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Oliver Nettere
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The Mauna Loa study is important in climate science but only dates back 60 something years and began well after the industrial revolution. Longer term studies are very important to address the anthropogenic effects of climate change and are needed to separate these results from other natural occurring climate trends (also important to provide a counter-arguement to the "natural warming trend" ideas...). Proxies, which can serve as stand-in measurements for paleoclimate and CO2 concentrations are possible through a number of methods. In Confronting the Climate Energy Challenge, they touched upon carbon and boron isotopes to measure paleoclimate and pH, respectively. I am relatively familiar with isotope methods and was aware of using carbon isotopes for climate. Boron isotopes can indicate pH because compounds containing boron can dissociate in acidic waters leaving the 11B isotope to decay (I had to look this one up, Hemming & Honisch 2007). Carbon isotopes can tell paleoclimate because during periods of warm climate C4 plants are more dominate and become enriched in 13C while during cooler periods C3 plants are more dominate and are less enriched in 13C. The tree rings carbon isotope data you keep mentioning in class is a proxy for burning hydrocarbons. HC's have lighter carbon isotope values than the normal atmosphere value and tree rings will incorporate lighter and lighter d13C values over time. Oxygen isotopes can also be a proxy for paleoclimate as during cold periods there is greater amounts of 16O frozen in the polar regions so the ocean sediments/forams become enriched in 18O (I think Prof Greer is using these proxies). I think isotopes are a very powerful tool in a lot of fields of science.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
A little tidbit I found interesting in the biodiversity paper was the issue of government subsidies and how they can be deleterious to biodiversity levels. The paper didn't go deep into this issue but stated that government subsidies in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries could often be unsustainable and harmful to overall biodiversity levels. The midwestern ethanol subsidy that we have talked about in class is a good example of this fact where subsidizing this industry leaves a roughly homogeneous landscape with limited biodiversity in an area that theoretically would otherwise be more diverse native grasses that would likely support a more diverse assemblage of species. Not only does this subsidy decrease biodiversity levels, its net benefit to decrease use of fossil fuels and therefore emissions simply doesn't exist as production and processing of the corn for ethanol is actually more energy intensive. I'd like to learn more about which government subsidies are sustainable and which ones aren't. This paper proposed to address this question with the three points that subsidies must support: 1) biodiversity conservation, 2) poverty alleviation, and 3) the demands of a sustainable economy.
Toggle Commented Mar 3, 2016 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
One thing that I would find interesting to discuss while we're on the topic of forest management and economics is the issue of the nation's National Forest system. These are areas that are by definition owned by the taxpayer and a public good that we can all enjoy recreationally and intrinsically. However, these same areas can be harvested for timber by the government or leased to individual timber firms who can harvest for a profit. There seems to be a disconnect here making the National Forests appear to be both a public and private good.
Toggle Commented Feb 18, 2016 on ECON 255 and 102 at Jolly Green General
As a biology & enviro major I am quite familiar with research papers that promote conservation through empirical data. However, this paper promotes conservation using economic analysis, something that some arguments for conservation of resources often leave out. The valuation of the resource is vital if it is to be considered for protection by its stakeholders. Without an explicit price, as this paper points out, these resources are often undervalued and as a result, degraded. This research found that dive-tourists to Barbados are willing to pay for an increase in biodiversity, lower levels of crowding at dives sites, and high-quality corals. This fact demonstrates reefs are an asset to locals and should be protected as such. Further, economic incentives for protecting coral reefs should be considered through their increased valuation which will allow an increase in diver fees. These diver fees could be used to support the local economy and promote the protection of the reefs. Compensation could be provided to local fisherman who choose to harvest less fish which would increase fish abundance and diversity. The rate-hike in diver fees would also allow dive businesses to take less clients which would limit crowding at popular sites and reduce physical anchor and diver damages to the reefs.
Toggle Commented Feb 4, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
In Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons he proposes that we live in a finite world. He wrote this piece in the late 60's and now this fact is ever more pressing. As the global population experiences exponential growth and passes the 7 billion mark, the question Hardin proposed if everyone could cut down on their own personal consumption and standard of living would this allow for the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people? While this altruistic idea sounds reasonable, he argues that it is impossible as one variable works at the expense of the other and also that people would take advantage of their own personal well-being in a world wide "tragedy of the commons." Hardin also sees the solution of public relations campaigns and methods of swaying the public opinion (moral sausion) as unrealistic. His idea of the "tragedy of the commons" is something I can easily relate to having spent plenty of time on the publicly accessible National Forests fishing and hunting. The conservation in me says to release the large healthy trout so it can serve its function as broodstock, keeping the streams replenished with future fish and to let the little buck walk so one day he grows up. While this is my view others also spending time in "the commons" may view these same animals as something entirely different -- dinner.
Toggle Commented Jan 22, 2016 on ECON 255 for Friday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 21, 2016