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

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.



Dec. 5, 2017


Nathan Chan and Casey Wichman


Working Paper

Reading time

1 minute

There is extensive research documenting the economic consequences of climate change, yet our understanding of climate impacts on nonmarket activities remains incomplete. Here, we investigate the effect of weather on leisure demand. Using data from 27 million bicycle trips in 16 North American cities, we estimate how outdoor recreation responds to daily weather fluctuations. Combining these estimates with time-use survey data and climate projections, we project annual surplus gains of $894 million from climate-induced cycling by mid-century. Extrapolating to a broad measure of outdoor recreation, our back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest climate-induced benefits of $20.7 billion per 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.


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