Environment

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.

Gernot Wagner, 16 December 2015

At the heart of policy debates about our collective responses to climate change is the issue of risk and uncertainty - ‘unknown unknowns’ about the impact of global warming. In this Vox Talk, Gernot Wagner - co-author with Harvard’s Martin L. Weitzman of 'Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet’ - argues for Pigovian taxes and carbon pricing, against geoengineering solutions, and why 'we need to stick it to CO2, not to capitalism’.

Rabah Arezki, Maurice Obstfeld, 03 December 2015

Oil prices have dropped by over 60% since June 2014, and natural gas and coal have also seen price declines that look to be similarly long-lived. This column argues that action to restore appropriate price incentives, notably through corrective carbon pricing, is urgently needed to lower the risk of irreversible and potentially devastating effects of climate change. The hope is that the success of COP21 opens the door to future international agreement on carbon prices.

Yana Jin, Mu Quan, Chiara Ravetti, Zhang Shiqiu, Timothy Swanson, 02 December 2015

Many cities in China have notoriously high levels of air pollution. Given its tight control over the media, the Chinese government has a high degree of control over public information about air quality. This column explores the government’s incentive to downplay the seriousness of pollution spikes. Households that rely exclusively on public media are found to engage in less self-protective behaviours. This could lead to substantial public health costs in the long run that might otherwise have been avoided.

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