A Free-Market Energy Blog

Crisisology: The Climate/Everything Nexus

By -- March 10, 2015

“The IPCC model looks more worthless by the day, but the authors needed explanations and accordingly invented them. My favorite was that property crimes would rise because warmer weather encouraged people to go outdoors and burglars would thrive. (The original working paper explained that this was a consequence of climate becoming more “pleasant,” but the published version is missing this.)”

There are supplies of and demands for just about everything.  Find a way to subsidize supply (say taxation), intensify demand (media) or both and soon you have a growth industry.  Like climate crisisology.

The crisis of our day started innocently, a possibly interesting use of research funds. In the 1970s, and into the 1980s, it was the story of a world facing a probably, if not inescapable, ice age. By the early 1990s, planetary warming had won the competition for funds and media attention.

The win was easy. Computer models continued to forecast disaster, while few noticed their forecasts were increasingly in conflict with the data. No matter, because warming was caused by our lifestyles, which all the busybodies who took their private jets to Davos knew how to reform.

This version of warming continues to enjoy some popularity. But it soon met the same fate as the Macarena, languishing at the bottom of Gallup’s list of public concerns. There were some forecasts of worse disasters due to warming (like Boston’s current weather) and falling crop yields. Nevertheless it was reassuring that humans continued to thrive almost everywhere between Singapore to Anchorage, assuming they were reasonably governed.

Without some new angle the global crisis market faced a sad decline. Desperate times called for desperate measures, but cynics quickly showed that the lonely polar bear on the tiny ice floe had been photoshopped and, in any case, bear populations were increasing.

Innovation might still save the day. Along came researchers whose findings would hit us where we lived, and finally a problem that would not go away if we switched from button-down to Hawaiian shirts. Writing in the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Roger Ranson and co-authors at Abt Associates found paydirt.

They applied projections from the UN Interagency Panel on Climate Change to 50 years of U.S. county data. They “suggest” that between 2010 and 2099 “the US will experience an additional 30,000 murders, 200,000 cases of rape, 1.4 million aggravated assaults, 3.2 million burglaries, [etc.]”  relative to what would happen absent climate problems. The IPCC model looks more worthless by the day, but the authors needed explanations and accordingly invented them.  My favorite was that property crimes  would rise because warmer weather encouraged people to go outdoors and burglars would thrive.  (The original working paper explained that this was a consequence of climate becoming more “pleasant,” but the published version is missing this.)

And it’s not just the good old USA.  Solomon Tsiang and his colleagues from Columbia and Princeton claim to have shown that shifts in climate (even predictable ones like el nino) raise the likelihood of localized conflicts in the tropics.  Some commentators claim that Tsiang so tortured the data that it finally confessed to his conclusions but I’m not the authority here.  He has, however, published lots of variations on the topic and data, which almost invariably find the same general results.  (I can’t tell whether his data are public for others to analyze.)  This sudden avalanche of confirmatory evidence just seems too good  to be  true.

Crimes and territorial conflicts will always be with us, maybe aggravated by the weather, but what about good old American productivity?   It too is going down the drain.  Check “Does the Environment Still Matter? Daily Temperature and Income in the United States,” by Tatyana Deryugina of the University of Illinois and (surprised?) Solomon Hsiang, an unpublished paper from the well-regarded National Bureau of Economic Research. Using 40 years of daily county-level data they find that “productivity of individual days declines roughly 1.7 percent for each [1.8 degree F.] and a weekday above [86 degrees] costs an average county $20 per person.”

This is after adjusting for weekends and factoring in adaptation.  Hotter counties have lower incomes and income per capita is maximized where high temperatures are between 48 and 59 degrees.  Lots of fun facts here, and of course a global warming angle.  Sure enough, apply the statistically questionable IPCC forecasts to the data and find that average annual growth rates will fall between 0.09 and 0.15 percentage points a year, which compounds to a lot.  Sure makes it hard to understand why everyone moves to the sunbelt to earn less than in Boston.  Or is it possible that people care about lots more and try to maximize their well-being (“utility”) rather than just income?

Out of space, and I haven’t even gotten to the newfound nexus between climate and divorce.   It stems from lots of recent showings that personal nastiness increases with warming.  The problem is that more divorces will aggravate the climate problem because there will be fewer people per house and more energy consumption in total.

Oh, and one more thing. There are a number of studies that use international data sets to show that warming brings increased governmental corruption. I can’t verify or critique the findings, but this looks like a research program I can really get behind.


  1. James Rust  

    Thanks for this paper. It now makes the nation’s problems perfectly clear. Having been around since the 1930s I have noted an increase in crime and lack of education in the United States since the 1960s It appeared to me a lot of this bad behavior was due to people born out of wedlock.

    Global warming has caused people in the United States to worry less about being warm and now have time to engaged in more sexual activity. This sexual activity unfortunately has become casual and about one third of all Americans are born out of wedlock compared to a miniscule amount prior to 1960.

    James H. Rust, Professor of nuclear engineering


  2. Ed Reid  

    Professor Rust,

    I would argue that the “Great Society” has allowed people to be less concerned about bearing the costs of bearing children out of wedlock, contributing to the increased freq


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