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Walker Abbott
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This paper was ] very helpful in thoroughly explaining the pros and cons of the carbon tax and the carbon cap and trade methods of regulations. I found II.D. particularly relevant to our conversation in class Tuesday about distribution and efficiency. In economics we focus on efficiency but it is important to remember there are many parts of the equation beyond "efficiency". Aldy et. al discusses sacrificing economic efficiency in order to help the uneven distribution of negative effects of a CO2 tax. Lower-income households spend a greater proportion of their income on fuel/ heating/ gas than higher income households, so a CO2 tax would disproportionately impact these households. In section III.D. Aldy et. al discusses determining the "efficient" tax level, an issue we have been discussing all term (efficient level of emissions/ pollution/ etc.). The authors consider that determining an ideal CO2 tax should "reflect world consequences from the estimated future climate change impact," which includes the "comprehensive" approach we discussed Tuesday in class- human health, agriculture damages, sea levels, and more. Determining even the present damages associated with climate change on these nonmarket goods is a complicated and controversial process, and I cannot see how nations can come to a consensus on both present and future predictions. I think it is easy to say that a carbon tax is the solution to reducing CO2 emissions but it will require almost impossible cooperation between hundreds of nations around the world. I agree with Alison in that it is already difficult to gain domestic approval on raising taxes, much less gain public approval globally, especially in developing countries. Aldy et. al brings up carbon sequestration as an alternative possibility to reducing CO2 emission in our atmosphere, which would supplement a CO2 tax well to mitigate CO2 emissions. Their idea of a tax incentive based structure I think would work well, with the production possibilities example using land for forest or agriculture. Farmers already respond to tax incentives, whether it be to fence out a waterway or implement a change in grazing methods. It will be important to educate and rely on local infrastructure already in place through Extension services and the USDA to implement these changes within the farming community.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
In “The Power Problem,” Graham Allison talks says that “nuclear power should not be regarded as an alternative to cleaner energy fuels or biomass or windmills. We are going to need everything- and then over time we will se how the economics sort out.” This echoes Schrag’s sentiment in the paper we read for Tuesday- this anthropogenic climate change is one big experiment. We can attempt to divert the progression of climate change and carbon emissions but all of our efforts will still be part of the “great experiment.” My environmental ethics class met with Dale Jamieson today, an environmental ethics author. While discussing his recent book, “Reason in a Dark Time”, he brought up the example of Miami Beach’s issues with sea levels rising and how the current mayor was elected on a platform of dealing with this issue. I have really enjoyed how these two classes have overlapped this semester, and it goes to show that finding solutions to climate change will require and interdisciplinary approach that includes the sciences, ethics, and economics. Schrag brought up the “inertia” of the climate change issue in both Tuesday’s reading and then again in “The Power Problem” article. Policies and other energy decisions that are instated today will be in effect for 40-50 years (Chinese old fashioned model coal plants for instance) and will have an effect on climate for many years in the future. I do have one question- are the “wedges” of the stabilization triangle discussed in “The Power Problem” and “Stabilization Wedges” a standard measure across climate change discussion/ research? This is the first time I have encountered this idea but it seems to be a standard in these papers. One of the stabilization wedges involved hydrogen power, which seems appealing at first. Jules Verne said that “water will be the coal of the future,” and if that is truly the case, I don’t think hydrogen energy will be sustainable. Water resources are already limited, and if we add another burden (i.e. hydrogen energy) to our water consumption we will reach the end of this finite resource.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
This article was an incredible example of the chapters we discussed in class Tuesday. I think it is easy to forget the environmental impacts and emissions that occur at every step of the way when it comes to obtaining energy for consumption. I thought the step by step layout of the article made the environmental, social, economic, climate, and public health implications of coal mining very clear. I did find it alarming that health impacts due to mortality were based on the value of statistical life. How are individual, and collective (7.5 million), lives given a monetary value? The section of the article on the local impacts of coal mining/ processing were particularly poignant to me. In Southern Virginia, there has been a push to mine one of the world's largest uranium deposits on Cole's Hill in Chatham, Virginia (only 30 miles from my hometown). I live on a farm directly downriver (Banister River) from the deposit, and the Banister feeds into the Roanoke River Basin and eventually the Chesapeake Watershed. The risk of groundwater contamination affecting millions of people in Virginia and North Carolina is too great with uranium contamination. In Danville, Virginia, also near my hometown, there was a Duke Energy coal ash (39,00 tons) spill that occurred in February 2014. Groundwater in the area is still being affected. As of now, North Caroline has fined Duke 6.6 million. The local impacts, however, whether it be coal mining, coal ash, or uranium mining, are not just environmental. Yes, ecosystems are affected and habitat is destroyed, but local economies and standards of living are degraded by these energy industries. If the ban on uranium mining in Virginia was too be lifted, I fear that my hometown would become a "ghost town". I appreciated that the authors did include a comprehensive list at the end of the article, including many points we have brought up in class. It was refreshing to see that the authors, clearly experts on the subject, called for an end to the MTR method of mining and demanded habitat restoration.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2016 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
This article provided a thorough but concise overview of the problem our world is facing with biodiversity. Rands et al. articulated that the second tier, institutions and social perception, is the weakest link of the biodiveristy strategy. Regardless of legislation, technology, or information, if the majority of the earth's' population does not recognize the need for action towards preserving biodiversity, other attempts will only have a minor effect. I thought there were many points in this article that connected the Chapter 14 and Chapter 17 readings on Biodiversity and Agriculture. As we discussed some in class Tuesday, agriculture is one of the leading causes of deforestation and is overtaking much of our land use space. In the United States particularly, industrial agriculture promotes monoculture - planting only a few commodity species (soybeans, corn, wheat) and eliminating diverse native species to keep a farm "clean." In tropical countries, Rands et al. mentions that oil palm trees have taken over much of the landscape to produce oils; "Remaining terrestrial biodiversity is therefore increasingly confined to fragmented patches separated by expanding cultivation, infrastructure, and residential and industrial development." I thought Rands et al. made another good point regarding ocean preservation. In contrast to land areas, Marine ecosystems are often neglected in terms of protection areas even though some of the most diverse ecosystems (such as coral reefs) are aquatic. The article points out that while protected ecosystems are a step in the right direction, these efforts have limited efficacy when habitats are small and fragmented.
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2016 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I found Kahn's description of Water and Property Rights in Chapter 15 particularly interesting. I see how water use can be regulated by cost when on the city water system. How are private water sources like wells regulated? It is up to the owner (with the property rights) to drill and maintain the well and its water levels and quality, but in the future, if water becomes scarce, will it be the large landowners with greatest access to groundwater wells and property bordering freshwater waterways that will control that resource? I think many would argue that access to water is a basic human necessity and right, but will it become a precious commodity (like oil) in the future?
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2016 on More Chapters from Kahn at Jolly Green General
This was a great example of the concepts of non market evaluation we discussed in class on Tuesday. One of the keys points of this non-market valuation is determining the true recreational and aesthetic values to individuals. This study used surveys regarding willingness to pay and ranking of certain qualities of a scuba dive (coral cover, quality of marine life, crowding). The sample population of this study was mostly middle-aged, male, and highly educated, and I think this hits home with a problem that we have been discussing in class. Often those concerned with the environment, biodiversity, and conservation have the means and education to be an active member of our natural world. As members of the W&L community, we are privileged enough to have these conversations about the environment and access to the information needed to make well-informed decisions. Lower-income families are simply trying to make ends meet and are often unaware of environmental issues or feel unable to participate in conservation. I think it is helpful to do non market valuation studies with this type of sample group but ultimately I think we must start to consider the entire range of demographics. The higher income sample probably has a TEV non-consumptive use, but perhaps a lower income sample group would have a option or existence nonuse value. Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and are a great indicator of biodiversity. With the warming of our oceans, we are losing coral reefs due to coral bleaching (symbiants of coral, zooxanthella, cannot survive the higher temperatures).This article provided a great example of how we can use the non market valuation of the coral reefs to hopefully provide conservation incentives. If tourism created by coral reefs and SCUBA diving contributes to GDP, I would like to think that some of this revenue could be allotted to studying the preservation of the corals and creating technologies to prevent coral bleaching. I agree with Murray's point above in that this is a great example of combining science, economics, and politics. These disciplines do not always overlap but I think the only way to truly conserve many of our treasured ecosystems is to reach a solution with all three disciplines involved.
Toggle Commented Feb 3, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
I agree with many of the above comments that Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" has a few ideas that are out of date. In the 1960s, Hardin was writing in a transitional time in agriculture. Yes, intensive industrial agriculture was on the rise with advances in bio-engineering and machine technology, but it was only the tip of the iceberg at the time. In regard to food per acre, our agriculture system is incredibly efficient (if one disregards fossil fuel, water, and fertilizer inputs). I think Hardin would still believe that even the current level of advanced technology in agriculture isn't a solution to the earth's carrying capacity. As we know, this is true because our current agriculture model simply will not be sustainable because it relies too heavily on finite resources (fossil fuels, water, etc.). I enjoyed rereading the portion of the essay that gives the herdsman and cattle example. In light of the interdisciplinary approach of the environmental studies and Econ classes, I love seeing themes reappear in various subjects. Last semester, in a seminar on Leopold, we spent a fair amount of time applying the tragedy of the commons to grazing in the Southwest United States. Overgrazing range is a huge problem, especially on public land. Leopold and Hardin both explore ideas of how to minimize overgrazing and protect the land for the use of the greater good. It seems that while leasing these public lands to cattle farmers is a good source of revenue to be used to manage/ protect other land, what is the point of owning these public lands if they are allowed to be damaged? In the second half of this reading, "The Tragedy of the Commons Revisited", I struggled to understand Crowe's discussion of values and interests, "interests can always be compromised and accommodated without undermining our very being by sacrificing values." Hardin, in the beginning of the essay, calls for a change in human values as the solution rather than a technical solution. However, where do personal interests and values overlap or contradict each other?
Toggle Commented Jan 22, 2016 on ECON 255 for Friday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 21, 2016