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As Sandy made landfall it coincided with a high spring tide, leading to the highest storm surge for the region in years.

'A more human workplace is key to the future of work'

In both cases it was a combination of factors, not a single factor, which amplified the destructive nature of these events. This confluence of multiple factors and dependent interactions, so often associated with catastrophic weather events, makes it difficult to understand how other catastrophic weather impacts may change in the future with climate change. This lack of understanding makes it very difficult for the business community to put in place strategies to preserve infrastructure, environments and, most importantly, human life. Currently, climate researchers use climate models to generate scenarios and from this estimate impacts.

This scenario-based approach looks at individual drivers of extreme events or combines multiple drivers, such as run-off, temperature and precipitation first. Then it calculates the likely impact.


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We see the results of this approach expressed in terms like flood risk, impacts on crop yields and human health. This scenario approach has a range of shortcomings. It commonly requires bias correction and downscaling, which increases the uncertainty around those impacts.

This uncertainty is elevated even further because while researchers may include changing emissions or global temperatures in their models, other important elements that alter over time are likely to be fixed or very poorly estimated. These factors are a moving feast, making impact assessments increasingly less reliable over time. The researchers writing in Nature Climate Change suggest a paradigm shift in how climate scientists approach these impact assessments.

They suggest examining the system or potential catastrophe first instead of making the starting point a climate scenario. Researchers can then clearly identify the variables, multiple system processes and phenomena that would need to be impacted to lead to a catastrophe. As an example they suggest looking at the possible meteorological drivers that would lead to a citywide power outage. This would mean examining the climate-sensitive elements of the power system such as renewable power resources or physical assets like poles and wires that could be affected by heavy winds, lightning and flooding.

With this knowledge as the starting point, it becomes possible to understand what confluence of climate hazards could influence the system and then look at the likelihood of these occurrences. It also gives business and infrastructure experts insights into where the most effective changes can be made to build climate resilience into a system.

Essentially, this approach is similar to stress testing a business, only coupled with a climate context. It has the advantage of identifying system weaknesses before they occur and reveals paths to the most effective protective measures. To achieve the paradigm shift required for the stress test approach, the researchers put forward six recommendations.

They are:. Nature Climate Change , doi: Alvin worked as an editor with Fairfax Community News and then News Local for over a decade before moving across to media communications. Thereafter, markets stabilised, notably boosting asset prices and capital flows to EMEs once more.

The alternation of calm and turbulence left a clear imprint on financial markets. Credit spreads were considerably higher, especially in the energy sector and in many commodity-exporting countries. The US dollar had appreciated against most currencies. And long-term yields were plumbing new depths. Against this backdrop, the room for macroeconomic policy manoeuvre narrowed further - the third element of the risky trinity. This applies most obviously to monetary policy Chapter IV.

True, the Federal Reserve began to raise the policy rate after having kept it effectively at zero for seven years. But it subsequently signalled that it would tighten more gradually than originally planned. At the same time, monetary policy eased further in other key jurisdictions through both lower interest rates and a further expansion in central bank balance sheets. With the fiscal stance in advanced economies turning, on balance, more neutral or supportive of economic activity in the short term, the process of long-term consolidation paused.

In the meantime, fiscal positions weakened substantially in EMEs, especially commodity exporters. It is tempting to look at the global economy over time as a set of unrelated frames - or, in economists' parlance, as a series of unexpected shocks that buffet it about. But a more revealing approach may be to look at it as a movie, with clearly related scenes. As the plot unfolds, the players find that what they did in the early part of the movie inevitably constrains what they can reasonably do next - sometimes in ways they had not anticipated.

Again, in economists' parlance, it is not just "shocks" but "stocks" - the underlying circumstances that have evolved - that matter. This suggested perspective may help to explain not only how we got here, but also what the future might have in store. As argued in previous Annual Reports, the movie that best describes the current predicament of the global economy probably started many years back, even before the crisis struck. And, in many respects, we may not yet have stepped out of the long shadow of the crisis. The crisis appears to have permanently reduced the level of output.

Empirical evidence increasingly indicates that growth following financial crises may recover its previous long-term trend, but the output level typically does not. So, a permanent gap opens up between the pre-crisis and post-crisis trend of the output level Chapter V. On this basis, given the almost unprecedented breadth and depth of the recent crisis, it would be unrealistic to think that output could regain its pre-crisis trend. Hence the persistent disappointing outcomes and gradual ratcheting down of potential output estimates.

All this would imply that, at least for a while, the crisis reduced the growth of potential output. The persistent and otherwise puzzling slowdown in productivity growth is consistent with this. There are many candidate explanations for the mechanisms at work. But a possibly underappreciated one is the legacy of the preceding outsize financial boom Chapter III.

Recent BIS research covering more than 20 advanced economies and 40 years suggests three conclusions: financial booms can undermine productivity growth as they occur; a good chunk of the erosion typically reflects the shift of labour to sectors with lower productivity growth; and, importantly, the impact of the misallocations that occur during a boom appears to be much larger and more persistent once a crisis follows.

The corresponding effects on productivity growth can be substantial. Taking, say, a five-year boom and five post-crisis years together, the cumulative impact would amount to a loss of some 4 percentage points. Put differently, for the period , the loss could equal about 0. This roughly corresponds to their actual average productivity growth during the same window. The results suggest that, in addition to the well known debilitating effects of deficient aggregate demand, the impact of financial booms and busts on the supply side of the economy cannot be ignored. In this movie, the policy response successfully stabilised the economy during the crisis, but as events unfolded, and the recovery proved weaker than expected, it was not sufficiently balanced.

It paid too little attention to balance sheet repair and structural measures relative to traditional aggregate demand measures. In particular, monetary policy took the brunt of the burden even as its effectiveness was seriously challenged. After all, an impaired financial system made it harder for easing to gain traction, overindebted private sector agents retrenched, and monetary policy could do little to facilitate the needed rebalancing in the allocation of resources.

When the future becomes today

As the authorities pushed harder on the accelerator, the room for manoeuvre progressively narrowed. This had broader implications globally. For one, with domestic monetary policy channels seemingly becoming less effective, the exchange rate rose in prominence by default Chapter IV. And resistance to unwelcome currency appreciation elsewhere helped spread exceptionally easy monetary conditions to the rest of the world, as traditional benchmarks attest Graph I. In addition, the exceptionally easy monetary stance in the countries with international currencies, especially the United States, directly boosted credit expansion elsewhere.

Global liquidity surged as financing conditions in international markets eased Chapter III.

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In sum, we witnessed a rotation in financial booms and busts around the world after the crisis. The private sector in the advanced economies at the heart of the crisis slowly started to deleverage; elsewhere, especially but not only in EMEs, the private sector accelerated the pace of releveraging as it left behind the memory of the Asian crisis. Signs of unsustainable financial booms began to appear in EMEs in the form of strong increases in credit and property prices and, as in previous episodes, foreign currency borrowing.

Currency appreciations failed to arrest the tide. In fact, as BIS research suggests, they may have even encouraged risk-taking, as they seemingly strengthened the balance sheet of foreign currency borrowers and induced lenders to grant more credit the "risk-taking channel" Chapters III and IV. Crucially, the prices of commodities, especially oil, reinforced these developments - hence all the talk about a commodity "supercycle" Chapter III.

On the one hand, the strong growth of more energy-intensive EMEs drove prices higher. China, the marginal buyer of a wide swathe of commodities, played an outsize role as it embarked on a major fiscal and credit-fuelled expansion after the crisis, thereby reversing the sharp, crisis-induced drop in prices and giving the commodity boom a new lease of life.

On the other hand, easy monetary and financial conditions boosted commodity prices further. And as prices soared, they reinforced the financial booms and easy external liquidity conditions for many commodity producers. The mutually reinforcing feedback gained momentum. What we have been witnessing over the past year may be the beginning of a major, inevitable and needed realignment in which these various elements reverse course. Domestic financial cycles have been maturing or turning in a number of EMEs, not least China, and their growth has slowed. Commodity prices have fallen. More specifically, a combination of weaker consumption and more ample production has put further pressure on the oil price.

In addition, actual and expected US monetary policy tightening against the backdrop of continued easing elsewhere has supported US dollar appreciation. This in turn has tightened financing conditions for those that borrowed heavily in the currency Chapter III.

The Return of Future Storm

We have also seen that this realignment is neither smooth nor steady. Rather, it slows or accelerates as market expectations change. Indeed, since the financial market turbulence in early , oil prices have recovered and the US dollar has lost some of the ground gained earlier.


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In some cases, these market shifts reflect shocks of a more political nature, such as uncertainties around the UK referendum on continued EU membership. But mostly they are in response to the same underlying forces that have been shaping the global economy for a long time: shifting expectations of monetary policy, the evolution of borrowing costs in major currencies, and further credit-fuelled stimulus in China.

Professor Gerd Masselink

In the end, it is the stocks, and far less the shocks, that are driving the global adjustment. Two factors stand out in this narrative: debt and the cumulative impact of past decisions. Debt can help better explain what would otherwise appear as independent bolts from the blue Chapter III. First, it sheds light on the EMEs' slowdown and on global growth patterns. Debt is at the heart of domestic financial cycles and of the tightening of financing conditions linked to foreign currency borrowing. This is most evident for commodity producers, especially oil exporters, who have seen their revenues and collateral strength collapse - hence the large holes in fiscal accounts and big investment cuts.

And debt may be one reason why the boost to consumption in oil-importing countries has been disappointing: households have been shoring up their balance sheets. Second, debt provides clues about the currency movements in the past year and their impact on output.