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This study estimates the impact of climate change on the demand for outdoor recreation. The study expands on earlier literature, which only studied skiing, by including analysis of six summer activities. The demand for each activity is estimated by regressing climate and other control variables for each state in the continental United States, using both linear and loglinear functional forms.
The estimated climate relationships are used to forecast the welfare impact of nine alternative climate change scenarios in both 1990 and 2060. With the inclusion of summer activities, the overall net effect of warming is beneficial. An increase in temperature of 2.5°C and precipitation by 7 percent generates overall net recreation benefits of $2.8 billion (+7 percent) with the linear model and $4.1 billion (+9 percent) with the loglinear demand model. If temperatures increase by 5°C, net benefits jump to $25.9 billion (+63 percent) with the linear model and $18.9 billion (+40 percent) with the loglinear model. Both models predict large fishing benefits from warming and substantial skiing losses. The linear model also predicts sizable boating benefits and camping and wildlife viewing losses. The higher per capita income in 2060 results in substantially smaller 2060 versus 1990 benefits according to the loglinear model because hunting benefits shrink and skiing damages increase. The results for the linear model are approximately the same in 1990 and 2060.
As scientists become more certain that increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases will change climate, there has been growing interest in the potential economic effect of climate change. While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has sponsored investigations into the potential consequences of global climate change on fisheries, fisheries have received very limited attention in previous climate change damage assessments. For example, the two most commonly cited surveys of the effect of climate change on the US economy, Nordhaus (1991) and Cline (1992), provide no estimate of potential effects on the fisheries sector, although Nordhaus lists agriculture, forestry, and fisheries as economic sectors that could be severely affected by climate change.
On one level, the lack of attention to the potential effects on fisheries is understandable. First, fisheries and aquaculture are relatively small sectors of the US economy. The US fishery sector is a $3 billion contributor in a $5 trillion economy. Second, while there has been much research observing the changes in climate, there has been much less work done describing how the oceans will respond to increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases. Third, the link between ocean conditions and fisheries is complex and poorly understood. Major uncertainties and gaps in understanding make it particularly difficult to quantify the effect of global climate changes on the stocks of commercially important fish species.
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