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Emily Zankman
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In John C. Whiteheads presentation “Contingent Valuation: From Dubious to Hopeless?”, he highlights that Hausman “selectively reviews the CVM literature and fails to find progress over the 18 years since Diamond and Hausman argued that unquantified benefits and costs are preferred to benefits and costs quantified by CVM for policy analysis”. In his presentation, he gives counter examples to show that the CVM debate is ongoing- it is not hopeless as some claim. He also states that the issues of hypothetical bias, WTP vs WTA and scope still exist, but the difficulties they pose are not in any sense insurmountable.
I found this post particularly interesting as I just wrote a section on environmental justice in my thesis and used this as an example: One most notorious example of environmental injustice against African Americans occurred in Texarkana, Texas. Patsy Ruth Oliver, “a former resident of Carver Terrace, a polluted African-American suburb of Texarkana, began to notice dark patches of gunk seeping up through withered lawns, around puddle, and into the cracked centers of streets” (Shrader Frechette 207). Additionally, the area’s inhabitants had a strangely large number of medical problems. One year after the residents of Love Canal, New York, discovered leaking dioxin barrels under their homes, Carver Terrace’s case finally emerged to the public. When the US demanded that large chemical companies identify their hazardous waste sites, the Koppers Company of Pittsburgh identified Carver Terrace as one of their sites. For more than 50 years, Koppers “had used creosote (a known carcinogen) to coat railroad ties” (Shrader-Frechette 207). Then, in 1961, Koppers closed its operation in Carver Terrace, bulldozing over its facilities (and creosote tanks). Afterwards, poor families eagerly bought these cheap plots of land without realizing the dangers it would bring them. When Koppers finally admitted to their unsafe practices, the EPA investigated the area and identified the soil as contaminated. However, they did not interview any of the residents and instead declared that there was “no immediate health risk to citizens” (Shrader-Frechette 207). In response, the area’s inhabitants formed the Carver Terrace Community Action group and found out that the EPA had done two other studies on this area and found high levels of contaminants, but did not inform the residents of the risk (Shrader-Frechette 207). It is great to see how far the EPA has come since 1961 in regards to environmental justice. Hopefully this ambitious agenda that Tejada outlines will actually be carried out. Cited: Shrader-Frechette, Kristin. "Environmental Justice: Creating Equality, Reclaiming Democracy." Trans. Array Environmental Ethics: What Really Matters, What Really Works. David Schmidtz and Elizabeth Willott. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2012.
Given the impact that global climate change is having on New York through both rising sea levels and extreme weather events (e.g. Hurricane Sandy), I think it is the perfect political atmosphere to introduce an ambitious project such as this. As Robert Hayworth states, “We must be ambitious if we want to promote energy independence and curb global warming”. However, even if these changes are implemented, it is important to note that small scale drastic measures will not have a large effect on global warming mitigation. As we emphasized in class, combating global warming must be a global effort. Hopefully, New York can serve as the model for other states and countries. In the meantime, New York must not lose sight of the need to spend money on adaptations. Even if global warming is slowed, sea levels around New York will continue to rise (although at perhaps a lower rate). New York must be careful not to spend all their money on this energy transition in order to leave enough money for hard and soft infrastructure, pump systems, and other adaptation measures.
I find it very encouraging that environmental ethics appears to be shifting from a theoretical to more of an applied ethic. One can see in biomedical ethics principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, respect for autonomy, and justice. This article gives me hope that these same principles are starting to be applied to environmental policy decisions. The fact that “the retirement of the three AEP plants will prevent 203 early deaths, 310 heart attacks, 3,160 asthma attacks” shows the ethical directive to do no harm. Granted, there is an economic element to this as well so ethics is not the sole (and perhaps not the main) motivator. Furthermore, we still have a long ways to go in formulating environmental policies in a way that promotes human and ecosystem health. However, this is a positive indication of a shift to cleaner energy sources.
As others have stated above, I was surprised about the lack of publicity about the harmfulness of black carbon emissions. However, one of the points in the article that I found most promising is the fact that black carbon emissions wash out of the atmosphere fairly quickly. In my Coastal Policy class, I am currently researching about which flood protection measures in New York City would be most effective given the increasing rising sea level rates and the coast’s susceptibility to damage in extreme weather events (such as Hurricane Sandy). In this research, one of the points that was commonly made is that although it is important to reduce carbon emissions, because CO2 stays in the atmosphere for extended periods of time, the benefits of reducing carbon emissions would not be felt for another 100 years. In light of this article, I wonder if perhaps it would be a more effective, at least in the short term, to focus efforts on reducing black carbon emissions such fuel emissions and coal burning.
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2013 on Worse than we thought.... at Jolly Green General
I was surprised at my classmate’s quick dismissal of the link between climate change and natural disasters. According to the Huffington Post, “studies have increasingly found that global warming is already making certain types of extreme weather events, such as heat waves and precipitation extremes, more likely to occur and more severe”. According to a report issued by Munich Re in October, weather related loss events have almost quintupled between 1980 and 2011 in North America. In his report, Munich Re uses the example of thunderstorms in order to illustrate this correlation. He stated that “a detailed analysis… indicates the observed changes closely match the pattern of change in meteorological conditions necessary for the formation of large thunderstorm cells. Thus it is quite probable that changing climate conditions are the drivers”. Of course, Munich Re has those who disagree with him. It is important to realize that correlation does not imply causation. However, we know that global climate change will have disastrous impacts in other realms. Therefore, if the fear of natural disasters is a driver of new climate policies, why be so quick to dismiss the claim? Sited link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/18/natural-disaster-trends-report_n_1975190.html
In this article, Nate Silver expresses his surprise about the specificity of President Obama’s second term goals in his second inaugural address, particularly the fact that he devoted an entire paragraph to discuss the need for climate and energy policy changes Silver states that at least some of the public is on board with these kinds of changes. According to polls, 78 percent of respondents believe that “the planet has warmed over the past 100 years, and 49 percent said that they thought global warming would be a “very serious” problem for the United States if left unaddressed”. Further, 57 percent believe the government should enact new policies to combat global warming and 57 percent said “global warming was increasing the likelihood of storms like Hurricane Sandy”. It is positive that the American public is starting to realize global warming is a serious problem (after 99 percent of scientists have agreed on this issue for years). However, one must ask: will it be too little too late? If we are to combat these environmental issues, we will have to take radical action. However, how much will the American people sacrifice in order to do so?
As the other readers above, I was also enlightened by this distinction between fiscal and Pigouvian taxes. I think it is unfortunate that the general public tends to group all things with the word “tax” in it into one category: personally undesirable. People fail to see the fact that Pigouvian taxes not only “generate revenue as they improve efficiency” but also amplify the standard of living current and future generations. Perhaps it is time to change the phrase “Pigouvian tax” to “Pigouvian benefit”.
Toggle Commented Jan 22, 2013 on My Bad..... at Jolly Green General
Under the blog post link, Professor Casey asks the question: “Is it possible to have a win-win?” According to this article, the answer is absolutely. However, if the rationale behind a carbon tax is as logical as Thomas Friedman presents it, then why is this proposal not on the table? After considering this question, I looked into the objections to a carbon tax. According to Tejvan Pettinger in “Carbon Tax- Pros and Cons”, the cons of a carbon tax are: • Production may shift to countries with no or lower carbon taxes. • Cost of administrating the tax. • Difficult to know the level of external cost and how much the tax should be. • Possibility of tax evasion. Higher taxes may encourage firms to hide carbon emissions. • If demand is price inelastic, the tax may have to be very high to reduce demand significantly. • Consumers dislike new taxes and often don’t believe that they will be ‘revenue neutral’. This is not an economic argument, but it is a political reality and explains why it is often difficult to implement (Pettinger) Most of these objections have to do with the technicalities involved with setting up and enforcing such a tax. I believe that these concerns are valid; however, there are not any points that are impossible to solve or are strong enough to refute the entire tax proposal. Even if we cannot find ways to remedy all of the concerns, I do not find any of the points to be compelling in the face of upcoming financial and climate crises. Therefore, I agree with Friedman in asking “How could a carbon tax not be on the table today?”
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Jan 13, 2013