Fertility is an important driver of global carbon emissions via its effects on population growth, yet little is known about the potential for climate change to affect fertility patterns. Such a reverse effect could have two major impacts on the climate-economy system. First, the climate-to-population feedback could change the likelihood of high temperature scenarios, much like the feedbacks that occur in the carbon-climate system. Second, since population growth is linked to negative economic outcomes, the climate-to-population feedback could substantially alter the economic damages from global climate change. We examine potential avenues through which climate change may affect fertility. Existing estimates of climate damages suggest that agriculture is especially vulnerable to increasing temperatures. This implies that climate change will alter the composition of economic activities, which is also an important factor in long-run demographic change. We build an economic-demographic model to examine one particular channel, the quantity-quality trade-off. Through this channel, we demonstrate that economic damages caused by global climate change can lead to higher fertility and lower education levels in low-income equatorial countries, but can have the opposite effect in high- income high latitude countries. The feedback from climate to population growth could increase the likelihood of high emission scenarios and magnify the economic damages of climate change.

This seminar has been jointly organized by FEEM and IEFE, Bocconi University.