Adrien Vogt-Schilb, Guy Meunier, Stéphane Hallegatte, 29 March 2018

Traditional climate economics models recommend capturing the cheapest opportunities to reduce emissions first and keeping the most difficult options for later. This column argues that when the fact that reducing emissions takes time and requires investments in long-lived goods and assets is taken into account, the most cost efficient strategy overall is to act immediately in the sectors that are the most expensive and difficult to decarbonise, even if this means investing in options that have a higher cost right now than available alternatives. Actions on urban planning and urban transport systems are especially urgent.

Michael Greenstone, 26 March 2018

Jonathan Colmer, 21 March 2018

Rüdiger Bachmann, Gabriel Ehrlich, Dimitrije Ruzic, 24 January 2018

There has been limited research on how groups’ collective reputations are affected by the misbehaviour of individual members. This column uses the Volkswagen emissions scandal as a natural experiment to explore group reputation externalities. German auto manufacturers that weren’t implicated in the scandal suffered significant declines in sales, stock returns, and public sentiment in the US. Volkswagen’s malfeasance appeared to materially harm the group reputation of German car engineering.

Rick van der Ploeg, Armon Rezai, 05 January 2018

Trump’s election has brought climate change deniers to the centre of global policymaking. This column uses Pascal’s wager as a model to explore optimal policy given uncertainty over the fundamental causes of global warming. This agnostic approach finds that assigning even a high probability to climate change deniers being correct has insignificant effects on policy. Pricing carbon is shown to be optimal in either case, and robust to whether policymakers want to maximise global welfare, or minimise regret in the worst case.

Eli P Fenichel, Matthew Kotchen, Ethan T Addicott, 20 August 2017

How the future is discounted in cost-benefit analyses is a contested issue, with economists disagreeing on whether approaches to discounting should be prescriptive or descriptive. This column presents a new way to model individuals’ discounting based on a demographic approach. The advantages of a purely mortality-based approach are transparency, an empirical basis, and broad data availability.

Samuel Bazzi, Arya Gaduh, Alex Rothenberg, Maisy Wong, 08 August 2017

Adriana Kocornik-Mina, Thomas McDermott, Guy Michaels, Ferdinand Rauch, 21 January 2016

Gregory Casey, Oded Galor, 23 March 2017

Most policies that target climate change – such as carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programmes – have long-term benefits but short-term economic costs. This column argues that population policies may not be subject to this trade-off. In particular, policies that reduce population growth can have a direct positive effect on income per capita as well as lowering growth of carbon emissions. Such policies could play an important role in the portfolio of actions aimed at mitigating climate change.

Ric Colacito, Bridget Hoffmann, Toan Phan, 28 October 2016

Policy proposals to offset the effects of global warming would be strengthened if we knew more about the net economic benefits of climate action relative to business-as-usual. This column argues that estimates may understate the future costs of business as usual because of heterogeneous seasonal effects, and because more business sectors than previously assumed suffer a negative impact from increased summer temperatures. The cost of inaction may be equal to one-third of the growth rate of US GDP over the next 100 years.

, 14 October 2016

What could the solutions for the global energy challenge be? In this video, Michael Greenstone discusses three aspects of this challenge. The video was recorded at the International Growth Centre.

Larry Levin, Matthew S. Lewis, Frank Wolak, 13 October 2016

A consensus that the demand for gasoline is price inelastic means that policymakers have opted to disregard price instruments when addressing gasoline consumption and climate change. This column analyses daily citywide data on gasoline prices and consumption to show that demand for gasoline is in fact substantially more elastic than previously thought. This is a major argument in favour of the effectiveness of price-based mechanisms in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Bridget Hoffmann, 07 October 2016

What is the impact of climate change on the US economy? In this video, Bridget Hoffman compares summer temperatures to make predictions about future GDP growth. This video was recorded during the European Economic Association's Congress held in Geneva at the end of August 2016.

Achyuta Adhvaryu, Namrata Kala, Anant Nyshadham, 27 August 2016

Energy-efficient technologies are an increasingly relevant policy priority, given growing consensus on the need to tackle climate change. This column examines the productivity benefits of adopting one such technology – LED lighting – for manufacturing firms in India. It finds that improved productivity resulting from LED lighting’s lower heat emissions makes adopting such technology far less costly than previous anticipated, particularly for labour-intensive firms in hot climates. 

Garth Heutel, Juan Moreno-Cruz, Katherine Ricke, 04 June 2016

At the the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015, it was agreed that annual global temperature increase must be kept below 2 degrees, and a target of a 1.5 degree annual increase was set. Most environmental policies currently focus on emissions reductions and adaptation. This column discusses a new set of technologies collectively known as climate engineering, and explores their potential effectiveness and role in climate change economics. A lot of uncertainty surrounds the costs and effects of climate engineering tools, but it is clear that they would change the optimal levels of emissions reduction currently discussed in literature.

Stefano Giglio, Matteo Maggiori, Johannes Stroebel, Andreas Weber, 23 January 2016

While some of the costs of climate change won’t be incurred for centuries, the actions to mitigate them need to be taken today. Over such a long timespan, small changes in discount rates can drastically change the attractiveness of such investments. This column presents estimates of appropriate discount rates for very long time horizons. The long-run discount rate for one important risky asset class – real estate – is estimated at 2.6%. This provides an upper bound on long-run discount rates for climate change abatement, one that is substantially lower than some of the rates currently being employed.

Adriana Kocornik-Mina, Thomas McDermott, Guy Michaels, Ferdinand Rauch, 21 January 2016

During the past couple of months alone, floods have displaced 100,000 people or more in Kenya, in Paraguay and Uruguay, and in India, as well as more than 50,000 people in the UK. And rising sea levels due to climate change loom. This column assesses the risk and the challenges for policymakers. It details the effects of flooding in cities around the world, showing that economic activity is concentrated in low-elevation urban areas, despite their much greater exposure to flooding. And worryingly, economic activity tends to return to flood-prone low-lying areas rather than relocating.

Stefano Giglio, Matteo Maggiori, Johannes Stroebel, Andreas Weber, 29 November 2015

The optimal investment to mitigate climate change crucially depends on the discount rate used to evaluate the investment’s uncertain future benefits. The appropriate discount rate is a function of the horizon over which these benefits accrue and the riskiness of the investment. In this paper, we estimate the term structure of discount rates for an important risky asset class, real estate, up to the very long horizons relevant for investments in climate change abatement. We show that this term structure is steeply downward-sloping, reaching 2.6% at horizons beyond 100 years. We explore the implications of these new data within both a general asset pricing framework that decomposes risks and returns by horizon and a structural model calibrated to match a variety of asset classes. Our analysis demonstrates that applying average rates of return that are observed for traded assets to investments in climate change abatement is misleading.

Richard Tol, 17 December 2015

The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has successfully negotiated a Paris Agreement. International climate policy will be shaped by the events in Paris for years to come. This column highlights three key developments.

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