Economists often recommend fuel taxes to curb greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles in cities. But the effectiveness of these taxes depends heavily on other factors, like the availability of public transportation, and the density of a city. In the following podcast interview, I discuss my paper, co-authored with Paolo Avner and Jun Rentschler, and explain why taxes are twice as effective when accompanied by an investment in public transport. Please listen in.
An ambitious research project aiming to map the value of preserving the Amazon rainforest is just getting started at the World Bank. Why is it important to value the Amazon rainforest? Consider the perhaps most fundamental dilemma for conservation policy, with two opposing views. A “conservation” view is to assume that the rainforest should always be protected. A “development” view implies that the rainforest should always be converted to alternative uses (such as agriculture) when such conversion implies clear and readily measurable financial gains. Very often these two views cannot be reconciled, as the value attributed to forest protection by each of them can be dramatically different.
Increasing flood risks create a major political and institutional challenge for the world’s coastal cities as ambitious and proactive action at the local level over the next decades will be needed to avoid large-scale flood disasters. However, the implementation of flood risk management policies meets many obstacles.
In a recent study written with colleagues Colin Green, Robert Nicholls and Jan Corfee-Morlot as part of an OECD project on urban vulnerability, we estimate how flood risks could change in the future in 136 coastal cities, in response to increasing population and wealth, local environmental change, and climate change. We find that because current flood defenses and urbanization patterns have been designed for past environmental conditions, even a moderate change in sea level is sufficient to make them inadequate, thus magnifying flood losses to catastrophic levels. If no action is taken to reduce flood vulnerability, most coastal cities would become inhospitable and dangerous places to live, with annual losses in excess of $1 trillion dollars.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is putting policies to meet and combat climate change on top of the Bank’s agenda. That is extremely timely and has the potential to fundamentally revitalize the Bank, making it more relevant in today’s world.
Global finance for new clean energy projects is currently at $300-400 billion per year, of which the Bank funds about $10 billion. The International Energy Agency estimates that a minimum agenda, compatible with a two-degree temperature target, requires “green” energy investments of about $1 trillion per year. The Bank alone will only be able to provide a small portion of such additional finance.
Sea-level rise from climate change is a serious global threat, and there is overwhelming scientific evidence that sea-level will continue to rise for centuries even if green house gas concentrations were to be stabilized today.
Recently, Brian Blankespoor, Benoit Laplante and I investigated potential impacts of sea-level rise on coastal wetlands. Our study indicates a rise in sea levels due to climate change of just one meter could destroy more than 60 percent of the developing world’s coastal wetlands currently found at one meter or less elevation. We estimate that such a rise would lead to economic losses of around $630 million per year.
The following presentation was prepared by Susmita Dasgupta based on the policy research working paper, Vyāghranomics in Space and Time: Estimating Habitat Threats for Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan and Sumatran Tigers.
For poor countries, building weather and hydrological services to produce reliable forecasts often does not appear as a priority. Such services are seen as a luxury, rather than a necessity, in low income countries. But is it really the case?
In many countries, human and economic losses caused by weather extremes are on the rise, and they sometimes increase more rapidly than wealth. In some regions, natural disasters now represent a significant obstacle to poverty alleviation at the household level (many studies show that disasters can put households in poverty traps) and at the macro level (some regions are affected by regular events and spend a large fraction of their resources for reconstruction instead of development).
This week, amidst fireworks and stultifying Washington heat, five Policy Research Working Papers were published. They cover weakly relative poverty measures, PPPs in electricity generation, carbon emissions, universal health care, financial literacy, and economic analysis of projects in a greenhouse world.
Much of the attraction of ‘green’ growth to politicians and policy-makers is the apparent promise of job creation. Many developing countries face the prospect of rapidly growing labor forces, so measures that stimulate labor demand look attractive. But is the promise justified? That depends on how labor markets work and how ‘green’ growth policies are implemented.
When I moved from Norway to Washington with my family almost seven years ago, I went from paying more than $8 per gallon for gasoline in Oslo, to around $3 per gallon in the U.S. Our house is close to a bus stop for getting to the Metro, but the bus service is unreliable. Here is a first-hand illustration of how the price of gasoline affects people’s behavior. It is inexpensive to drive, so relatively few people are strongly dependent on bus service; with limited ridership there is less call for more reliable bus service and less money available to provide it. Where it is more expensive to drive, there is greater demand for higher-quality service and lower demand for more fuel-intensive cars. And fewer people want to live far away from their jobs or schools, or in very large dwellings that are costly to heat and cool. Our work in energy and environmental economics confirms how economically sound energy pricing is crucial for inducing more efficient behavior.