Environment

David Hendry, 12 December 2018

The Industrial Revolution has been of vast benefit to humanity, but it came at the cost of a global explosion in anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. The UK was the first country into the Industrial Revolution. Now it is one of the first countries heading out, with annual CO2 emissions per capita back below the levels of the 1860s. This column presents an econometric model of UK emissions over the last 150 years to establish what has driven them down and reveal the impacts of important policies, especially the Climate Change Act of 2008. Even so, large reductions in all the UK’s CO2 sources are still required to meet its 2050 target of an 80% reduction from 1970 levels.

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.

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