Air-conditioning saves lives - that's the finding of a new study that analyzed mortality data on hot-weather days in the 20th Century.
The study analyzed data on causes of death in the 20th Century to find that the deaths on very hot days declined by about 80% between the period of 1900-1959 and the period of 1960-2004.
The study reports that days with temperatures above 90*F were responsible for about 3,600 deaths annually prior to 1960. The average dropped to about 600 premature fatalities annually during 1960-2004.
The paper also concluded that the huge drop in average annual deaths can be credited almost entirely on the adoption of residential air-conditioning.
The authors also found that improved access to electricity and health care do not seem to have an impact on mortality on very hot days.
The paper identified residential air-conditioning as the most promising technology for helping poorer nations reduce the number of temperature-related deaths resulting from climate change. The paper also finds that, because fossil fuels are generally the cheapest energy source, the proliferation of air-conditioning will also accelerate the rate of climate change.
The paper is Adapting to Climate Change: The Remarkable Decline in the U.S. Temperature-Mortality Relationship Over the 20th Century. It was written by:
* Alan I. Barreca, Tulane University
* Karen Clay, Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management
* Olivier Deschenes, University of California, Santa Barbara - College of Letters & Science - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
* Michael Greenstone, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation
* Joseph S. Shapiro, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics
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