Showing posts from August, 2015

Answering Matthew Kahn's questions about climate adaptation

Matt has taken the bait and asked me a five good questions about my snarky, contrarian post on climate adaptation.    Here are his questions and my answers. Question 1.    This paper will be published soon by the JPE. Costinot, Arnaud, Dave Donaldson, and Cory B. Smith. Evolving comparative advantage and the impact of climate change in agricultural markets: Evidence from 1.7 million fields around the world. No. w20079. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2014. It strongly suggests that adaptation will play a key role protecting us. Which parts of their argument do you reject and why? Answer:    This looks like a solid paper, much more serious than the average paper I get to review, and I have not yet studied it.    I’m slow, so it would take me awhile to unpack all the details and study the data and model.    Although, from a quick look, I think there are a couple points I can make right now.    First, and mo

Why Science for Climate Adaptation is Difficult

Matthew Kahn, author of the cheeky book  Climatopolis: How Our Cities will Thrive in the Hotter Future ,  likes to compliment our research ( Schlenker and Roberts, 2009 ) on potential climate impacts to agriculture by saying it will cause valuable innovation that will prevent its dismal predictions from ever occurring.  Matt has a point, one that has been made many times in other contexts by economists with Chicago School roots.    Although in Matt’s case (and most all of the others), it feels more like a  third stage of denial  than a serious academic argument. It’s not just Matt.    Today, the serious climate economist (or  Serious ?) is supposed to write about adaptation.    It feels taboo to suggest that adaptation is difficult.    Yet, the conventional wisdom here is almost surely wrong.    Everyone seems to ignore or miscomprehend basic microeconomic theory: adaptation is a  second or higher-order effect , probably as ignorable as it is unpredictable.  While the the