Environment

Justin Caron, Thibault Fally, 01 December 2018

With global emissions of CO2 still growing, understanding the determinants behind energy use and emissions is as relevant as ever. This column looks at the role of per capita income and consumption choices. It finds that the share of expenditures spent on energy and energy-intensive goods tends to decrease with income across a large set of countries. Simulations indicate that income growth shifts consumption patterns in a way which generally reduces emissions. However, increasing emissions in low- and middle-income countries as well as a shift from direct to indirect consumption of energy mean that the effect on total world emissions is modest.

Stefano Ramelli, Alexander Wagner, Richard Zeckhauser, Alexandre Ziegler, 29 October 2018

President Trump’s election and the nomination of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency changed expectations of US climate change policy. This column uses movements in US stock prices to show that firms with high carbon intensity benefited, as expected, but so did firms with ‘responsible’ strategies on climate change. A significant group of investors raise the value of firms taking a long-term perspective. 

David Keiser, Joseph S. Shapiro, 24 October 2018

Many argue that the $1 trillion cost of the 1972 US Clean Water Act outweigh its benefits. The column uses new evidence on grants and water pollution readings to measure its impact. While the Act has decreased US water pollution, the estimated change in home values caused by this has been only one quarter of the grant costs, although this probably understates the full impact of the Act. The analysis suggests that targeting water pollution in more populous areas would improve net social benefits.

Gail Cohen, Prakash Loungani, 23 October 2018

At first glance, emissions and economic activity appear to be positively linked. This column refutes this by re-examining emissions and real GDP data using trend/cycle decompositions. The evidence clearly demonstrates decoupling of emissions and real GDP in many richer nations. Furthermore, although decoupling does not yet appear in emerging markets, data from China show that trend elasticities initially increase with per capita real GDP but then decline, thus holding out the hope that the relationship between emissions and GDP growth will weaken as emerging market countries get richer.

Kenneth Gillingham, 19 October 2018

William Nordhaus of Yale University has been jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences with Paul Romer for ‘integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis’. This column, written by a co-author and Yale colleague, outlines how his contributions have broadened the scope of economic analysis, shedding light on the causes and consequences of the unintended effects of human activity on the long-run trajectory of economic growth and wellbeing.

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