Economics of Climate Change
Critics of policies that would mitigate climate change often cite negative effects on the economy to forestall change. But are they right? SCEPA is investigating these arguments in a project on The Economics of Climate Change led by Faculty Fellow Willi Semmler. Initiated in 2010 with a comprehensive international conference, SCEPA is questioning how to enact effective climate change policy in light of fragile domestic and global economies and the possibilities and practicalities of renewable energy.
Predictions of the 5th IPCC Report
In September, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first of four reports providing updates on the scientific community’s knowledge of climate change and its effects. The report from the first Working Group, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, strengthens the panel’s degree of certainty that climate change is man-made and is the cause of melting ice, rising global sea levels and various forms of extreme weather.
On November 18, 2013, SCEPA’s Economics of Climate Change lecture series presented a panel discussion with leading climate change scientists on the major findings of the report. They discussed its local and global predictions and what it forecasts for urban areas, agriculture, food production, and developing economies.
Peter Schlosser, What Does the the 5th Assessment Report Tell Us?
Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University
Deputy Director and Director of Research, The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Robert Kopp, Local and Global Impacts of Extreme Weather
Assistant Professor, Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Rutgers University
Associate Director, Rutgers Energy Institute
Wolfram Schlenker, Effects of Weather Change on Agricultural, Food Production & the Developing World
Associate Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
SCEPA's Economics of Climate Change project, led by New School Professor of Economics Willi Semmler, is generously supported by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and the German Research Foundation (DFG).
On April 3, 2013, Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Union's Director of the European Commission's Climate Action Directorate joined SCEPA's lecture series on the Economics of Climate Change to present, "Towards 2020: A New Chapter in Europe's Climate Change Policy."
On January 1, 2013, the EU stepped forward to lead the movement for needed adaptation policies, including carbon pricing and renewables, by adopting its “20-20-20” package. The new program sets European-wide targets for 2020 that build on the Kyoto Protocol and impacts sectors falling under both the EU emissions trading system and renewable energy.
The event was generously supported by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and the Macroeconomic Policy Institute (IMK).
On November 15, 2012, Mark Z. Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University, joined SCEPA to present the inaugural lecture of SCEPA's new Economics of Climate Change Speaker Series. His presentation was titled, "Wind, Water and Sunlight: How to Address Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security."
Willi Semmler, SCEPA Faculty Fellow and head of the Economics of Climate Change project, is working with Kewulay Kamara, a New School student working towards his PhD in economics, to raise funds to bring renewable energy to a school in Sierra Leone without electricity. The Dankawalie Secondary School (DSS), located in a the Dankawalie village, hopes to install solar panels on the school's library, which also serves as a resource for the entire community.
Solar-powered electricity will enhance the learning environment for the 150 students currently enrolled. The library will serve as a space for students who are unable to study at home. Having a study space allows children to succeed and focus on their school work. This is especially important for girls, who are often required to do household chores when they are home and are often not given time to study when they are home with their families.
For more information about the Dankwalie Secondary School, please visit: www.badenya.org.
SCEPA Faculty Fellow Willi Semmler recently published a SCEPA Working Paper, with co-authors Lars Gruene and Alfred Greiner, that analyzes when and how we should transition to green energy. Titled, "Economic Growth and the Transition from Non-Renewable to Renewable Energy," the authors argue that the transition to green energy can and should take place before non-renewable energy is exhausted. Their research uses a canonical growth model with two energy sources, including non-renewable energy that creates negative externalities in the form of CO2 emissions and renewable energy that emits much less CO2. Ultimately, the authors propose a solution that, given the cost of future externalities inherent in the continued use of fossil energy, recommends tax rates and subsidies to ensure a more rapid transition to renewable energy.
The research is part of SCEPA's Economics of Climate Change project, which will begin a public Speaker Series this Fall with the generous support of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. The series will feature experts on domestic and global policy dicsussing different approaches to a green economic transition, energy independence, the production of sufficient energy supply, and employment.
As our region begins to recover from the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, conversations about climate change hit even closer to home. On November 15, 2012, Mark Z. Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University, joined SCEPA to present the inaugural lecture of SCEPA's new Economics of Climate Change Speaker Series. His presentation was titled, "Wind, Water and Sunlight: How to Address Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security."
This event was generously supported by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Consulate General of Germany in New York, and the Macroeconomic Policy Institute (IMK).
We are proud to announce that SCEPA Faculty Fellow Willi Semmler was awarded a grant from the Fritz Thyssen Foundation to hold a speaker series as part of SCEPA's Economics of Climate Change project. These funds will bring distinguished scholars, policy experts and government officials to The New School over the next two years. Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University will deliver the inaugural lecture on November 15, 2012.
The series will address how the transition to low-carbon intensive technology and "green energy" can effectively help reduce the emission of green house gases, create energy independence, produce sufficient energy supply and contribute to economic stability and employment. This includes discussion of how market economies can be brought to a path consistent with prosperity and sustainabilty, which economic environments are most favorable for inducing entrepreneurs to invest in and adopt green technology and green energy, and how the public sector can encourage a green transition.
Initiated in 2010 with a comprehensive international conference, SCEPA's Economics of Climate Change project is questioning how to enact effective climate change policy in light of fragile domestic and global economies and the possibilities and practicalities of renewable energy. The project hosted a second conference at The New School in 2011, The Bottom Line On Climate Change, which addressed how to transition from high carbon-intensive technologies to low carbon-intensive technologies.
André Semmler, a participant in SCEPA's 2012 conference, The Bottom Line on Climate Change, wrote a blog post for The Energy Collective discussing the future of renewables in Japan. The May 3, 2012 blog, "After Fukushima: Will a New Feed-In Tariff Solve Japan's Energy Issues?" zeros in on legislation designed to fill the gap left by reduced nuclear power with a new feed-in tariff to support renewable energy. The policy is expected to pass in early July 2012. Semmler goes through the pros and cons of the policy and discusses possible pricing:
"The enactment of the policy has already been approved by the upper chamber. However, its most important element is still being debated: the exact price of the feed-in tariff. While provisions such as guaranteed grid-access and long-term contracts for electricity produced are common elements in feed-in tariffs around the world, the purchase prices which are currently being proposed by businesses and industry associations are surprisingly high."
Semmler is author of the upcoming book, Renewable Energy in Japan: New Competition in the Energy Market.
by Willi Semmler, Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research
Fukushima has once again heated up the debate on the transition to renewable energy. Is green energy the answer to global warming, energy independence, and the prevention of Fukushima-like disasters? What are the difficulties in the transition to an economy based mostly on renewable energy? What is the time horizon for such a change? What are the economic and political obstacles to such a transition? If such a change is pursued, will the switch destroy jobs and raise taxes? Or can renewable energy create a green recovery with high level of employment?
On September 23 and 24, The New School hosted an international conference that gathered leading U.S. & E.U. government officials, geoscientists, policy analysts, politicians, business leaders and academics in New York to discuss how such a transition could take place and how such transition to renewable energy will affect the fragile U.S. and global economies. Panels focused on the future of nuclear power, the reality behind green jobs, the practicality of new technologies, and the tensions between developed and developing countries and the possible costs of such a transition. The participants included, among others, experts such as Ottmar Edenhofer of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), James Hansen from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Peter Schlosser from the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Artur Runge-Metzger from the European Commission and Mark Jacobson from Stanford University.
The beginning of the conference focused on new insights into the dynamic pattern of climate change. As argued by Peter Schlosser and Klaus Keller, there exists a broad consensus among geoscientists regarding the dynamic behavior of climate change and how the warming of the poles accelerates this processes. The notion of tipping points is crucial for understanding the pattern of climate change.
Similar to a glass of water falling off the edge of a table, after being just slightly pushed, the dynamics of climate change may suddenly accelerate in a way that cannot be easily reversed after a certain threshold is exceeded. Due to the melting of the poles and the collapse of the Meridional Overturning Circulation which both accelerate climate change, the tipping point may have been reached already. The role of the poles is crucial due to their feedback on the climate.