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Climate change is an economic issue because changing climate affects human health and prosperity both positively and negatively, and because efforts to influence the climate by reducing greenhouse gas emissions – the gases such as carbon dioxide that are thought to contribute to “global warming” – and other public policies also can affect human health and prosperity.

There is ample evidence that a warmer world is also a safer and healthier world, yet this fact is seldom mentioned in the debate over climate change. Economists can measure the impact of climate change on various measures of economic wellbeing and calculate, for example, the effect of warmer temperatures per-capita income, the price of food and other essentials, and even on life expectancy. They can also measure the loss of income and jobs that result from restricting access to inexpensive fossil fuels.

Economists can determine what types of regulation are likely to be most efficient, and whether the unintended consequences of regulations threaten to outweigh the intended benefits. Economists have studied various proposals for “cap and trade” and energy taxes and determined whether or not they would accomplish the objectives of their advocates, and at what cost to consumers.

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