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William Bannister
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Reading through the comments, I have to say that Spencer makes a very good point regarding the simplicity of Aldy et al's argument regarding having the same costs for emitting CO2 worldwide. The idea that the economy of a country e.g. Ecuador would stall given an increase in the price of CO2 is a very real issue, and one that Spencer has done well to pick up on. My own issue with reading an article like this comes from reading about various "emission targets" such as what you find with the Kyoto treaty. It is all well and good to set these kinds of targets, but as I far as I have read/know, there doesn't seem to be too much in the way of penalties for countries that fail to meet their targets. Therefore, there is little incentive for countries to really strive to meet their goals, because hey if they don't meet their 2020 goals, then there's always 2030 to look towards, then 2040 etc etc. The point I'm trying to make with this is that I strongly doubt the overall effectiveness of various country-country agreements to lower CO2 emissions within an adequate time frame. If there were genuinely strong incentives to meet emission targets, then global emissions of CO2 would get cut at more or less the rate that would be required to make a genuine difference to climate change. What those incentives would be is the tricky question to answer, as it would be hard to agree on any punishment without one major power being upset about it. The first thought that came to my mind was imposing trade penalties on a country that doesn't meet its target, but I am unaware of how this would really work, and something I'd like to find out about.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
I read the Pacala article, and I think that a lot of the options that were laid out are definitely reachable objectives for the next 50 years. The options that are most viable and realistically achievable are the 'category 1' efficiency based options. Technology is improving all the time, and variables such as fuel economy and power plant efficiency will naturally increase along with it, so those two variables in particular are easily attainable. Furthermore, the options to develop and improve the cleaner energy generation methods such as biofuels, nuclear, and wind energy are all also very likely to become far more dominant and widespread in the near future. In fact, for a different class paper, I found out at present the world is already adding more capacity for renewable power than coal, oil and gas combined, projected to be 4x greater by 2030. Also, the International Energy Agency stated that Solar could be the biggest source of energy worldwide by 2050, despite it being at around 1% currently. These projections or facts show that there is hope for the renewable energy industry to become the dominant energy provider in the future, and so it is now up to the general population to change our tastes and preferences. What I mean by this is that, its of little use to have new and clean methods of generating power, or reducing fossil fuel emissions - if we don't take part in these methods. What I mean by this is, for instances like "reducing reliance on cars" or "substituting natural gas for coal", if consumers or firms decide to free ride and say "oh everyone else will drive less" then these options for removing "wedges" will not work to their highest potential. Until there is a robust method of ensuring the general populace abides by an energy conserving lifestyle, then reducing CO2 emissions is always going to be an uphill battle.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
I think the first thing that struck me about this article is just how much content it has on all the detrimental affects of coal, that stretches far beyond what I personally have tended to think of. We all know of the issue of burning coal and its negative affects on the atmosphere with greenhouse gas emissions, but there is so much more to coal than that. As Ben mentions above, coal burning causing lung cancer and heart attacks etc. is something that I don't think gets as much attention as it should. The issue with attempting to reduce coal mining and usage is that, as mentioned in class, it is the most abundant fossil fuel resource out there, and in theory, as long as there is demand for producing goods and services via fossil fuels, then there will continue to be a market for coal. Something encouraging to be noted however, is the increased price competitiveness renewable energy resources now have. The abstract alludes to this, and actually in an article I read today for a different class, I found out that the price of fossil-fuel power averaged out at $35kWh, and the price for wind power and solar power was $29 and $57 respectively. The fact that wind is now cheaper than fossil fuel power, and solar is closing in, is hugely encouraging for the future. With technology ever improving and prices of renewable energy continuing to fall, it is becoming more and more believable that there will be suitable, financially viable replacements for fossil fuels, and maybe the various forecasted figures for coal usage in 2030 that were mentioned in the article, will in fact be much, much lower.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2016 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
The issue with protecting the Earth's biodiversity is clearly a hugely important and complicated one, and so it is no surprise that there has been limited progress with regards to its conservation. The article mentions the three tiers, and how "Existing efforts to address biodiversity loss have tended to jump from tier 1, the generation of knowledge, to tier 3, the design of appropriate instruments." The exclusion of tier 2 is critically important, and as the article also mentions, institutions within states are very difficult to change, with Rands et al. mentioning the presence of "patronage and corruption that govern the use and management of natural resources" [within the respective state's institutions]. Herein lies the biggest problem with incorporating tier 2 into the response to biodiversity loss - institutional policy towards biodiversity conservation stems from the political institutions of that same state. If a country is suffering from an immensely corrupt political state, or has a political environment that simply does not care for conservation, then enacting change within these institutions to conserve biodiversity is nigh on impossible. The article mentions all this in a similar manner. The question I want to ask is, is it viable to suggest that creating functioning markets from biodiversity will result in any significant change in conservation behavior? The reason I ask this is because I think of the example of the timber industry and deforestation, and I'm not 100% sure on how the market for timber works exactly, but a market clearly exists. However, the issue of deforestation and the subsequent habitat loss is still present. So why will anything different happen with conservation patterns if we create markets out of biodiversity? Or do I have the wrong end of the stick here?
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2016 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
What interested me most within the readings was the talk on international water issues at the end of chapter 15. The segment on privatization of water in the third world was especially interesting. The problems with private water supply are clear, and one assumes that these problems either come about, or are worse in the underdeveloped regions that have issues with their political institutions i.e. corruption. There have been many cases that underdeveloped regions suffering from drought have been the subject of international aid that ships/flies in water to help the populace, but given the prevalence of political corruption in drought affected countries, this aid usually does not go to the right places, and is hence ineffective. So, this is a statement rather than a question, but underdeveloped countries, that are suffering from water supply issues, need to be focusing on improving their political institutions first, before tackling the perhaps smaller, but still significant issues such as the water shortages and problems with privatizing water supply.
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2016 on More Chapters from Kahn at Jolly Green General
As is made clear in the article, the survey results show that Scuba divers have a relatively high willingness to pay for optimal diving conditions (i.e. level of crowding, presence of sea turtles, quality of the reef, etc). And as many have picked up on, this makes perfect sense. People want to have the best consumer experience, especially if they are paying high amounts in travel costs etc. for the opportunity to experience it. However, one aspect of the survey that I don't think has been looked at extensively, is the idea that people's views when taking the survey may differ depending on the situation/location they are in. What I mean by this is, in the nice and sunny, relaxing location of a Barbados holiday, if the average person is asked a question about sea turtle conservation, then its very possible that they care more about that topic at that specific time, especially as the paper specify's that 95% of divers were interviewed after having experienced the wildlife. However, ask the same person the same question when they are sitting at their desk back in London or New York, and is it conceivable to suggest that their opinion may change in relation to how much they care for the benefits of sea turtle/coral reef conservation? Why I bring this up is because, realistically, in order to bring about a change in conservation techniques for endangered wildlife areas, there has to be a bigger population that care about this subject than solely the people that have experienced it/currently experiencing it. Therefore, I believe that the current level of survey size/results presented by the paper is not of sufficient depth in order to make economic policy decisions from, and thus would require a subsequent follow up survey, ideally directed at people living/working further away from the Barbados beaches.
Toggle Commented Feb 3, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
What I thought was most fascinating while reading "The Tragedy of the Commons" was seeing the state of affairs in 1968, and then comparing them to the scale of the problems today's world faces. I believe that Hardin made many relevant points regarding overpopulation and the problems it would subsequently cause the planet, but his views are naturally outdated, as he couldn't possibly predict the scale of technological advancement that the planet has experienced over the last 50 years. The main example that comes to my mind is food production, and Hardin's idea that the world is finite. Hardin mentions that it would be "impossible" to make everyone live off of the basic "maintenance of life" quantity of calories (1600) in order to conserve the finite amount of goods in the world, as that would require no extracurricular work being done by anyone - an unlikely scenario. However, understandably, Hardin does not take into account the Human population's ability to develop new technology and methods of staying alive, especially the advancements we have seen in recent times. For instance, wheat yields in developing countries have increased by 200% within the last 35 years. This is just one example showing the extent to which the efficiency and scale of food production has changed in recent history, and in this knowledge, it makes Hardin's views on the effects of overpopulation on finite goods flawed.
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2016 on ECON 255 for Friday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 21, 2016