Climate Change and the Federal Reserve

From Glenn D. Rudebusch at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Climate change describes the current trend toward higher average global temperatures and accompanying environmental shifts such as rising sea levels and more severe storms, floods, droughts, and heat waves. In coming decades, climate change—and efforts to limit that change and adapt to it—will have increasingly important effects on the U.S. economy. These effects and their associated risks are relevant considerations for the Federal Reserve in fulfilling its mandate for macroeconomic and financial stability.


To help foster macroeconomic and financial stability, it is essential for Federal Reserve policymakers to understand how the economy operates and evolves over time. In this century, three key forces are transforming the economy: a demographic shift toward an older population, rapid advances in technology, and climate change. Climate change has direct effects on the economy resulting from various environmental shifts, including hotter temperatures, rising sea levels, and more frequent and extreme storms, floods, and droughts. It also has indirect effects resulting from attempts to adapt to these new conditions and from efforts to limit or mitigate climate change through a transition to a low-carbon economy. This Economic Letter describes how the consequences of climate change are relevant for the Fed’s monetary and financial policy.

Climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy

Surface temperatures were first regularly recorded around the world in the late 1800s. Since then, the global average temperature has risen almost 2°F (Figure 1) with further increases projected (IPCC 2018). Based on extensive scientific theory and evidence, a consensus view among scientists is that global warming is the result of carbon emissions from burning coal, oil, and other fossil fuels. Indeed, as early as 1896, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius showed that carbon emissions from human activities could cause global warming through a greenhouse effect. The underlying science is straightforward: Certain gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and methane, capture the sun’s heat that is reflected off the Earth’s surface, thus blocking that heat from escaping into space. These greenhouse gases act like a blanket around the earth holding in heat. As more fossil fuels are burned, the blanket gets thicker, and global average temperatures increase. Other empirical measurements have confirmed many related adverse environmental changes such as rising sea levels and ocean acidity, shrinking glaciers and ice sheets, disappearing species, and more extreme storms (USGCRP 2018).


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Posted by at 8:12 AM

Labels: Energy & Climate Change


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