Climate Signals

Kevin Lewis

September 21, 2022


'The Green New Deal' as partisan cue: Evidence from a survey experiment in the rural U.S.
Kathryn McConnell
Environmental Politics, forthcoming 


Recent research suggests that public support for climate action can be increased by bundling environmental policy with social and economic programs -- the Green New Deal being one of the most widely known iterations of this strategy. Yet, party cue theory suggests that public support for the policy will be shaped by the strong Democratic associations of the proposal. In a preregistered survey experiment conducted among 1,203 residents of the rural western United States, I find strong evidence that the phrase 'the Green New Deal' functions as a partisan cue, lowering support for a bundled climate policy among rural residents by 9.1 percentage points. This depressive effect is robust even when framing around region-specific climate impacts is added to the survey question.

Farmers adapt to climate change irrespective of stated belief in climate change: A California case study
Margiana Petersen-Rockney
Climatic Change, August 2022


Farmers are front-line workers managing climatic change. As in many parts of the world, climate change in northern California is threatening natural resource-dependent communities by exacerbating droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires. This article draws on ethnographic methods, including 108 interviews with crop and livestock farmers and key informants, to query climate change experience, belief, and response in rural northeastern California. I find that farmers recognize and describe climate changes that match the meteorologic evidence of anthropogenic climate change, but attribute these changes to weather cycles and harsh geographies. However, irrespective of their belief in anthropogenic climate change, farmers implement climate adaptations—many of these practices with mitigation co-benefits, bolstering growing evidence that climate change belief and action are not tightly coupled. To accelerate farmer adaptation, this work suggests that policy and programming focus on actions and outcomes, rather than reshaping belief.

Is Physical Climate Risk Priced? Evidence from Regional Variation in Exposure to Heat Stress
Viral Acharya et al.
NBER Working Paper, September 2022


We exploit regional variations in exposure to heat stress to study if physical climate risk is priced in municipal and corporate bonds as well as in equity markets. We find that local exposure to damages related to heat stress equaling 1% of GDP is associated with municipal bond yield spreads that are higher by around 15 basis points per annum (bps), the effect being larger for longer-term, revenue-only and lower-rated bonds, and arising mainly from the expected increase in energy expenditures and decrease in labor productivity. Among S&P 500 companies, one standard deviation increase in exposure to heat stress is associated with yield spreads that are higher by around 40 bps for sub-investment grade corporate bonds, with little effect for investment grade bond spreads, and with conditional expected returns on stocks that are higher by around 45 bps. These results are (i) observed robustly only starting in 2013–15, (ii) mostly absent for physical risks other than exposure to heat stress, and (iii) consistent with the class of macroeconomic models where climate change has a direct and large negative impact on aggregate consumption.

Does Environmental Policy Uncertainty Hinder Investments Towards a Low-Carbon Economy?
Joelle Noailly, Laura Nowzohour & Matthias van den Heuvel
NBER Working Paper, August 2022


We use machine learning algorithms to construct a novel news-based index of US environmental and climate policy uncertainty (EnvPU) available on a monthly basis over the 1990-2019 period. We find that our EnvPU index spikes during the environmental spending disputes of the 1995-1996 government shutdown, in the early 2010s due the failure of the national cap-and-trade climate bill and during the Trump presidency. We examine how elevated levels of environmental policy uncertainty relate to investments in the low-carbon economy. In firm-level estimations, we find that a rise in the EnvPU index is associated with a reduced probability for cleantech startups to receive venture capital (VC) funding. In financial markets, a rise in our EnvPU index is associated with higher stock volatility for firms with above-average green revenue shares. At the macro level, shocks in our index lead to declines in the number of cleantech VC deals and higher volatility of the main benchmark clean energy exchange-traded fund. Overall, our results are consistent with the notion that policy uncertainty has adverse effects on investments for the low-carbon economy.

Extreme temperatures during pregnancy and adverse birth outcomes: Evidence from 2009 to 2018 U.S. national birth data
Gulcan Cil & Jiyoon Kim
Health Economics, September 2022, Pages 1993-2024


We provide the first estimates of the impacts of prenatal exposure to extreme temperatures on infant health at birth using the latest national birth data from 2009 to 2018 from all U.S. states. We consistently find that an additional day with mean temperature greater than 80°F or less than 10°F increases preterm births and low birthweight. Strikingly, the adverse effects are borne disproportionately by Black and Hispanic mothers, suggesting that the projected increase in extreme temperatures may further exacerbate the existing birth health disparities across different race/ethnicity groups. We also contribute by investigating the impact of deviations from the normal weather pattern, to identify the extreme weather events after accounting for the adaptation response. We find that prenatal exposure to extreme heat two standard deviations above county's historic average induces preterm births and NICU admissions, particularly for mothers whose pregnancies overlap with summer months. These results are timely and policy relevant, considering the recent weather trends with rising temperatures and frequent extreme weather events.

I'm Not a Scientist, I Just Know What I See: Hurricane experience and climate change acceptance
Kaye Usry, Jason Husser & Aaron Sparks
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Methods: Using two surveys of registered voters in North Carolina, we test whether the threat of being hit by Hurricane Florence, or experiencing its effects directly through power loss, flooding, or wind damage, was associated with reduced skepticism about the impact of climate change.

Results: Republican voters who were the most threatened by the storm and who experienced one or more of its impacts were more likely to say climate change poses a threat to the state than their copartisans who were not threatened or impacted. However, among highly educated and motivated Republican voters, experience with Hurricane Florence was associated with increased skepticism about climate change.

Greenland ice sheet climate disequilibrium and committed sea-level rise
Jason Box et al.
Nature Climate Change, September 2022, Pages 808–813


Ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet is one of the largest sources of contemporary sea-level rise (SLR). While process-based models place timescales on Greenland’s deglaciation, their confidence is obscured by model shortcomings including imprecise atmospheric and oceanic couplings. Here, we present a complementary approach resolving ice sheet disequilibrium with climate constrained by satellite-derived bare-ice extent, tidewater sector ice flow discharge and surface mass balance data. We find that Greenland ice imbalance with the recent (2000–2019) climate commits at least 274 ± 68 mm SLR from 59 ± 15 × 103 km2 ice retreat, equivalent to 3.3 ± 0.9% volume loss, regardless of twenty-first-century climate pathways. This is a result of increasing mass turnover from precipitation, ice flow discharge and meltwater run-off. The high-melt year of 2012 applied in perpetuity yields an ice loss commitment of 782 ± 135 mm SLR, serving as an ominous prognosis for Greenland’s trajectory through a twenty-first century of warming.

Earlier onset of North Atlantic hurricane season with warming oceans
Ryan Truchelut et al.
Nature Communications, August 2022


Numerous Atlantic basin tropical cyclones have recently developed prior to the official start of hurricane season, including several pre-season landfalls in the continental United States. Pre-season and early-season tropical cyclones disproportionately affect populated landmasses, often producing outsized precipitation impacts. Here we show a significant trend towards earlier onset of tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic basin, with threshold dates of the first three percentiles of accumulated cyclone energy shifting earlier at a rate exceeding five days decade−1 since 1979, even correcting for biases in climatology due to increased detection of short-lived storms. Initial threshold dates of continental United States named storm landfalls have trended earlier by two days decade−1 since 1900. The trend towards additional pre-season and early-season activity is linked to spring thermodynamic conditions becoming more conducive for tropical cyclone formation. Genesis potential index value increases in the western Atlantic basin are primarily driven by warming ocean temperatures.



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