Solomon Hsiang has a new joint paper with Paulina Oliva, and Reed Walker reviewing and exploring what is known about the distributional consequences of environmental damages and the benefits of environmental policy. They provide a general framework for empiricists and explore what is known in the context of pollution, deforestation, and climate. The NBER working paper is available online here. The article is forthcoming in the Review of Environmental Economics and Policy.
In his recent Science article The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy, President Obama jumped into the "growth vs. levels" debate among empirical economists studying the effects of climate change, writing
[E]vidence is mounting that any economic strategy that ignores carbon pollution will impose tremendous costs to the global economy and will result in fewer jobs and less economic growth over the long term. Estimates of the economic damages from warming of 4°C over preindustrial levels range from 1% to 5% of global GDP each year by 2100 ... In addition, these estimates factor in economic damages but do not address the critical question of whether the underlying rate of economic growth (rather than just the level of GDP) is affected by climate change, so these studies could substantially understate the potential damage of climate change on the global macroeconomy (8, 9).
and citing the recent GPL paper on the global effects of temperature on growth.
Talk about a president who gets into the nuts and bolts...
- Sol discussed Planetary Management and the use of data to revolutionize how we understand the potential impact of climate change.
- Don discussed his quest to build a cheap and long-lasting battery capable of supplying grid-level storage, so that renewables can eventually power the planet.
- The two then sat down to discuss these issues with Jason Pontin and the audience.
Solomon Hsiang and Nitin Sekar published an op-ed in the Guardian, in answer to the question: "Would a legal ivory trade save elephants or speed up the massacre?"
The op-ed discusses the recent research findings from the Lab that legal ivory sales in 2008 increased poaching, rather than decreased poaching as the policy intended.
Negotiations for creating a permanent legal global ivory market were halted at the recent meeting of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, in part due to these research findings.
At the Asian Art Museum of SF, a display of oracle bones provides perspective on how far we've come in terms of using science to improve policy decisions. These bones (circa 1100 BCE) were designed to discover information about potential future outcomes by eliciting answers from deceased ancestors.
The Congressional Budget Office used calculations in Hsiang & Jina (2014) and The American Climate Prospectus to inform their recent report on ￼Potential Increases in Hurricane Damage in the United States: Implications for the Federal Budget￼. See a summary of the report by Politico here.
I was driving into the office today when I heard on the radio that in a speech at the Coast Guard Academy graduation, President Obama said,
"Around the world, climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict. "
Not only that, but he gets it:
"Understand, climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world. Yet what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram. It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East."
The American Climate Prospectus was cited in President Obama's proposed budget for 2016. One key feature of the budget highlighted by the White House was its strong focus on evaluating and managing climate change as a fiscal issue. There is an entire section of the budget on "Federal Budget Exposure to Climate Risk" which states:
The global climate is changing and is projected to continue to change over this century and beyond.1 Climate change impacts—such as rising sea level and more frequent and intense extreme weather events—will increasingly strain the Federal budget. The ability of policymakers to make smart investment decisions and to steward the Federal budget over the long term is increasingly dependent on understanding the Federal Government’s exposure to climate risks.