Conservation of Energy

Kevin Lewis

March 16, 2023

Fossil fuel divestment and public climate change policy preferences: An experimental test in three countries
Joshua Schwartz, Paul Lendway & Abolfazl Nuri
Environmental Politics, forthcoming


Divestment is a prominent strategy championed by activists to induce positive social change. For example, the current fossil fuel divestment movement includes over 1,500 institutions that control $40 trillion in assets. A primary pathway through which divestment is theorized to be effective is by influencing public beliefs and policy preferences, thus pressuring policymakers to take action. However, prior research only tests this argument via qualitative case studies. We assess the impact of exposure to information about fossil fuel divestment on public opinion through the use of national survey experiments in three major greenhouse gas emitters: the U.S., India, and South Africa. We find surprisingly little evidence that exposure to information about the fossil fuel divestment movement can increase public support for policies that address climate change. Our findings suggest that divestment movements may be less effective at changing beliefs and policy preferences than previously realized.

Climate Risk and Preferences over the Size of Government: Evidence from California Wildfires
Michael Coury
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming 


How does exposure to risk shape individual preferences for an expanded state? I examine this question in the context of climate change-related risk. Using variation in California wildfire activity, I show neighborhoods experiencing large fires increase support by 0.8 percentage points for ballot initiatives which expand the size of government and by 2.4 percentage points for ballot initiatives endorsed by pro-environment interest groups. The effect is stronger in Republican areas and is not driven by shifts in voter registration or turnout, suggesting the mechanism acts through changes in individual preferences rather than compositional changes in the electorate.

The Economic Opportunity Cost of Green Recovery Plans
Timothy Fitzgerald & Casey Mulligan
NBER Working Paper, February 2023 


Advocates in several countries have promoted a “green recovery” from the pandemic, with an emphasis on measures to address climate objectives. We evaluate proposals for the United States and find that as stated, ambitious plans to further cut emissions from transportation and electricity will require more inputs to produce the same outputs, resulting in recurring costs of up to $483 billion per year. We forecast that real GDP and consumption will be 2-3 percent less in the long run if policies are implemented as stated, underscoring the opportunity costs of achieving green objectives when resources might be more efficiently deployed.

Adjusting to Rain Before It Falls
Mitch Downey, Nelson Lind & Jeffrey Shrader
Management Science, forthcoming


Unchecked climate change will cause precipitation volatility to increase around the world, leading to economic damages in the face of adjustment costs. We estimate these damages for construction -- an economically important, climate exposed industry. Empirically, employment falls in response to forecasted rainfall and more so as the forecast horizon increases. This pattern allows for identification of labor adjustment costs via a multisector model of local labor markets calibrated to our estimates. When rainfall is anticipatable one month ahead, construction firms pay 10% of monthly profit to adjust. They pay less than 1% for rainfall anticipatable six months ahead. Without further adaptation or forecast improvements, increased rainfall volatility due to climate change is projected to lead to more costly adjustment.

Cooling Externality of Large-Scale Irrigation
Thomas Braun & Wolfram Schlenker
NBER Working Paper, February 2023 


We provide novel evidence that large-scale irrigation heterogeneously shifts the temperature distribution towards cooler temperatures during the months of the growing season relative to the rest of the year. We employ a triple-difference estimator using a 59-year-long panel of weather records paired with the fraction of a county that is irrigated in 393 counties over the Ogallala aquifer. Cooling-by-irrigation propagates downwind and reduces the upper tail of the temperature distribution by up to 3C (5F) during the month of August, which has positive externalities on downwind crop yields ($120 million per year) and temperature-induced excess mortality ($240 million per year) that are of equal magnitude as the direct benefits of irrigation by enhancing heat tolerance ($440 million per year). The observed cooling helps explain why the US has seen less warming, especially of very hot temperatures, than what climate models project. Our findings highlight that weather shocks in highly irrigated areas are not exogenous but are influenced by human responses in the form of irrigation.

Under Pressure: Social Capital and Trust in Government After Natural Disasters
Alexander Priest
Social Currents, forthcoming 


In response to the increasing threats posed by natural hazards, both disaster managers and researchers have recognized social networks and trust between communities and government as fundamental building blocks for resilience. However, these efforts often overlook the fact that the same network ties to family and friends that can help households weather a storm may also extend households’ exposure through collective trauma, reshaping their trust in and perceptions of government. Utilizing two restricted-access data sets gathered in Houston, Texas, following Hurricane Harvey, this study investigates the frequency with which households experienced a direct and/or close-tie impact and how such impacts affect households’ trust in local, state, and federal government. Results indicate that households experience close-tie impacts pervasively and that experiencing a close-tie impact is significantly correlated with lower trust in government at all levels, net of experiencing a direct impact and other statistical controls. Implications for a more nuanced approach to social capital and trust in disaster mitigation and research are discussed.

Yellowstone Caldera Volcanic Power Generation Facility: A new engineering approach for harvesting emission-free green volcanic energy on a national scale
Thomas Arciuolo & Miad Faezipour
Renewable Energy, October 2022, Pages 415-425 


The USA is confronted with three epic-size problems: (1) the need for production of energy on a scale that meets the current and future needs of the nation, (2) the need to confront the climate crisis head-on by only producing renewable, green energy, that is 100% emission-free, and (3) the need to forever forestall the eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano. This paper offers both a provable practical, novel solution, and a thought experiment, to simultaneously solve all of the above stated problems. Through a new copper-based engineering approach on an unprecedented scale, this paper proposes a safe means to draw up the mighty energy reserve of the Yellowstone Supervolcano from within the Earth, to superheat steam for spinning turbines at sufficient speed and on a sufficient scale, in order to power the entire USA. The proposed, single, multi-redundant facility utilizes the star topology in a grid array pattern to accomplish this. Over time, bleed-off of sufficient energy could potentially forestall this Supervolcano from ever erupting again. With obvious importance to our planet and the research community alike, COMSOL simulation demonstrates and proves the solution proposed herein, to bring vast amounts of green, emission-free energy to the planet’s surface for utilization. Well over 11 Quadrillion Watt hours of electrical energy generated over the course of one full year, to meet the current and future needs of the USA is shown to be practical. Going beyond other current and past research efforts, this methodology offers tremendous benefits, potentially on a planetary scale.

Tonga eruption increases chance of temporary surface temperature anomaly above 1.5 °C
Stuart Jenkins et al.
Nature Climate Change, February 2023, Pages 127-129 


On 15 January 2022, the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai (HTHH) eruption injected 146 MtH2O and 0.42 MtSO2 into the stratosphere. This large water vapour perturbation means that HTHH will probably increase the net radiative forcing, unusual for a large volcanic eruption, increasing the chance of the global surface temperature anomaly temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C over the coming decade. Here we estimate the radiative response to the HTHH eruption and derive the increased risk that the global mean surface temperature anomaly shortly exceeds 1.5 °C following the eruption. We show that HTHH has a tangible impact of the chance of imminent 1.5 °C exceedance (increasing the chance of at least one of the next 5 years exceeding 1.5 °C by 7%), but the level of climate policy ambition, particularly the mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants, dominates the 1.5 °C exceedance outlook over decadal timescales.


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