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Green Economics

An Economic History Lesson on Adapting to Climate Change

By Matthew E. KahnGuest Blogger / February 19, 2010

A new volume examines how both people and the economy has adapted to past climate shocks.

Pat Denton/Newscom

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Gary Libecap and Rick Steckel have put together a new edited volume that uses the historical experience to examine how farmers, urbanites, and the economy as a whole has adapted to past climate shocks. Note that economists are the authors of these chapters. Almost all of these essays use new data sets to examine the historical experience in the face of changing climate conditions.
The future won’t look like it does now, but then it never has. As Frank Knight wrote in 1921, “The existence of a problem of knowledge depends on the future being different from the past, while the possibility of a solution of the problem depends on the future being like the past.” Relative to what most bloggers have to say, that's pretty profound. I wonder if he had a blog?
While Knight is unlikely to have pondered the issue of climate change almost 90 years ago, he did anticipate the fundamental challenge of predicting how we will individually and collectively cope in our hotter world.

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