This paper examines the effects of extreme temperatures on mortality rates, using random year-to-year variation in temperature based on county-level panel data from China. The analysis finds a robust, U-shaped relationship between temperature and mortality rates, indicating that extremely cold or hot temperatures lead to excess deaths. The heat-related (cold-related) effect is 3.5 times (3.2 times) as large as previous findings that used U.S. data, and it is especially large for the elderly population, mainly due to excess deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases. Applying these results to climate change predictions from Hadley Centre Global Environmental Model shows that by 2061–2080 the annual mortality rate is likely to increase by 14.2% if global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise throughout the 21st century, the estimated health cost of which is around 0.98 trillion Chinese Yuan per year.
The paper also explores households’ adaptation behaviors to extreme temperatures. It finds that although urban households adaptively increase energy consumption when they are exposed to cold temperatures and purchase more air conditioners on hot and cold days, rural households are unresponsive to temperature fluctuations. This finding implies that rural people may be more resource constrained and suffer more when extreme temperatures occur.
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