Article Review


This review presents an analysis of an article that was written by Marshall Burke and Kyle Emerick: “Adaptation to Climate Change: Evidence from US Agriculture” published in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy icy 2016, 8(3): 106–140. The basis of the study understands how the different sectors of the economy can adapt to the inevitable climate change with the focus being the agricultural sector in the US. Having an understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on the economy is of high importance to the development of strategies that can be used by the various sectors of the economy to adapt to the situation. The study exploited a large variation in the recent precipitation and climate trend with the intent of identifying how the agricultural sector in the US responded to the changes (Burke & Emerick, 2012). The information proves to be useful in the estimation of the ability of the sector to adapt to the future changes in climate. The longer run adaptations appeared to be less effective in the mitigation of the short-run impacts of climate change on productivity with the strategies barely mitigating half of the problems that resulted from climate change (Graff Zivin & Neidell, 2014). The limited nature of the adaptation strategies that have been adopted is an indication that there is a likelihood of there being substantial losses as effects of climate change become worse. There will be a need for more countervailing investments for there to be complete adoption.

It is commonly assumed that the agricultural sector is one of the most affected sectors by the changes in climate. This is not far from the truth. This is a factor that makes this study of high importance, especially when it comes to future adaptation to the changes in climate. Either way, there is no alternative for sectors such as agriculture. If they have to survive, they will always need to find a way of adapting to the climate changes. As far as history is concerned, climate change in only likely to increase (Graff Zivin & Neidell, 2014). With such assumption, adaptation is a perfect approach for ensuring that the sector maintains a certain level of productivity. The level to which the economy of the US is dependent on the agricultural sector is an implication that the issue of adaptation should be reviewed with a higher level of keenness. Furthermore, the climate changes are not only affecting the US agricultural sector but also the sectors in the other country. This is an implication that dependence of importing agricultural products is not a sustainable option.

As seen in the article, some countries have experienced decrease in temperatures while others have experienced increases in temperature.  Between 1980 and 2008, the country with the lowest decrease in average temperature experienced a decreased by 0.5°C while the highest increase was by 1.5°C. Precipitation was observed to have risen or dropped by 40% during the same period. Agricultural products such as corn have optimal temperature under which they perform best. For instance, corn is seen to perform best under the temperature of 29oC. A change of just 1oC affects the total yield. 

As Schlenker, Roberts & Lobell, (2013) argue, one factor about the study that might be questionable it the choice of long-term impacts for the evaluation of long-term solutions. This might be because of the assumption that because they actions that are being evaluated are longer run adaptations. Longer run adaptations are supposed to have impacts that might not be measurable in the short-run. Therefore, evaluating longer run adaptations by the short-run impacts on the productivity of the US agricultural sector can be rather misleading. However, given the nature of climate change and the probability of the climate changing even further implies that this approach might be effective in determination of the extent to which the longer run adaptations are taken into consideration the possible changes in the climate in the future.

However, the study is a clear replica of the current situation in most of the economies. Farmers had better make longer run adaptations strategies as opposed to the short-run ones because the short-run ones have been noted to be ineffective in some ways.  This is a worthwhile approach given the higher possibility of the changes in the climate in the future is likely to get higher (Fisher, Hanemann, Roberts & Schlenker, 2012). Therefore, like seen in the study represented in this article, it is in order for most of the focus to be of the longer run adaptations without paying much attention to the short-run impact. The focus of the short-run impacts might give a completely wrong impression of the effectiveness of longer run adaptations.

The use of longer run adaptations can be made more practical if change projection models are used in the projection of the potential long-run impacts of climate change on the agricultural sector. The use of multiple models is an option that can be used with the intent of enabling the projections to be as close as possible to the climatic changes over the period that is used for projection. This is simply more effective in ensuring that the sector remains to be a relevant contributor to the economy even with the possibility of worsening of the climate in the future (Deschênes & Greenstone, 2012).

Notably, the informative nature of this article regarding the adaptation to climate change by the US agricultural sector is undisputable. The use of just two crops was inevitable for the sake of collection of micro-data that would not have been possible if the study was to focus on the entire sector. Either way, the study was effective in driving the point home and asserting the importance of focusing on longer run adaptations. However, it would be rather interesting if the production of products of different nature would be focused on for the sake of having a more conclusive assertion.

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  1. Burke, M., & Emerick, K. (2012). Adaptation to climate change: Evidence from US agriculture.
  2. Deschênes, O., & Greenstone, M. (2012). The economic impacts of climate change: evidence from agricultural output and random fluctuations in weather: reply. The American Economic Review, 102(7), 3761-3773.
  3. Fisher, A. C., Hanemann, W. M., Roberts, M. J., & Schlenker, W. (2012). The economic impacts of climate change: evidence from agricultural output and random fluctuations in weather: comment. The American Economic Review, 102(7), 3749-3760.
  4. Graff Zivin, J., & Neidell, M. (2014). Temperature and the allocation of time: Implications for climate change. Journal of Labor Economics, 32(1), 1-26.
  5. Schlenker, W., Roberts, M. J., & Lobell, D. B. (2013). US maize adaptability. Nature Climate Change, 3(8), 690-691.
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