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Article

Econometrics for Modelling Climate Change  

Jennifer L. Castle and David F. Hendry

Shared features of economic and climate time series imply that tools for empirically modeling nonstationary economic outcomes are also appropriate for studying many aspects of observational climate-change data. Greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, are a major cause of climate change as they cumulate in the atmosphere and reradiate the sun’s energy. As these emissions are currently mainly due to economic activity, economic and climate time series have commonalities, including considerable inertia, stochastic trends, and distributional shifts, and hence the same econometric modeling approaches can be applied to analyze both phenomena. Moreover, both disciplines lack complete knowledge of their respective data-generating processes (DGPs), so model search retaining viable theory but allowing for shifting distributions is important. Reliable modeling of both climate and economic-related time series requires finding an unknown DGP (or close approximation thereto) to represent multivariate evolving processes subject to abrupt shifts. Consequently, to ensure that DGP is nested within a much larger set of candidate determinants, model formulations to search over should comprise all potentially relevant variables, their dynamics, indicators for perturbing outliers, shifts, trend breaks, and nonlinear functions, while retaining well-established theoretical insights. Econometric modeling of climate-change data requires a sufficiently general model selection approach to handle all these aspects. Machine learning with multipath block searches commencing from very general specifications, usually with more candidate explanatory variables than observations, to discover well-specified and undominated models of the nonstationary processes under analysis, offers a rigorous route to analyzing such complex data. To do so requires applying appropriate indicator saturation estimators (ISEs), a class that includes impulse indicators for outliers, step indicators for location shifts, multiplicative indicators for parameter changes, and trend indicators for trend breaks. All ISEs entail more candidate variables than observations, often by a large margin when implementing combinations, yet can detect the impacts of shifts and policy interventions to avoid nonconstant parameters in models, as well as improve forecasts. To characterize nonstationary observational data, one must handle all substantively relevant features jointly: A failure to do so leads to nonconstant and mis-specified models and hence incorrect theory evaluation and policy analyses.

Article

A Survey of Econometric Approaches to Convergence Tests of Emissions and Measures of Environmental Quality  

Junsoo Lee, James E. Payne, and Md. Towhidul Islam

The analysis of convergence behavior with respect to emissions and measures of environmental quality can be categorized into four types of tests: absolute and conditional β-convergence, σ-convergence, club convergence, and stochastic convergence. In the context of emissions, absolute β-convergence occurs when countries with high initial levels of emissions have a lower emission growth rate than countries with low initial levels of emissions. Conditional β-convergence allows for possible differences among countries through the inclusion of exogenous variables to capture country-specific effects. Given that absolute and conditional β-convergence do not account for the dynamics of the growth process, which can potentially lead to dynamic panel data bias, σ-convergence evaluates the dynamics and intradistributional aspects of emissions to determine whether the cross-section variance of emissions decreases over time. The more recent club convergence approach tests the decline in the cross-sectional variation in emissions among countries over time and whether heterogeneous time-varying idiosyncratic components converge over time after controlling for a common growth component in emissions among countries. In essence, the club convergence approach evaluates both conditional σ- and β-convergence within a panel framework. Finally, stochastic convergence examines the time series behavior of a country’s emissions relative to another country or group of countries. Using univariate or panel unit root/stationarity tests, stochastic convergence is present if relative emissions, defined as the log of emissions for a particular country relative to another country or group of countries, is trend-stationary. The majority of the empirical literature analyzes carbon dioxide emissions and varies in terms of both the convergence tests deployed and the results. While the results supportive of emissions convergence for large global country coverage are limited, empirical studies that focus on country groupings defined by income classification, geographic region, or institutional structure (i.e., EU, OECD, etc.) are more likely to provide support for emissions convergence. The vast majority of studies have relied on tests of stochastic convergence with tests of σ-convergence and the distributional dynamics of emissions less so. With respect to tests of stochastic convergence, an alternative testing procedure accounts for structural breaks and cross-correlations simultaneously is presented. Using data for OECD countries, the results based on the inclusion of both structural breaks and cross-correlations through a factor structure provides less support for stochastic convergence when compared to unit root tests with the inclusion of just structural breaks. Future studies should increase focus on other air pollutants to include greenhouse gas emissions and their components, not to mention expanding the range of geographical regions analyzed and more robust analysis of the various types of convergence tests to render a more comprehensive view of convergence behavior. The examination of convergence through the use of eco-efficiency indicators that capture both the environmental and economic effects of production may be more fruitful in contributing to the debate on mitigation strategies and allocation mechanisms.

Article

The Role of Uncertainty in Controlling Climate Change  

Yongyang Cai

Integrated assessment models (IAMs) of the climate and economy aim to analyze the impact and efficacy of policies that aim to control climate change, such as carbon taxes and subsidies. A major characteristic of IAMs is that their geophysical sector determines the mean surface temperature increase over the preindustrial level, which in turn determines the damage function. Most of the existing IAMs assume that all of the future information is known. However, there are significant uncertainties in the climate and economic system, including parameter uncertainty, model uncertainty, climate tipping risks, and economic risks. For example, climate sensitivity, a well-known parameter that measures how much the equilibrium temperature will change if the atmospheric carbon concentration doubles, can range from below 1 to more than 10 in the literature. Climate damages are also uncertain. Some researchers assume that climate damages are proportional to instantaneous output, while others assume that climate damages have a more persistent impact on economic growth. The spatial distribution of climate damages is also uncertain. Climate tipping risks represent (nearly) irreversible climate events that may lead to significant changes in the climate system, such as the Greenland ice sheet collapse, while the conditions, probability of tipping, duration, and associated damage are also uncertain. Technological progress in carbon capture and storage, adaptation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency are uncertain as well. Future international cooperation and implementation of international agreements in controlling climate change may vary over time, possibly due to economic risks, natural disasters, or social conflict. In the face of these uncertainties, policy makers have to provide a decision that considers important factors such as risk aversion, inequality aversion, and sustainability of the economy and ecosystem. Solving this problem may require richer and more realistic models than standard IAMs and advanced computational methods. The recent literature has shown that these uncertainties can be incorporated into IAMs and may change optimal climate policies significantly.