Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Greg Combet

Today Greg Combet, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, spoke at the Crawford School on "Australia in a climate changed world – Moving forward to Cancún and beyond". Frank Jotzo and Carolyn Hendricks gave follow-up presentations on international and domestic aspects of the current climate change policy debate.

The Australian is emphasizing his reiteration of the 5% unconditional target and the strong conditions he put on Australia adopting the 15% target. He said that the latter would require verifiable restraint in emissions from developing countries and similar action to Australia by developed countries. The US at the moment doesn't seem likely to do the latter and China is resisting the kind of verifiability he probably wants. He said the 25% target could be adopted only with a legally binding international agreement to limit greenhouse gas concentrations to 450ppm or less.

He seems to be a pretty good speaker (better than some politicians I've encountered) and laid things out in a very clear fashion. He also answered extensive questions in a very forthright manner. I was impressed also by his emphasis on carbon pricing as the main tool throughout his speech and answers and the blame he placed on Greens for not passing the CPRS. He said they were now being given a second chance. He didn't understand their opposition, given that the level of abatement can always be raised in the future by reducing the cap. Given the nature of the Australian economy, he didn't think lobbyists had an undue influence on the design of the CPRS (there was less compensation than proposed in the US and implemented in Europe from my understanding, so I'd agree on that). He also claimed that the 5% emissions reduction proposed by Australia was a greater percentage cut in per capita emissions than was Europe's 20% cut.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Highly-Cited Papers are More Likely to Cite Highly-Cited Papers

An interesting paper in PLOS ONE performed an analysis of all papers published in 2003 that are included in the intersection of the Scopus and ISI databases. They find that the most cited papers in the following 5 years are more likely to cite other highly cited papers than lower ranked papers are to cite highly cited papers relative to how much each group cited less highly cited papers. This is the figure they give for the life sciences:

The black curve shows that more than 50% of the references in the 1% most cited papers were also to papers that were in the 1% most cited category. However, the green curve shows that less than 20% of the references in the papers in the bottom half of the citation distribution - were to papers in the 1% most cited group. The effects were less dramatic in physical and social sciences.

This isn't so surprising in retrospect but it's nice to see the data. The authors claim that this shows that innovative researchers "stand on the shoulders of giants" as Newton said.

At least a couple of other things could be going on:

1. Papers in small subfields or on speciality topics which won't get a huge amount of citations are citing other papers in their subfield or topic which also aren't highly cited. Think economic history for example in economics. No economic history journal has a high impact factor.

2. Top researchers are better at deciding which papers are important and are worthy of citation than are weaker researchers.

Also from PLOS ONE: referees suggested by authors rate papers better than referees suggested by editors and open access papers get cited more.

A Clarification, 14 Years On...

Maybe it is a bit late for this, but quite a few papers I get sent for review cite our 1996 paper in World Development as a rationale for estimating an environmental Kuznets curve model for a single country. We wrote:

"We believe a more fruitful approach to the analysis of the relationship between economic growth and environmental impact would be the examination of the historical experience of individual countries, using econometric and also qualitative historical analysis." (p. 1159)

As should be obvious from the preceding sentence "they will need to take the form of structural models, rather than reduced form equations of the EKC type" it's clear we didn't think that EKC models were very useful (though I know that "structural models" is rather vague). To the degree that they are useful they need to be estimated with a representative sample of countries and getting consistent estimates turns out to not be so straightforward.*

What we were thinking of in terms of individual countries is a proper analysis of what policies lead to reductions in pollution and what factors drove the adoption of those policies. For example, why was Japan one of the first countries to sharply cut sulfur emissions? What can we learn from this as we address our current issues with climate change or biodiversity protection? There is still plenty of scope for research of that sort.

* The simple between estimator seems to work quite well in this paper but that's not always the case.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

EEN Symposium on Monday

The EEN Symposium at the Crawford School starts on Monday. I'm giving my presentation at 1:30pm. The slides are here. For more details on the Symposium please visit the Crawford School website.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Call for Papers

The Journal of Industrial Ecology has a call for papers on the topic of "Greening Growing Giants". Quoting from the call:

"Questions relevant to this special issue include but are not limited to: What quantities of resources will be required globally in the near future, given the current dynamics of per capita resource use in developing countries? What role does the demand in industrial countries, and international trade, play in raising consumption levels in emerging economies? How much CO2 and/or pollutants will be produced through the resource use? What will be the technological potential for the reduction of resource demand and emissions? What are alternative development paths with low materials consumption and low emissions? What is the role of innovative practices at local level, especially in cities, in achieving alternative, more sustainable development pathways? What kind of policies, tools and practices are effective in achieving alternative development pathways?"

Deadline is 30 April 2011.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Madsen et al.: Four centuries of British economic growth: The roles of technology and population

In a paper forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Growth* Jakob Madsen et al. test the ability of alternative endogenous growth theories to explain the British Industrial Revolution. They conclude that Schumpetarian growth theory can explain the data while "semi-endogenous growth theory" cannot. Madsen recently won an ARC fellowship to pursue this research further.

Interestingly, when the change in coal production is added to the regression for labor productivity growth as a control variable its effect is found to be insignificant. Naturally, I find this surprising. What is being measured though is the effect of energy use controlling for a bunch of innovation variables. The expansion of coal use required extensive innovation. So maybe this isn't so surprising. Also the data is in terms of annual first differences, which will likely reduce the size of the effect found.

*A free version of the paper is available here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Did Incomes Grow in Pre-Industrial England?

This is a current point of contention among economic historians. Gregory Clark thinks that in the long-run they did not though they fluctuated considerably. In the wake of the Black Death incomes were high due to the increase in land per worker and they subsequently fell as population grew till eventually rising gain as the industrial revolution approached. I think this much is agreed but the question is how high were incomes in the late 14th Century. Clark thinks they were just as high as at the beginning of the 19th century. Gunnar Persson deems this "The Malthus Delusion". As an interesting aside I was amazed at how popular the name John was in 14th Century Essex:

I would have thought it was popular, but not this popular.

Recent Papers of Interest in Ecological Economics:

van den Bergh, J. C. J. M., Environment versus growth — A criticism of “degrowth” and a plea for “a-growth”, Ecological Economics.

van den Bergh makes a much more extensive version of the main argument I made in my review of Tim Jackson's book Prosperity without Growth. There aren't policy levers that can directly stop growth and it might not be what is needed to solve environmental problems anyway. It makes much more sense to implement direct policies on resource use, environmental quality etc. van den Bergh calls this "a-growth". Forget about growth per se as well as de-growth as policy targets and aim at achieving the things we actually want to achieve.

Henriques, S. T. and A. Kander, The modest environmental relief resulting from the transition to a service economy, Ecological Economics.

This paper expands Kander's previous study of dematerialization in Sweden to a group of 13 countries. That article showed that it was an illusion that a shift to the service sector had helped dematerialize the economy. Rather rapid productivity gains in the industrial sector had both reduced energy use and the share of manufacturing in GDP due to the fall in the price of manufactured goods relative to services. The trend to rising service prices relative to manufacturing prices due to productivity gains in manufacturing is known as Baumol's disease. They explain the new study in the abstract:

"A service transition is supposed to lead to the decline of energy intensity (energy/GDP). We argue that this interpretation is overly optimistic because the shift to a service economy is somewhat of an illusion in terms of real production. Several recent studies of structural effects on energy intensity have made the error of using sector shares in current prices, combined with GDP in constant prices, which is inconsistent and ignores the different behaviour of prices across sectors. We use the more correct method of sector shares in constant prices, and make an attempt to single out the effect from the real service transition by using two complementary methods: shift share analyses in current and constant prices, and Logarithmic Mean Divisia Index (LMDI) for 10 developed and 3 emerging economies. A service transition is rather modest in real terms. The major driver of the decline in energy intensity rests within the manufacturing sector. Meanwhile, the transition to a service sector had a small downward impact on energy intensity in 7 of the developed countries (and no impact in the others). For emerging economies like Brazil, Mexico and India, it is the residential sector that drives energy intensity down because of the declining share of this sector as the formal economy grows, and as a consequence of switching to more efficient fuels."

Article Level Metrics

Public Library of Science are providing an Excel file with details of citations and page views for all 18,000 + articles that they've published so far. Not sure what to do with it apart from note that the most viewed article is Why Most Published Research Results are False. It's only the 7th most cited article though. The winner by that metric is "Human MicroRNA Targets". The correlation between Scopus citations and pageviews is only 0.43. Of course, RePEc provide similar data on abstract views and downloads and citations but it would be hard or impossible to line the two datasets up at all.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

ARC Releases Proposed Changes to Discovery Program

They are looking for feedback on the proposals, but are planning to put them in place in time for the next round of Discovery applications in around 4 months time exactly. The main changes from what I gather are:

1. A new separate fellowship for early career researchers (ECRs).

2. The regular Discovery scheme will no longer take any special note of ECR applications.

3. "there will be revised application processes to reduce complexity, remove current restrictions on teaching relief and enable research-based creative practice proposals to be eligible."

4. All Discovery grants will be limited to three years full time ARC funding.

5. The current professorial fellowships will be replaced by a greater number (up to 70) of 2-3 year fellowships targeted at mid to late career academics.

6. "There will be greater emphasis on the assessment of the research proposal." I guess that means less emphasis on track records?