Climate Change: Past and Present.

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An NBER/Universities Research Conference on "Climate Change: Past and Present" organized by Gary D. Libecap, University of California, Santa Barbara and NBER, and Richard H. Steckel, Ohio State University and NBER, took place in Cambridge on May 30 and 31. These papers were discussed:

Richard H. Steckel, "Tree Rings Climate Change and Impacts: Sketching a Research Agenda"

Melissa Dell, MIT; Benjamin F. Jones, Northwestern University and NBER; and Benjamin A. Olken, Harvard University and NBER, "Climate Change and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century"

Zeynep K. Hansen, Boise State University and NBER; Gary D. Libecap; and Scott E. Lowe, Boise State University, "Climate Variability and Water Infrastructure: Historical Experience in the Western United States"

Richard Sutch, University of California, Riverside and NBER, "Henry Agard Wallace, the Iowa Corn Yield Tests, and the Adoption of Hybrid Corn: American Corn Yields, 1866-2002"

Raghav Gaiha, Vani S. Kulkarni, and Kenneth Hill, Harvard University; and Shantanu Mathur, International Fund for Agricultural Development, "On Devastating Droughts"

Alan L. Olmstead, University of California, Davis and NBER, and Paul W. Rhode, University of Arizona and NBER, "Adjusting to Climatic Variation: Historical Perspectives from North American Agricultural Development"

Wolfram Schlenker, Columbia University and NBER, and Michael Roberts, USDA, "Estimating the Impact of Climate Change on Crop Yields: The Importance of Nonlinear Temperature Effects"(NBER Working Paper No. 13799)

Hoyt Bleakley, University of Chicago and NBER, and Sok Chul Hong, University of Chicago, "The Impact of Weather on U.S. Farm Productivity: Historical Patterns and Relation to the Changing Disease Environment"

Karen Clay, Carnegie Mellon and NBER, and Werner Troesken, George Mason University and NBER, "On the Seasonality of Disease: Implications for the Effects of Climate Change on Health"

Haggay Etkes, Hebrew University, "The Impact of Short-Term Climate Fluctuations on Rural Population in the Desert Frontier Nahiye of Gaza (ca. 1519-57)"

Price Fishback, University of Arizona and NBER; Trevor Kollman, University of Arizona; Michael Haines, Colgate College and NBER; Paul W. Rhode; Melissa Thomasson, Miami University and NBER; and Shawn Kantor, University of California, Merced and NBER, "The Health Consequences of Natural and Economic Disasters: 1930-1940"

Valerie A. Mueller and Daniel E. Osgood, Columbia University, "Long-term Consequences of Short-term Precipitation Shocks: Evidence from Brazilian Migrant Households"

Economists and other social scientists who seek to measure the relationship between climate and socioeconomic activity are limited to somewhat more than one century of data from instrument records. Fortunately for this research agenda, dendochronologists have been rapidly expanding our knowledge of past precipitation and temperature. Tree rings reliably reconstruct the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), which measures effective or net precipitation. Dendochronologists have estimated the PDSI in North America for a grid of 286 locations based on 835 tree-ring chronologies that go back hundreds of years. Steckel briefly explains the methodology of climate reconstruction in North America based on tree rings, discusses various databases that are available, and considers some applications of these data for studying settlement of the continent; demographic patterns of health and migration; agricultural prices; financial...

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