Climate policy targets revisited

Richard S J Tol, 25 April 2014

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report estimates lower costs of climate change and higher costs of abatement than the Stern Review. However, current UN negotiations focus on stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at even lower levels than recommended by Stern. This column argues that, given realistic estimates of the rate at which people discount the future, the UN’s target is probably too stringent. Moreover, since real-world climate policy is far from the ideal of a uniform carbon price, the costs of emission reduction are likely to be much higher than the IPCC’s estimates.

Russia’s tit for tat

Peter A.G. van Bergeijk, 25 April 2014

In reaction to the Crimean crisis, the EU imposed certain sanctions on Russia. Russia responded by blacklisting EU and US officials. This column discusses the comparative vulnerability of the EU and Russia amid this tit for tat pattern. In purely economic terms, the EU is in a much better position than Russia. However, political regimes also matter. The autocracy score for Russia dampens the impact that the economic sanctions would have politically. The democratic nature of the European governments would translate the sanctions imposed by Russia into great political pressure for the EU. This makes the Russian tit for tat threat realistic.

Closing the US-EU productivity gap

Ana Rincon Aznar, Anastasios Saraidaris, Michela Vecchi, Francesco Venturini, 24 April 2014

The importance of innovation activities for productivity growth has long been recognised. However, there are significant differences in the level of intangible investments across developed economies. This column describes how the EU can enhance its productivity growth and close the gap with the US. One such main channel is through investing in intangible assets and absorptive capacity. A second one is increasing production efficiency. Relevant policy recommendations are also discussed.

Human capital and income inequality

Amparo Castelló-Climent, Rafael Doménech, 23 April 2014

Most developing countries have made a great effort to eradicate illiteracy. As a result, the inequality in the distribution of education has been reduced by more than half from 1950 to 2010. However, inequality in the distribution of income has hardly changed. This column presents evidence from a new dataset on human capital inequality. The authors find that increasing returns to education, globalisation, and skill-biased technological change can explain why the fall in human capital inequality has not been sufficient to reduce income inequality.

Persistent noise trading and market meltdowns

Giovanni Cespa, Xavier Vives, 22 April 2014

Since capital flows to and from hedge funds are strongly related to past performance, an exogenous liquidity shock can trigger a vicious cycle of outflows and declining performance. Therefore, ‘noise’ trades – usually thought of as erratic – may in fact be persistent. Based on recent research, this column argues that there can be multiple equilibria with different levels of liquidity and informational efficiency, and that the high-information equilibrium can under certain conditions be unstable. The model provides a lens through which to interpret the ‘Quant Meltdown’ of August 2007 and the recent financial crisis.

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