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Is Warmer Winter Weather a Boon for the Economy? — Dollars and Sense

noricum, Flickr

People can argue about climate change, but they can’t argue with this: so far, 2012 has had some bizarrely warm weather.

And while that may be bad for snow-reliant ski resorts, it’s actually been good for a variety of other industries.

According to some estimates, roadwork has gone uninterrupted in 80 percent of the US, and some 17,000 nonresidential construction jobs were added in December. Even landscaping businesses and nurseries are enjoying an early boom, with customers showing up months earlier than usual.

The warmer weather has also been good for the bottom line of Midwestern cities that are typically blanketed in snow at this time of year. The city of Des Moines, Iowa has reportedly saved millions so far this season because its snowplows and salt trucks haven’t had to roam the streets.

“The reduced costs of municipal maintenance are definitely a benefit to those areas,” says Jeff Lazo, director of the Societal Impacts Program at the National Center of Atmospheric Research. “Most cities budget for that and are saving money.”

On the other hand, hardware stores aren’t selling shovels, snowblowers and bags of salt, and the crews normally hired to clear roads haven’t had much to do.

“I’d hesitate to say for sure that overall there are more economic benefits when we have a warm winter like this, but there is probably a net benefit up to a point,” says Lazo, who adds that many Americans might be seeing lower heating bills right now too.

But don’t get too excited about that. If the weather stays warm, there will be a boomerang effect — summer cooling costs will be higher, which could negate the money you’re saving now.


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