How do weather and climate change impact the COVID-19 pandemic? Evidence from the Chinese mainland


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to expand, while the relationship between weather conditions and the spread of the virus remains largely debatable. In this paper, we attempt to examine this question by employing a flexible econometric model coupled with fine-scaled hourly temperature variations and a rich set of covariates for 291 cities in the Chinese mainland. More importantly, we combine the baseline estimates with climate-change projections from 21 global climate models to understand the pandemic in different scenarios. We found a significant negative relationship between temperatures and caseload. A one-hour increase in temperatures from 25 °C to 28 °C tends to reduce daily cases by 15.1%, relative to such an increase from −2 °C to 1 °C. Our results also suggest an inverted U-shaped nonlinear relationship between relative humidity and confirmed cases. Despite the negative effects of heat, we found that rising temperatures induced by climate change are unlikely to contain a hypothesized pandemic in the future. In contrast, cases would tend to increase by 10.9% from 2040 to 2059 with a representative concentration pathway (RCP) of 4.5 and by 7.5% at an RCP of 8.5, relative to 2020, though reductions of 1.8% and 18.9% were projected for 2080–2099 for the same RCPs, respectively. These findings raise concerns that the pandemic could worsen under the climate-change framework.

Environmental Research Letters 16: 1-12
Yabin Da
Yabin Da
Assistant Professor

Research interests include Environmental Economics (Climate Change), Applied Econometrics, and Causal Inference.