pay for a better climate as measured by the differential in wages among cities.

About what I expected, but good to know.

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COMMENTS (9 to date)
manuelg writes:

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

"Overall, would you rather the sea level in the coastal area you live got higher, got lower, or stayed the same?"


We do know that, upon retiring, many people flee to swamps 4 to 6 inches underwater.


[Point taken about warmer == more comfortable, but I couldn't resist this little snarky comment]

David N. Welton writes:

I like warmer too, but you wonder what things would be like if people took the climate "as is" without obscene things like verdant green golf courses in the middle of the Sonora desert, and also managed to "live within the means" of the local water resources. Maybe warm areas wouldn't be quite so populous?

As you guys are so good at pointing out, the law of unintended consequences is strong, and "I like it warmer" at a global level may have plenty of unintended consequences.

Jim writes:

What's with the methodological nationalism all of a sudden? Suppose you asked a random sample of Africans whether they would rather the climate in their area got warmer or cooler? Or do you think that these effects somehow obey national boundaries?

Also, measuring 'willingness to pay for climate' by how low wages are in an area is a pretty funny way of looking at things - aren't property prices a better indicator of how desirable an area is?

frankcross writes:

I suspect this is true but I'm not sure how relevant it is to policy or global warming.

The millions of Americans who vote with their feet move to the climate they desire. They could go further south but chose not to. Therefore, climate change would not seem to benefit them.

Chuck writes:

This post works well as parody.

Churka writes:

to Chuck:
i agree on 100%

8 writes:

Global warming reduces the transaction costs for achieving a warmer climate. Why move to Florida when I can bring Florida to me?

Some have pointed out that U.S. winters have been milder, while European summers have been hotter, thus making Europeans more anti-GW than Americans. Let's assume the trend is true, and this is our climate future. In that case, GW losers ought to pay GW winners if they want them to act.

Patrik writes:

Being a freezing Swede myself I can vouch that most of my fellow citizens wouldn't mind a warmer climate. At the same time, we do like our cold winters, full of beautiful snow. In fact, considering the agonizing over this year's warm winter I think Swedes want both a warmer spring /summer AND a colder winter. Cold winters do have a down-side in that you need to put on more clothing and be careful when walking the icy streets. These things matter especially to old people, who might have trouble with their joints and thus find the experience of dressing up and walking too taxing. On the other hand, cold air is believed to be refreshing and invigorating, thus helpful for productive working-age people. This age difference could account for some of the revealed preference of retirees for warmer climates, don't you agree?

conchis writes:

Rehdanz and Maddison's (2005) "Climate and Happiness" paper in Ecological Economics suggests that people are on average happier with more moderate temperatures: warmer winters but cooler summers. From this perspective they suggest that global warming will be good for some areas and bad for others.

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