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Jonah M Mackay
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Previous respondents have summed up the pro's and con's of Aldy, Ley, and Parry's article fairly well. A carbon tax would probably be a more effective way of reducing carbon emissions than a cap and trade system - hopefully forcing communities, countries and industry's across the globe to reduce their use of fossil fuels - specifically coal - and invest technology and infrastructure budgets into sustainable, renewable energies. An interesting point that the authors bring up is the difficulty in getting governments to agree on standards across national boundaries, giving up national sovereignty for environmental protection. A major benefit to a tax system is that taxes can be easily adjusted to national incomes and economic conditions - allowing them to be tailored to countries, regions, and levels of industrialization. This would allow debate and agreement on policy's to go much more smoothly. Also, for anyone with interest in alternative fuel sources, check out "algal biofuels" This source of energy hasn't been discussed in class yet, largely due to the fact that research still needs to be done in order to scale up production to industrial levels, but it is an interesting concept and a reminder that many sources of energy may be just on the horizon, we just need to create incentives to explore them.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
Each of these pieces details the effect of increased carbon levels on the atmosphere, global temperatures, and environmental change. Huge carbon emissions from fossil fuel production and use have enormous externalities - dramatically changing the temperature of our planet. While some argue that variation in earth's temperature is natural and not a result of man's influence, evidence collected from a variety of sources indicate that current temperature and CO2 levels are far higher than they have ever been in the past - even during times of global heating. Unfortunately, solving the issues of global warming and climate change are not easy. Sequestering carbon from the atmosphere is hard to do, especially as we continue to pump out more from sources such as coal and oil. Pacala and Socalow determine a portfolio of goods and processes that would help to rectify the damage we are doing to the planet through global warming. Ending the clear cutting of rain forests, fostering increased use of solar and wind power. Their ideas are well within the realms of tested science, and when used together could accomplish a great deal of good. I sincerely doubt that this portfolio will be implemented. The lobbying efforts of coal and petroleum are among the strongest in our government, and it is questionable at best that it will be possible to create incentives (at least through governmental means) that push towards a more sustainable future. The magnitude of these environmental problems, combined with the need for swift action are sincerely hampered by the inner workings of our government.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
It has been clear for some time now that coal production is just about the worst way to produce energy. This article puts the nail in the coffin when it comes to the costs of coal to society. Clearly, the price on our utility bills is not the one we are paying. Across the board, social costs are higher due to the exacerbating effects of coal production on global warming, acid rain, etc. but in areas where coal is mined and harvested costs skyrocket Most troubling of the issues mentioned in the paper, however, is that of mountaintop removal mining. Going beyond what is mentioned in the article, photos of mountaintop removal hammers Epstein et al's point home. Landscapes are irrevocably altered, and industrial sites and equipment nestle close to residential homes and acres of yet untouched wilderness. It is a stark contrast. Seeing the lush and beautiful hills of West Virginia or Pennsylvania turned to a post-apocalyptic slag heap is a great injustice. The people of these mining communities also are subject to the enormous externalities of coal. Flooding causes damage to homes, roads, and landscapes. Communities move away, leaving homes and towns vacant to avoid pollution. These mining practices are destabilizing not only the environment, but also communities. What also concerns me, is our nations dependence on coal as an energy source, and the strength of the coal lobby. It is hard to achieve the change our communities, ecosystems, and country needs with such impressive barriers to overcome. While the recommendation section in the paper was helpful, it would be better in the future for researchers to team up with other academics and professionals to try and outline concrete plans to affect change. Piles of research and analysis are not helpful if they are not applied and used by organizations and governments to affect change. Photos for reference:
Toggle Commented Mar 9, 2016 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Rands et al.'s paper on the state of conservation in 2010 does an excellent job of outlining the main issues affecting ecosystems and habitats on a broad scale, along with highlighting the main problems activists and those concerned about these issues will face if they hope to create sustainable change. The article was fairly frustrating. Goals made for 2010 went largely unmet, and the international community is not focused on environmental issues. Despite the fact that countries across the globe agree that conservation is a necessary goal, other issues are made more important. Inequality acts as a driver of this, as countries that are very wealthy do not often see the effects of environmental degradation as much as their poorer neighbors. Nations better equipped to deal with the issues at hand often do not have to deal with the ramifications as quickly. Changes must be made so that nations prioritize conservation. Paramount among necessary changes is getting corporations and governments educated, involved, and invested in the costs of environmental degradation. This may be hard to do, as taxpayers and investors do not want to pay more or cut their own profits and will fight against internalizing the externality. Thus, change has to come from the majority, most likely because of increased environmental education. A concerned populace will elect representatives who understand the issues of conservation. These electives will go on to pass rules and regulations that change the incentives for businesses such that they are forced to be more concerned about business practices that harm the natural world. Educated populations will also desire products and services that are accomplished in a sustainable way, putting additional pressure on corporations and businesses. Unfortunately, education takes a great deal of time, and change in government takes much longer. This makes achieving short term goals very difficult. In the short term, scientists, naturalists, and conservationists should perfect solutions to problems, campaign too hold elected office, and advocate for increased education and investment in the environment.
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2016 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
The results of this paper were not surprising. Of course people value excellent scuba experiences - of course they enjoy the natural beauty of a place like no other. This does not necessarily mean that they will change their tastes and preferences in order to preserve the character of these place. If it means sacrificing other luxury experiences that they also value - such as resorts or cheap fish prices - consumers may care less and less about reefs until it is too late. The way around this issue is twofold. Education, certainly, is important. Reef health and the co-dependence of island life and marine life should be stressed, not only to locals and government officials but also to tourists. A main issue is that people may not be aware of the interdependence of life and thus do not realize how their actions may be unsustainable. Another way is the brilliant method mentioned in class. Mention that using coral reefs is important for some sort of hot-button research (cancer was the example) and people will automatically value it much more, and will flip flop previous opinions to support the maintenance of key coral reefs. Through education both on the importance of balancing nature, as well as effects outside of the island ecosystem (e.g. research benefits) consumers will begin to change their tastes and potentially will be more amenable to changing behavior in support of local ecosystems.
Toggle Commented Feb 2, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
In my opinion, the implications of Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" are deeply problematic. I do not disagree with the logic he is using, nor the economics behind his arguments, but I find the conclusions that he draws to be unacceptable. Specifically, his views on the family unit and reproduction. Hardin clearly believes that personal liberty is a necessary sacrifice in order to close off the commons. This may be true, but to what extent do we allow this to continue? Is there a line in the sand where we draw the extent of abandoning the commons? Isn't the commons necessary at a certain point to avoid things like eugenics? I feel as though the paper leads to troubling moral questions - questions that Hardin largely glosses over. Relinquishing the freedom to breed also seems like a far to drastic measure. It seems as though programs or laws could be created that disincentivize breeding - finding a solution to our problem of overpopulation and exponential growth in a way that does not so drastically shake the foundations of our society. Is the commons bad? Yes. But much like other externalities I believe that there is a solution that can reduce the problems - potentially drastically - but not in a way that compromises who we are, and the basis of our core values.
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2016 on ECON 255 for Friday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 20, 2016