Measuring the impact of climate change on Britain
Adaptation to past changes in the climate of Britain may be indicative of the way in which society will respond to future climate change. The long run costs associated with climate change are, once full adaptation has occurred, not obviously detrimental. Furthermore even if the frequency of 'extreme events' such as floods and storms increases it is not apparent that these will necessarily be as detrimental to society as they currently might seem since society in effect chooses its exposure to extreme events. Some extreme events such as hard frosts are likely to decrease in frequency. The thesis uses the theory of hedonic prices to examine the role of climate variables in explaining differences in average residential land prices and wage rates relating to 127 English and Welsh counties, Scottish regions, metropolitan areas and London boroughs. Substantial evidence is found in favour of the hypothesis that compensating land price differentials exist for climate variables. An alternative approach to estimating amenity values is to argue that households respond in part to differing levels of environmental amenities by altering their patterns of consumption. This phenomenon can be given a 'Household Production Function' interpretation. Given the assumption of 'demand dependency' between climate variables and marketed commodities it is possible to determine the amenity value of climate change from market data. Using cross country data for 60 countries the analysis points unambiguously to the existence of a 'climatic optimum'. The hedonic technique can also be used as a means of determining the value to British agriculture of a marginal change in climate. In the hedonic approach sale price differentials between land characterised by different climates is given an interpretation in terms of underlying productivity differences. Data characterising over 400 separate transactions in farmland is analysed and the value of marginal changes in climatic variables computed. The analysis suggests that the financial value of climate variables to farmers could in some cases be quite high and also that changes in seasonal patterns and the frequency of 'extreme events' are quite important. The impact of climate change on the chosen destinations of British tourists is also investigated. Destinations are characterised in terms of various 'attractors' including climate variables, travel costs and accommodation costs. Together these variables are used to explain the observed pattern of overseas travel in terms of a model based on the precept of utility maximisation. This approach permits the changes in consumer surplus following climate change to be predicted and effectively identifies the 'optimal' climate for generating tourism. It is argued that British tourists are likely to experience a large gain in welfare in the sense that the attributes of nearby (low cost) locations improve following climate change. Finally, information on marginal willingness to pay for climatic amenities is combined with predictions concerning the scale and direction of possible climate change over Britain in order to provide a money measure of the welfare impact of such changes. Because households appear to prefer a climate characterised by much higher temperatures than currently prevail over Britain households reap large gains from climate change.