Working Paper

The Effects of Climate on Leisure Demand: Evidence from North America

Dec 5, 2017 | Nathan W. Chan, Casey J. Wichman


We use data on millions of bike-share trips to show how climate change will affect outdoor recreation. By midcentury, recreation will increase due to fewer cold days each year.

Key Findings

  • Across North America, recreational cyclists dislike cold temperatures much more than they dislike hot temperatures.
  • By 2060, climate change will reduce the number of cold days each year, inducing greater demand for recreation.
  • Using nationally representative time-use data, we estimate annual economic gains of $20.7 billion for climate-induced recreation by 2060.
  • Regions in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast stand to gain the most.


Our understanding of how climate change will affect economic productivity is growing, but we have comparatively little knowledge of climate impacts on nonmarket activities. Here, we investigate the effect of weather on leisure demand. Using a data set of 27 million recreational bicycle trips within 16 North American cities, we estimate the response of outdoor recreation to daily weather fluctuations. These estimates are combined with time-use survey data and climate projections to predict likely impacts of climate change. By midcentury, we calculate annual consumer surplus gains from climate-induced recreation to be $20.7 billion.