by Fiona Burlig, Amir Jina, Erin M. Kelley, Gregory Lane, and Harshil Sahai

Climate change increases weather variability, exacerbating agricultural risk in poor countries. Risk-averse farmers are unable to tailor their planting decisions to the coming season, and underinvest in profitable inputs. Accurate, long-range forecasts enable farmers to optimize for the season ahead. We experimentally evaluate monsoon onset forecasts in India, randomizing 250 villages into control; a forecast group receiving information well in advance of onset; and a benchmark index insurance group. Forecast farmers update their beliefs and their behavior: farmers who receive “bad news” relative to their priors substantially reduce land under cultivation and certain input expenditures, while those receiving “good news” significantly increase input expenditures. The forecast also impacts crop choice, as farmers tailor their investments. These investment changes meaningfully alter ex post outcomes. In contrast, insurance, which provides no information, increases investments but does not change crops. Our results demonstrate that forecasts are a promising tool for climate adaptation.

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Areas of Focus: Climate Change
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Climate Change
Climate change is an urgent global challenge. EPIC research is helping to assess its impacts, quantify its costs, and identify an efficient set of policies to reduce emissions and adapt...
Climate Science
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Climate Science
EPIC’s interdisciplinary team of researchers is contributing to a cross-cutting body of knowledge on the scientific causes of climate change and its social consequences.