American Economic Review: Vol. 102 No. 3 (May 2012)


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Adaptation to Climate Change in Preindustrial Iceland

Article Citation

Turner, Matthew A., Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, Jian Chen, and Chunyan Hao. 2012. "Adaptation to Climate Change in Preindustrial Iceland." American Economic Review, 102(3): 250-55.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.102.3.250


We investigate the effect of climate change on population growth in 18th and 19th century Iceland. We find that annual temperature changes help determine the population growth rate in pre-industrial Iceland: a year 1 degree Celsius cooler than average drives down population growth rates by 1.14%. We also find that 18th and 19th century Icelanders adapt to prolonged changes in climate after 20 years. These adaptations reduce the short run effect of annual change in temperature by about 60%. Finally, a 1 degree Celsius sustained decrease in temperature decreases the steady state population by 10% to 26%.

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Turner, Matthew A. (U Toronto)
Rosenthal, Jeffrey S. (U Toronto)
Chen, Jian (U Toronto)
Hao, Chunyan (U Toronto)

JEL Classifications

Q54: Climate; Natural Disasters; Global Warming
N33: Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy: Europe: Pre-1913
N53: Economic History: Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment, and Extractive Industries: Europe: Pre-1913

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