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Matthew Inglis
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Designing a domestic CO2 tax is likely a necessary step in combatting the growing negative effects of emissions. Although the article discusses the need for an international policy shift, the domestic tax portion struck me most. I understand both mindsets of proponents for a tax from the economic point of view: moderate taxation increasing over time and steep taxation to begin with. However, I believe the more economists that push for the latter, the less likely positive policy changes are to be adopted. It seems dangerous to suggest that such sharp taxes should be implemented at one time, as it may alienate those that do not agree with or comprehend the consequences of emissions; the extreme nature of this suggestion could result in push back that does not allow for any tax to be implemented. If economists got together and attempted to unify in the mindset of gradual taxation on emissions, the pushback at the policy level will likely not be as large. In turn, this may result in actual change occurring. Although, one could argue that this may also see pushback, as those against a gradually increasing tax could say that a small tax would not make enough of a difference. This is evidently an invalid argument, but that seems to be the case with many politicians' viewpoints. Regardless, a tax would benefit the reduction of emissions and consequently climate change, so hopefully we can get past rhetoric and move towards meaningful change.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
Nuclear fission offers an alternative to fossil fuel that is better for the environment, so it is a shame that nuclear power is such an important target for terrorists. However, the destructive and fear-causing capabilities of an attack on a nuclear plant would be far-reaching; in a world where violence is becoming more prevalent, the volatile nature of extremist groups makes the what if's of nuclear power become even more scary. Even if an attack must be incredibly precise for any real damage to be done, there is still the possibility. Additionally, the waste component of nuclear fission makes nuclear power an even less likely candidate for alternative energy production. In regards to this, both the problems of terrorism and environmental damage are essential to evaluate. As Greenpeace International says, "Much of this nuclear waste will remain hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years, leaving a poisonous legacy to future generations." Though coal combustion emissions are likely worse, there must be another choice when it comes to energy production - one that doesn't hurt the environment to a great extent. It is interesting to note when looking at the Stabilization Wedges paper the variety of energy sources. However, most have drawbacks. The only option that seems to have solely benefits is wind power. Thus, out of necessity, further technologies must be developed. How is it possible to have such limited options when it comes to alternative energies? I suppose some big reasons are the coal lobby and the consistently low short-term consequences for high profits, but we must start thinking about our future and abandon methods that cause only some to profit. This will allow all of us, including generations to come, to benefit going forward. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/nuclear/waste/
Toggle Commented Mar 14, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
Like some other students have said, this paper would have been alarming if I were not aware of the problems associated with the coal life cycle. Throughout the term, we have been informed on the cycle's detrimental effects to the environment. As Prof. Casey has said, this paper examines the moment coal is extracted from the earth to the time it comes out of the exhaust pipe. I like the way Epstein et al. included a table to explain the varying impacts of each part of the cycle. What I found in new information in this table was the impacts other than those that are environmental and economic. The environmental and economic effects are clearly important to analyze in an environmental economics course, but the effects on humans are major in understanding the implications of coal use - especially since people are more likely to be against something if they are being harmed. If there were no visible effects to humans, then solely the damages caused by coal may not be convincing enough. Additionally, the damages are not only to workers extracting the coal. They are widespread and felt by everyone - most notably during the coal combustion phase where the human effect is "increased mortality and morbidity due to combustion pollution." I sometimes wonder why we haven't done more to counter these effects, and then I am reminded that there is a lot of money to be made from coal production. Although, hopefully we can eventually work together as humans to move towards a healthier world.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2016 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
As some others have talked about, the tier system provides an outline of the three-pronged approach to environmental conservation. I found this to be pretty useful in bettering my understanding of the methods available. As the text points out, the second tier titled enabling involves institutions/governance and social/behavioral patterns. I see how this is the portion that is often overlooked in our current approach. It is necessary to include it, however, or else conservation attempts will never be very effective at the general level. Simply put, conservation attempts that lack an institutional input are not comprehensive. I looked into the UN-REDD program discussed in the piece. It does indeed only focus on the first and third tiers. The about section of the program's web page (http://www.un-redd.org/aboutredd) confirms this. It only mentions statistics about deforestation and global greenhouse gas emissions and then the program's attempt at incentivizing reduction of emissions in developing countries. The goal of the program is great, but without the necessary governance portion of its approach to conservation promotion, UN-REDD will likely not accomplish it to the extent which is needed. If more complete conservation tactics are employed, we may see some considerable improvements. Until then, however, we should keep trying.
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2016 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
It might be beneficial to talk about bioeconomic equilibrium and the shift of the locus of biological equilibria from Kahn Chapter 11.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2016 on More Chapters from Kahn at Jolly Green General
After reading this article, I feel that there exists data to support my previous assumption of a high willingness to pay for a scuba diving experience that features live organisms and great marine diversity. Most that travel to the Caribbean to scuba dive are well-off. An increase in a fee to dive would not be felt much by the divers themselves. They have likely paid much more in travel expenses (since we learn that "most respondents were vacation travelers from the UK (46%) or the US (32%)" (page 32)). We also discover that a large portion of the respondents were "generally affluent and highly educated" (page 32). These factors lead me to believe that many are able to pay for the travel and scuba diving fees, while staying within budget, and I believe an increase in diving fees would not cause a traveler to go out of that budget - at least noticeably. This case is made stronger when one takes into consideration an increased willingness to pay for a higher quality product. The higher fee will ultimately lead to a better preserved recreational area and a better overall experience for the divers. The benefits of higher diving fees may reach beyond the divers, as Schuhmann et al. point out in the conclusion of the paper. The local economy could profit from the change, and see an influx of some of the economic surplus. Hence, there are definitely advantages of increasing the diving fee. I wonder if this data was or will be used by local/national policy makers before the Barbados marine ecosystem becomes damaged beyond repair.
Toggle Commented Jan 30, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
What I liked about this article was that Coase at one point addresses the Pigovian approach and explains the problem with it. On pages 32-34, Coase uses his example of trains and the question of who should be held accountable for fire damages to crops. Interestingly, he brings in the Pigovian take on this, and he agrees with it. This is something that relatively surprised me - I did not expect Coase to be in accord with Pigou. However, Coase goes after the method in which Pigou conducts his analysis of the situation, stating, "Pigou does not seem to have noticed that his analysis is dealing with an entirely different question" (Coase 34). The discussion that follows this excerpt regards the vagueness of private and social products in the real world. This made it easier to understand the reason for such differing approaches to a problem. Situations that we occur in life are not as black and white as models make them appear. This seems obvious, but it is important to remember when investigating a scenario and possible actions that should be taken. Despite all this, I wonder: Are there times when Coase's approach should be scrutinized? He seems to effectively shut down Pigou's method, but surely there are situations where a Pigovian analysis may be more correct/appropriate.
Hardin's argument is strong in its focuses of finite space and the degradation of resources. He makes a good point when he declares the negative consequences of a farmer adding another cattle to its herd - that is that the environment and soil are impacted. On the other hand, the farmer does benefit on an individual level. However, as many have pointed out, this scenario is not one of great relevance to an economist's modern approach. As Krutilla points out, the changing times have caused a change in the way one should view this 'tragedy' of the commons. Technology has advanced to the point of massive yields in food crops. This technology even goes as far as genetic modification of basic items. At a genetic level, they are being fundamentally altered. This could prove harmful in the long run, but for our purposes, I do believe that this could prove extremely beneficial as well. An example of this would be crops that have minimal negative impact on the environment. In terms of pollution, Hardin does make another valid point in that pollution is a consequence of population. We are pumping dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere at alarming rates. This, I do not believe, has changed much since Hardin wrote the piece. However, again, the technology (both that is available now and that is being developed) is changing the way in which we can reduce pollution levels. We have recognized the harmful effects of pollution, and we are at least starting to do something about the problem. It is interesting that the 'tragedy of the commons' has become yet another catch-phrase that is used over and over. At least for the most part, Hardin's ideas and declarations are of merit. What must be done now: we must use the technology available to ensure that we have a sustained livable world in the future.
Toggle Commented Jan 22, 2016 on ECON 255 for Friday at Jolly Green General
In tomorrow's class, I believe it would be interesting to investigate table 13.1: Estimates of Forest Cover Area and Deforestation by geographic subareas, and table 13.2: Forested Area and Deforestation Rates during the 1990s, from chapter 13. They support the claim that we have been over-harvesting our forests through empirical evidence. From table 13.1, not a single subarea saw an increased or even maintained forest area. This is concerning and could help lead a discussion on why conservation is necessary.
Toggle Commented Mar 11, 2015 on For Thursday at Jolly Green General
Like others have pointed out, although well-intentioned initiatives look to change problems faced such as the small mesh fish-nets, they are extremely difficult to implement. In terms of this social policy, fishermen do not have the economic incentive to make the switch. Why would one switch a net if it means decreased yield? The only real reason then becomes an environmentally conscious mindset, so unless the fishermen are concerned about sustainability over profit, the net switch is simply a novel idea. Hence, the main burden is placed on the early adopters. The 5-6 inch nets of course decrease yield. The punishment of the regulation is worth the ability to continue using the smaller mesh nets. As the initiative realizes this and changes the new nets to a much smaller 3-inch mesh, then it makes the difference less noticeable. As a fishermen, the costs and benefits must then be reevaluated. Suddenly, yield is not as decreased since the mesh is only slightly larger. Also, the punishment for continuing to use the old nets may now outweigh the benefit of using the old nets. This combination of net switches and regulation could work, however, it does not seem like the most appropriate approach. If more positive incentives in some way were implemented, then the fishermen would more likely adopt them, and the environment would benefit more.
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2015 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Many of the above posts do well at pointing out the potential flaws in the paper. There indeed does seem to be a lack of sample diversity, resulting in perhaps irrelevant data. At the same time, however, the divers are the intended focus. It is not necessary to poll the 'hungry islanders' that another student pointed out if the force behind the study is to determine a certain willingness to pay for recreation. Going slightly off topic, the information gained from this study could very well provide economic stimulus through higher prices for dives, which in turn could aid needy islanders. The study accomplishes its goal of evaluating the target consumer of the marine biodiversity. What I find truly telling is the detail of the consumer in which the study goes. The affluence and diving experience of many of the divers are two details that some have argued create bias. To the contrary, I believe that they truly represent the consumer that can afford the marine recreation. This also helps in understanding the considerably higher willingness to pay for higher quality marine biodiversity.
Toggle Commented Jan 29, 2015 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Hardin makes a compelling argument about finite space and the degradation of resources. When a farmer is considering the marginal benefit of adding a cattle, it seems Hardin's scenario does negatively affect the environment and soil while positively affecting the farmer. However, in today's society, the scenario is less accurate or perhaps less pertinent. As the added section, "Tragedy of the Commons Revisited" discusses, society is not the same as it was before. With this assumption of changed ways, I look at technology of today in comparison to technology of before. In this relatively short time span, technology has greatly improved, allowing for higher yielding crops through genetic modification of food. I would not be surprised if eventually science aided in the creation of food that has an extremely high yield and also does not permanently impact soil/the environment. Moving to a new area, I look at pollution. Granted, from Hardin's piece, pollution is still similar today as it was then. But as we discussed in class, there seem to be future technological advances that are not too far from reality such as a way to extract energy from coal without using combustion. If and when this comes to be, the continued use of fossil fuels will no longer pollute the environment. As a result, Hardin's statement, "The pollution problem is a consequence of population" (Tragedy of the Commons) would remain valid for pollution in general, but not this very prominent type. I believe that if this is possible, then other activities that contribute to our pollution levels can also be altered to reduce the amount created. Wind and solar powers also give hope to energy sources that do not negatively impact the environment.
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2015 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 21, 2015