Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Temperature effect on poor countries' scientific output

Poor countries produced fewer scientific papers in hot years — a rise of one degree Celsius was associated with a nine per cent drop in the number of papers published.

There's more in this story by Sharon Davis, with some speculations about the underlying mechanisms.

This finding is just a part of a study entitled "Climate Shocks and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century" by Melissa Dell (MIT), Benjamin Jones (Northwestern and Harvard) and Benjamin Olken (MIT). Here are some of the other effects of climate shock mentioned in their paper:

Our main results show large, negative effects of higher temperatures on growth, but only in poor countries. In poorer countries, we estimate that a 1◦C rise in temperature in a given year reduced economic growth in that year by about 1.1 percentage points. In rich countries, changes in temperature had no discernable effect on growth. Changes in precipitation had no substantial effects on growth in either poor or rich countries. [...]

We also find evidence that temperature affects numerous dimensions of poor countries’ economies. While agricultural output contractions appear to be part of the story, we likewise find adverse effects of hot years on industrial output and aggregate investment. Poor countries also produce fewer scientific publications in hot years, which suggests that higher temperatures may impede innovation. Moreover, we show that higher temperatures lead to political instability in poor countries, as evidenced by irregular changes in national leaders. Many of these effects sit outside the primarily agricultural focus of much economic research on climate change and underscore the challenge for approaches that seek to build aggregate estimates of climate impacts from a narrow set of channels. These broader relationships also help explain how temperature might affect growth rates in poor countries, not simply the level of output.