ERG Colloquium - Hannah Druckenmiller

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

As natural disasters grow in frequency and intensity under climate change, limiting populations and properties in harm's way will be one important facet of adaptation. This study focuses on one approach to discouraging development in risky areas --- eliminating public incentives for development, such as infrastructure investments, disaster assistance, and subsidized federal flood insurance. We examine the Coastal Barrier Resources Act of 1982, which eliminated federal incentives in designated areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts known as the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS). We estimate the causal effect of CBRS designations by identifying plausible counterfactual areas using novel machine learning and matching techniques. Our results show that CBRS designations lower development density by 85% inside the designated areas but increase development in neighboring areas by 20%. We also show that the resulting conservation of natural lands generates environmental services in surrounding communities, increasing property values and reducing flood damages. These findings inform ongoing debates regarding cost- effective public policies to prevent over-development in risky areas.

Hannah Druckenmiller is an environmental economist and fellow at RFF. Her research aims to provide empirically based estimates for the environmental benefits and economic costs associated with natural resource protection. For example, she has experience quantifying the flood mitigation value of natural lands, developing new approaches for accounting for ecosystem services in climate policy, and identifying cost-effective climate adaptation solutions. Druckenmiller received her PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics in 2021 from UC Berkeley, where she was a doctoral fellow at the Global Policy Lab and a NSF Graduate Research Fellow.