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Kevin Lewis

March 06, 2019

Housing investment, sea level rise, and climate change beliefs
Lint Barrage & Jacob Furst
Economics Letters, April 2019, Pages 105-108


We investigate the association of new housing construction with sea level rise exposure and climate change beliefs. We combine U.S. Census construction permits data, sea level rise projections, county-level climate change belief estimates (Howe et al., 2015), and standard housing controls. The results suggest that (i) sea level rise vulnerability is associated with significantly reduced construction in areas with high climate change beliefs, but that (ii) this relationship is significantly attenuated in more skeptical areas, suggesting that climate skepticism may be delaying adaptation.

Market Expectations About Climate Change
Wolfram Schlenker & Charles Taylor
NBER Working Paper, February 2019


An emerging literature examines how agents update their beliefs about climate change. Most studies have relied on indirect belief measures or opinion polls. We analyze a direct measure: prices of financial products whose payouts are tied to future weather outcomes. We compare these market expectations to climate model output for the years 2002 to 2018 as well as observed weather station data across eight cities in the US. All datasets show statistically significant and comparable warming trends. Nonparametric estimates suggest that trends in weather markets follow climate model predictions and are not based on shorter-term variation in observed weather station data. When money is at stake, agents are accurately anticipating warming trends in line with the scientific consensus of climate models.

Rapidly declining remarkability of temperature anomalies may obscure public perception of climate change
Frances Moore et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming


The changing global climate is producing increasingly unusual weather relative to preindustrial conditions. In an absolute sense, these changing conditions constitute direct evidence of anthropogenic climate change. However, human evaluation of weather as either normal or abnormal will also be influenced by a range of factors including expectations, memory limitations, and cognitive biases. Here we show that experience of weather in recent years — rather than longer historical periods — determines the climatic baseline against which current weather is evaluated, potentially obscuring public recognition of anthropogenic climate change. We employ variation in decadal trends in temperature at weekly and county resolution over the continental United States, combined with discussion of the weather drawn from over 2 billion social media posts. These data indicate that the remarkability of particular temperatures changes rapidly with repeated exposure. Using sentiment analysis tools, we provide evidence for a “boiling frog” effect: The declining noteworthiness of historically extreme temperatures is not accompanied by a decline in the negative sentiment that they induce, indicating that social normalization of extreme conditions rather than adaptation is driving these results. Using climate model projections we show that, despite large increases in absolute temperature, anomalies relative to our empirically estimated shifting baseline are small and not clearly distinguishable from zero throughout the 21st century.

Does Global Warming Increase Public Concern about Climate Change?
Parrish Bergquist & Christopher Warshaw
Journal of Politics, forthcoming 


Scholars have not determined whether exposure to a changing climate influences public understanding of or concern about climate change. We examine this question using a comprehensive index of public concern about climate change in each state from 1999 to 2017. The index aggregates data from over 400,000 survey respondents in 170 polls. These new estimates of state-level climate concern enable us to exploit geographic variation in locally experienced climate changes over an extended time period. We show that climate concern peaked in 2000 and again in 2017 and that climate concern is modestly responsive to changes in state-level temperatures. Overall, our results suggest that continued increases in temperature are likely to cause public concern about climate change to grow in the future. But a warming climate, on its own, is unlikely to yield a consensus in the mass public about the threat posed by climate change.

Commitment failures are unlikely to undermine public support for the Paris agreement
Liam Beiser-McGrath & Thomas Bernauer
Nature Climate Change, March 2019, Pages 248–252


Success of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which is founded on nationally determined contributions (NDCs), hinges on whether domestic support for international environmental agreements would be undermined if countries that are crucial to the global effort fail to reduce their emissions. Here we find that citizens in China (n = 3,000) and the United States (n = 3,007) have strong preferences over the design of international climate agreements and contributions of other countries to the global effort. However, contrary to what standard accounts of international politics would predict, a survey-embedded experiment in which respondents were randomly exposed to different information on other countries’ behaviour showed that information on other countries failing to reduce their emissions does not undermine support for how international agreements are designed. While other factors still make large emission cuts challenging, these results suggest that the Paris approach per se is not posing a problem.

Anomalous Anglophones? Contours of free market ideology, political polarization, and climate change attitudes in English-speaking countries, Western European and post-Communist states
Keith Smith & Adam Mayer
Climatic Change, January 2019, Pages 17–34


Recent scholarship has thoroughly documented climate change attitudes within the majority of the English-speaking countries of the USA, the UK, Canada, and Australia. In these nations, political identity is widely recognized as a uniquely powerful predictor of climate change attitudes and, at least in the USA, several studies have found that education moderates the effect of political identity. The cross-national dynamics of climate change attitudes and political identity are not well-characterized, particularly in nations with a history of state socialism. In this manuscript, we consider the role of political and free market ideological polarization around climate change within Anglophone, Western European, and post-Communist states. Further, we investigate education as a moderator of political and ideological factors cross-nationally. We suggest that, in comparison to Western European and post-Communist states, the role of political and ideological polarization in Anglophone states is exceptional in shaping climate change attitudes. Using data for 20 countries in the 2010 ISSP Environmental Module, we find that the effect of party affiliation and free market ideology on the perception of climate change’s danger and importance is strongest in Anglophone states, more modest in Western European countries, and limited within post-Communist states. Further, education moderates most intensely in Anglophone states. Our results suggest that there is something exceptional occurring within Anglophone states with regard to political polarization and climate change attitudes.

The unintended impact of ecosystem preservation on greenhouse gas emissions: Evidence from environmental constraints on hydropower development in the United States
Edson Severnini
PLoS ONE, January 2019


Many countries have passed environmental laws aiming at preserving natural ecosystems, such as the Endangered Species Act of 1973 in the United States. Although those regulations seem to have improved preservation, they may have had unintended consequences in energy production. Here we show that while environmental constraints on hydropower may have preserved the wilderness and wildlife by restricting the development of hydroelectric projects, they led to more greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental regulations gave rise to a replacement of hydropower, which is a renewable, relatively low-emitting source of energy, with conventional fossil-fuel power, which is highly polluting. Our estimates indicate that, on average, each megawatt of fossil fuel power-generating capacity added to the grid because of environmental constraints on hydropower development led to an increase in annual carbon dioxide emissions of about 1,400 tons. Environmental regulations focusing only on the preservation of ecosystems appear to have encouraged electric utilities to substitute dirtier fuels for hydropower in electricity generation.

Unintended consequences of cap-and-trade? Evidence from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Nathan Chan & John Morrow
Energy Economics, May 2019, Pages 411-422


Cap-and-trade programs are designed to minimize the overall cost of pollution control by effectively allowing firms with low abatement costs to reduce emissions on behalf of those with higher abatement costs. However, these trades redistribute where emissions are generated, which has important implications for welfare because many pollutants have differential environmental and health impacts depending on where they are emitted. This paper compiles and analyzes a national data set of power plant emissions in order to assess how the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a carbon dioxide (CO2) cap-and-trade program involving nine states in the United States, impacts the emissions and damages from copollutants. Our results suggest that, in addition to achieving its goal of reducing CO2, the program has lowered the quantity of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions as well as associated damages in the policy region. However, two factors diminish the overall benefits from the program. First, within the RGGI region, trading shifts electricity generation to locations with higher marginal damages for SO2. Second, there is leakage of electricity generation and emissions to nearby states, although this latter effect is more modest than ex ante analyses predicted.

All or nothing: Climate policy when assets can become stranded
Matthias Kalkuhl, Jan Christoph Steckel & Ottmar Edenohfer
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, forthcoming


This paper develops a new perspective on stranded assets in climate policy using a partial equilibrium model of the energy sector. Political-economy related aspects are considered in the government's objective function. Lobbying power of firms or fiscal considerations by the government lead to time inconsistency: The government will deviate from a previously announced carbon tax which creates stranded assets. Under rational expectations, we show that a time-consistent policy outcome exists with either a zero carbon tax or a prohibitive carbon tax that leads to zero fossil investments – an “all-or-nothing” policy. Although stranded assets are crucial to such a bipolar outcome, they disappear again under time-consistent policy. Which of the two outcomes (all or nothing) prevails depends on the lobbying power of owners of fixed factors (land and fossil resources) but not on fiscal revenue considerations or on the lobbying power of renewable or fossil energy firms.

Global environmental consequences of twenty-first-century ice-sheet melt
Nicholas Golledge et al.
Nature, 7 February 2019, Pages 65–72


Government policies currently commit us to surface warming of three to four degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100, which will lead to enhanced ice-sheet melt. Ice-sheet discharge was not explicitly included in Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5, so effects on climate from this melt are not currently captured in the simulations most commonly used to inform governmental policy. Here we show, using simulations of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets constrained by satellite-based measurements of recent changes in ice mass, that increasing meltwater from Greenland will lead to substantial slowing of the Atlantic overturning circulation, and that meltwater from Antarctica will trap warm water below the sea surface, creating a positive feedback that increases Antarctic ice loss. In our simulations, future ice-sheet melt enhances global temperature variability and contributes up to 25 centimetres to sea level by 2100. However, uncertainties in the way in which future changes in ice dynamics are modelled remain, underlining the need for continued observations and comprehensive multi-model assessments.

Enhanced land–sea warming contrast elevates aerosol pollution in a warmer world
Robert Allen et al.
Nature Climate Change, forthcoming


Many climate models simulate an increase in anthropogenic aerosol species in response to warming, particularly over the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes during June, July and August. Recently, it has been argued that this increase in anthropogenic aerosols can be linked to a decrease in wet removal associated with reduced precipitation, but the mechanisms remain uncertain. Here, using a state-of-the-art climate model (the Community Atmosphere Model version 5), we expand on this notion to demonstrate that the enhanced aerosol burden and hydrological changes are related to a robust climate change phenomenon — the land–sea warming contrast. Enhanced land warming is associated with continental reductions in lower-tropospheric humidity that drive decreases in low clouds — particularly large scale (stratus) clouds — which, in turn, lead to reduced large-scale precipitation and aerosol wet removal. Idealized model simulations further show that muting the land–sea warming contrast weakens these hydrological changes, thereby suppressing the aerosol increase. Moreover, idealized simulations that only feature land warming yield enhanced continental aridity and an increase in aerosol burden. Thus, unless anthropogenic emission reductions occur, our results add confidence that a warmer world will be associated with enhanced aerosol pollution.

China’s coal mine methane regulations have not curbed growing emissions
Scot Miller et al.
Nature Communications, January 2019


Anthropogenic methane emissions from China are likely greater than in any other country in the world. The largest fraction of China’s anthropogenic emissions is attributable to coal mining, but these emissions may be changing; China enacted a suite of regulations for coal mine methane (CMM) drainage and utilization that came into full effect in 2010. Here, we use methane observations from the GOSAT satellite to evaluate recent trends in total anthropogenic and natural emissions from Asia with a particular focus on China. We find that emissions from China rose by 1.1 ± 0.4 Tg CH4 yr−1 from 2010 to 2015, culminating in total anthropogenic and natural emissions of 61.5 ± 2.7 Tg CH4 in 2015. The observed trend is consistent with pre-2010 trends and is largely attributable to coal mining. These results indicate that China’s CMM regulations have had no discernible impact on the continued increase in Chinese methane emissions.

High-tide flooding disrupts local economic activity
Miyuki Hino et al.
Science Advances, February 2019


Evaluation of observed sea level rise impacts to date has emphasized sea level extremes, such as those from tropical cyclones. Far less is known about the consequences of more frequent high-tide flooding. Empirical analysis of the disruption caused by high-tide floods, also called nuisance or sunny-day floods, is challenging due to the short duration of these floods and their impacts. Through a novel approach, we estimate the effects of high-tide flooding on local economic activity. High-tide flooding already measurably affects local economic activity in Annapolis, Maryland, reducing visits to the historic downtown by 1.7% (95% confidence interval, 1.0 to 2.6%). With 3 and 12 inches of additional sea level rise, high-tide floods would reduce visits by 3.6% (3.2 to 4.0%) and 24% (19 to 28%), respectively. A more comprehensive understanding of the impacts of high-tide flooding can help to guide efficient responses from local adaptations to global mitigation of climate change.

Marine heatwaves threaten global biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services
Dan Smale et al.
Nature Climate Change, forthcoming


The global ocean has warmed substantially over the past century, with far-reaching implications for marine ecosystems. Concurrent with long-term persistent warming, discrete periods of extreme regional ocean warming (marine heatwaves, MHWs) have increased in frequency. Here we quantify trends and attributes of MHWs across all ocean basins and examine their biological impacts from species to ecosystems. Multiple regions in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans are particularly vulnerable to MHW intensification, due to the co-existence of high levels of biodiversity, a prevalence of species found at their warm range edges or concurrent non-climatic human impacts. The physical attributes of prominent MHWs varied considerably, but all had deleterious impacts across a range of biological processes and taxa, including critical foundation species (corals, seagrasses and kelps). MHWs, which will probably intensify with anthropogenic climate change, are rapidly emerging as forceful agents of disturbance with the capacity to restructure entire ecosystems and disrupt the provision of ecological goods and services in coming decades.

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