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Nathan Plein
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The most important part of this article in my opinion is the real lack of public and political awareness of these issues, especially overfishing. As someone who has lived by the ocean my whole life, I was aware of the the problems stemming for polluting the ocean, yet I had never of overfishing being a threat. However the last couple weeks of class and this article have shown me that overfishing might be the single biggest threat to the marine ecosystem. This lack of awareness is a problem because without the politicians being aware of the issue or the public calling for change nothing will happen. This also relates to the point made above by Holly that most people don't ever have significant experiences or interactions with the ocean. Without having these experiences it is hard for people to appreciate or understand the value of the marine ecosystem. With all of the other environmental issues our planet is facing right now, this is an issue that could go easily go overlooked because it does not hit close enough to home for most people.
I agree with many of the comments above that address concerns over the costs of a mass scale shift to renewable energy. While many of the benefits listed in this article such as reduce end-use power demand by 37 percent, prevent 4,000 premature deaths annually, and save $33 billion in health costs each year sound great, I don't see this happening in the near future. In my view it comes down to the point that John made above, in that people are going to have to be willing to incur the costs for a project like this now even though they may not see the benefits in their lifetime. I also think that the costs of doing nothing have not hit close enough to home yet for most people to be willing to take action. I think that until people start seeing some of the negative effects of the current path first hand, we will not see any moves like the one talked about in this article.
I agree with Chris in his point that this is a good representation of the direction the U.S. is going in terms of its energy policies. We have seen in the past decade or so many companies slowly making the change from coal to natural gas and renewable sources of energy. I think that part of this switch has to do with people starting to pay more attention to the consequences of using coal powered utilities, but I think a lot of this has to do with the large amount of natural gas recently discovered in the U.S. and the lower prices resulting from this. I think that this is not necessarily a trend that is being caused by concern for the environment, but rather a purely economic move as natural gas seems to be the way of the near future. We have also seen in many other articles we have read, that while natural gas is generally better for the environment and more efficient that coal, it is still not a sustainable option in the long run. Once again I see this as more evidence that we need to put some sort of price on carbon emissions, which would align firms economical decisions with environmentally conscious decisions.
I thought that this was a very interesting article and informative in explaining what black carbon actually is. The thing that struck me the most was the complexity of this particle and the amount of research still needed to be done to understand its effects. The cooling and warming effects of these particles is something that I had never heard of and is something that could play a big role in terms of the action we do or don't take against black carbon in the future. I do agree too with some of my classmates above in that this is a different issue than CO2 and should be approached differently. Another important aspect that this article highlighted was that black carbon not only has an effect on warming the planet, but also has more direct impact on modern life, such as air quality, rainfall in India, and soot in the Himalayas. These more "localized" cost could play a big role in us being able to pass some sort of regulation against black carbon.
Toggle Commented Feb 13, 2013 on Worse than we thought.... at Jolly Green General
This article talks about the cost of the recent natural disasters in the U.S. One problem I have with this article that has been expressed above by many of my classmates is that the author makes a direct link between these recent natural disasters and global climate change. There have been droughts, hurricanes, and other natural disasters for thousands of years and there is no evidence to say that the events that he references in this article were correlated to recent global climate change. While I do think that there is a correlation between these natural disasters and global climate change, in that they are occurring more often, I would have liked to see the other present some more evidence before moving on with his argument. However saying that, I do believe that it is time for America to get on board with the rest of the developed world and start addressing these environmental issues. As stated in the article the changes that we have seen have been due to warming of only .8 degrees centigrade and scientists predict that by the end of the century we could see warming of up to 4 to 5 degrees. This is a great cause for concern as we could see more severe and costly natural disasters in the future. We also don't know how this global climate change will affect the long run sustainability of the Earth. These are all important issues to consider when thinking about the cost vs benefit of regulating emissions.
The aspect of this article that struck me the most was how it highlighted many of the success of a cap and trade program. Over the first three years average annual emissions decreased by 23%, while the auctions for these permits raised over $952 million. As we can see this program has had the desired effects of raising revenue and cutting emissions. It also briefly alluded to the fact that much of the money raised by this system has been invested in clean energy programs. I believe the incentive that a cap and trade system creates to research and develop clean and efficient energy is one of the strongest arguments for implementing a system like this. When a cap and trade system is implemented companies that have low abatement costs and the ability to produce using cleaner energy have a competitive advantage because they don't have to pay for permits. This incentives the firms that have the high abatement cost to invest in cleaner technology to lower their abatement costs and become more competitive. Eventually, the hope is that over time this research and development will pay off and we will be able to switch completely over to clean energy sources and not have to depend on coal and oil. While this is still a long ways away I think that a system such as this is a step in the right direction.
I think that this article re-enforces the difference between taxing a "good" vs taxing a "bad". As others have commented above, most people look at a tax as solely a way to raise revenue and it tends to have a negative connotation. However, as we have seen in class and in this article a pigouvian tax does not create deadweight loss, but rather tries to return the market to it optimal point. We usually see a pigouvian tax employed in situations where the marginal social cost is greater than the marginal private cost and is used to reduce harmful behavior. By understanding the differences between a fiscal and pigouvian, it begs the question, why do we currently tax "good" such as income and expenditure at such a high rate, while many "bads" such as carbon don't get taxed at all? Taxing a "good" like income and expenditure creates DWL, while taxing some of these "bads" just returns the markets to their optimal point while still raising revenue. While there are many political roadblocks to making this transition from taxing "good" to "bad" I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed as we move forward.
Toggle Commented Jan 24, 2013 on My Bad..... at Jolly Green General
In this article Friedman draws a parallel between what he believes to be the two most important issues facing Americans today, the annual federal budget deficit and the emission of carbon into the atmosphere. He argues that the rates at which we are building up financial debt and emitting carbon in to the atmosphere are unsustainable and we are approaching the point to where there is no turning back. He proposes that a carbon tax is a solution to both of these issues. While I do agree with the author that we should have a carbon tax, I also like many of the points that Chris and others in the class have brought up. As discussed in class, being in favor of a carbon tax is not a politicly advantageous stance to take because it would effect almost every American in the form of higher gas and electricity prices. I like Chris's and Nick's point about pairing a carbon tax with tax decreases in other areas to lessen the burden on the American people and get them on board. However while I think this would be an ideal solution, I don't see it happening in the near future. With all the problems that are facing our country today I don't believe the majority of Americans would be willing to pay more for something that may have no effect during their lifetime. I also don't think that with all of the pressures Congress is facing today that they would be able to come to a compromise and couple a carbon tax, with breaks in other areas.
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Jan 14, 2013