July 24, 2014

Rethinking African solar power for Europe

Recent column with Elena Ricci on voxeu.org.

"Concentrated solar power generation in Northern African and Middle Eastern deserts could potentially supply up to 20% of European power demand. This column evaluates the technological, economic, and political feasibility of this idea. Although concentrated solar power is a proven technology that can work at scale, it is currently four or five times more expensive than fossil fuels. Concentrated solar power could play an important role in Europe’s energy mix after 2050, but only if geo-political challenges can be overcome."

Full column available here.

June 26, 2014

Revised Working Paper: A Ricardian Analysis of the Impact of Climate Change on European Agriculture

We recently revised our paper on climate change impacts on European Agriculture.

The new FEEM working paper is available here.

This new version is also circulated as CESIfo working paper here.


This research estimates the impact of climate on European agriculture using a continental scale Ricardian analysis. Climate, soil, geography and regional socio-economic variables are matched with farm level data from 37,612 farms across Western Europe. We demonstrate that a median quantile regression outperforms OLS given farm level data. The results suggest that European farms are slightly more sensitive to warming than American farms with losses from -8% to -44% by 2100 depending on the climate scenario. Farms in Southern Europe are predicted to be particularly sensitive, suffering losses of -9% to -13% per degree Celsius.

New Draft: Do Temperature Thresholds Threaten American Farmland?

New draft of the paper on agricultural thresholds presented at the 2014 ASSA meetings.

I will present this new draft at the World Congress of Environmental and Resource Economists in Istanbul on Monday June 30 at 14:00.

Robert Mendelsohn and I do not find evidence of "thresholds" after which land values collapse in the East of the United States. We find instead evidence of adaptation to different climatic conditions.


It is widely known that temperatures have a hill-shaped effect on agriculture.  Some researchers argue that there is also a threshold effect, a temperature above which land values crash and crops fail. This paper uses flexible functional forms to estimate the effect of growing season temperature on American farmland values and crop yields. The paper finds evidence of the hill-shaped response function for both farmland value and crop yields. But there is no evidence of temperature thresholds whether temperature is measured at 3 hour intervals, daily, or for multiple days.

June 20, 2014

Book: Climate Change Mitigation, Technological Innovation and Adaptation

Finally, the long-due book that summarizes work done with the integrated assessment model WITCH
Abstract and contributors below, more information and order form here.


This book presents a rigorous yet accessible treatment of the main topics in climate change policy using a large body of research generated using WITCH (World Induced Technical Change Hybrid), an innovative and path-breaking integrated assessment model.

The authors give a particular emphasis to the analysis of technological change necessary to build low-carbon economies. The WITCH model can track all of the actions which impact the level of mitigation – such as R&D expenditures, investments in carbon-free technologies and adaptation, purchases of emission permits, or expenditures for carbon taxes – thus allowing for the evaluation of equilibrium responses stimulated by different climate policy tools. The chapters examine various questions to explore the future of climate change policy. Why is it so hard to achieve a global agreement that paves the way to widespread reductions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions? What are the technologies that would deliver clean energy without harming economic growth? And finally, how does uncertainty about future policies and future technologies affect choices in the present?

This innovative book will appeal to researchers, policy makers and academics interested in climate change policy.

Contributors: Valentina Bosetti, Carlo Carraro, Enrica De Cian, Thomas Longden, Emanuele Massetti, Lea Nicita, Fabio Sferra, Alessandra Sgobbi and Massimo Tavoni

June 18, 2014

Keynote at final meeting of Global-IQ Project

The keynote presentation that I gave at the final meeting of the EU FP7 project Global-IQ is available here.

The objective of the GLOBAL IQ project was three-fold:
  • to provide significant advances in the estimation of socio-economic impacts of global challenges – at Global, European and regional scale;
  • to identify optimal adaptation strategies;
  • to evaluate total costs and the optimal mix of adaptation and mitigation against global changes.

Led by Toulouse School of Economics, the Global IQ project involved eleven partners located in eight EU members states:

  • Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) France
  • Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) Italy
  • Internationales Institut für Angewandte Systemanalyse (IIASA) Austria
  • Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung (PIK) Germany
  • University of Gothenburg (UGOT) Sweden
  • Charles University in Prague (CUNI) Czech Republic
  • Istituto di Studi per l’Integrazione dei Sistemi (ISIS) Italy
  • London School of Economic (LSE) UK
  • Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva (HEID) Switzerland
  • Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) UK

April 15, 2014

IPCC WGIII Fifth Assessment Report: Investments and Cross Cutting Issues

The Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC was approved on Sunday April 13th.

The Summary for Policy Makers is available here.

Not major findings in my opinion. Maybe, the most important part is on the 2°C temperature limit.

In a nutshell: we can keep global mean temperature below 2°C if 1) ALL countries start 2) NOW using 3) ALL technologies available (including CCS and nuclear) and accept to loose 1.7% (1.0% – 3.7%) of consumption in 2030, 3.4% (2.1% – 6.2%) nel 2050 and 4.8% (2.9% – 11.4%) in 2100. If we start late, costs increase quickly and many models show that the 2°C is not feasible. If we do not use CCS, costs increase by 138%. Not really new findings, but good to see the IPCC endorsing results in the serious literature.

In practice (this is my opinion, not the IPCC opinion), the 2°C is not attainable with present technologies, if we do not (quickly) collectively embrace the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. A few years ago Carlo Carraro and I wrote a column for Vox-EU titled "The improbable 2°C target" on why we should prepare for 2.5 or 3°C.

The Chapter for which I was Lead Author is on Investments and Cross Cutting Issues (Ch 16). For the first time the report provides estimates of investments in key mitigation technologies (See the Figure below for change of investments in 2010-2029).

There are not many studies in the literature with investment estimates. Carlo CarraroAlice Favero and I co-authored one of the few studies in the literature that estimates investments in mitigation technologies. You find a copy here. Hopefully the authors of the next report will have more observations to build more robust estimates.

January 06, 2014

Do Temperature Thresholds Threaten American Farmland?

On January 4 I presented the paper titled "Do Temperature Thresholds Threaten American Farmland?" joint with Robert Mendelsohn at the ASSA meetings in Philadelphia.

The presentation is available here.

In short:

In this paper we use flexible functional forms to estimate the marginal effect of mean temperatures during 3-hour, daily and longer time intervals on land values. We use US Agricultural Census Data and detailed climate data obtained from the NARR model, a very large dataset that contains climatic data on 3-hour time intervals, at fine spatial resolution, from 1979 to present day. The paper finds no evidence of temperature threshold effects on land values and in the Eastern United States. The flexible functional forms suggest inverted-U shaped or almost constant marginal effects at different levels of temperature whether one is using average temperature over 3-hour, daily, continuous days or the growing season. We find instead evidence that land values in areas that are frequently affected by extreme heat waves reflect large expected productivity losses. Using annual yields and weather data we find evidence that both cold and high temperatures reduce corn, soybeans, and to a lesser extent, cotton yields. The downward sloping section of the relationship that relates temperature and yields is steeper than the upward sloping section but we do not find evidence of sudden discontinuities.

November 27, 2013

Presentation at COP 19 in Warsaw

On Thursday, November 21, I did a quick stop in Warsaw for the FEEM-CMCC-University of Venice side event at COP 19.

I gave a presentation for the general public on the benefits of adaptation, with a focus on the benefit for public finances. The presentation is available here.

The panel included:

Dr. Corrado Clini
General Director of Sustainable Development, Climate and Energy Directorate, Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and See

Prof. Carlo Carraro
President, Ca' Foscari University of Venice
Vice Chair, IPCC Working Group III
Director, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Programme, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei

Dr. Nancy Saich
Advisor on Climate & Environment, Projects Directorate, European Investment Bank

Dr. Serena Pontoglio
Research Programme Officer, Climate change and natural hazards unit, DG Research & Innovation, European Commission

Dr. Richard Klein
Senior Research Fellow, Theme Leader "Reducing Climate Risk", Stockholm Environment Institute

November 20, 2013

Trade of Woody Biomass for Electricity Generation Under Climate Mitigation Policy

The paper on woody biomass trade is now published online by Resource and Energy Economics:

Favero, A. and E. Massetti. 2013. “Trade of Woody Biomass for Electricity Generation Under Climate Mitigation Policy.” Resource and Energy Economics, published online.

Here is the abstract:

Bio-energy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) has the potential to be a key mitigation option, because it can generate electricity and absorb emissions at the same time. However, biomass is not distributed evenly across the globe and regions with a potentially high demand might be constrained by limited domestic supply. Therefore, climate mitigation policies might create the incentive to trade biomass internationally. This paper uses scenarios generated by the integrated assessment model WITCH to study trade of woody biomass from multiple perspectives: the volume of biomass traded, its value, the impact on other power generation technologies and on the efficiency of mitigation policy. The policy scenarios consist of three representative carbon tax policies (4.8 W/m2, 3.8 W/m2 and 3.2 W/m2 radiative forcing values in 2100) and a cap-and-trade scheme (3.8 W/m2 in 2100). Results show that the incentive to trade biomass is high: at least 50% of biomass consumed globally is traded internationally. Regions trade 13-69 EJ/yr of woody biomass in 2050 and 55-81 EJ/yr in 2100. In 2100 the value of biomass traded is equal to US$ 0.7-7.2 Trillion. Trade of woody biomass substantially increases the efficiency of the mitigation policy. In the tax scenarios, abatement increases by 120-323 Gt CO2 over the century. In the cap-and-trade scenario biomass trade reduces the price of emission allowances by 34% in 2100 and cumulative discounted policy costs by 14%.

October 16, 2013

Chaos in climate change scenarios means chaos in climate change impact estimates?

I finished a first complete draft of the paper "Chaos in climate change impact estimates".

Why the 2011-2030 years averages of temperature anomaly in December, January, February are so different for the same General Circulation model that uses virtually identical emissions trajectories?

(Thanks to Paola Marson for generating these maps!)

What are the implications for the impacts literature?

Is it really possible to use high-resolution climate change scenarios to predict impacts at sub-regional level?

These are the questions that I address in this paper at the cross-road of climate science, economics and the impacts literature.

I copy the abstract below. The draft of the paper on GCM scenarios is ready and available here. A lot of maps and other Supplementary Material is available here.

Global Circulation Models incorporate chaotic dynamics to reflect real-world weather patterns. This implies that extremely small perturbations of the climate system may generate very different weather patterns. Here I show that the SRES climate change scenarios generated by the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) - ubiquitous in the impact literature - display strong chaotic dynamics at regional and sub-regional level, at least until 2065. Chaos is triggered by changes to historic forcing in the year 2000 to reflect different emissions trajectories. This suggests that large uncertainty exists on how to link local climate change and global forcing. Furthermore,  short- and mid-term differences in local climate change across different SRES emission scenarios reflect chaotic dynamics rather than different forcing patterns. I show that the "chaos" in the climate scenarios generates a "chaotic" relationship between exogenous forcing and local economic impacts. "Perturbed exogenous forcing" model ensemble would resolve this uncertainty.