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Mamie Smith
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Reading this article was helpful because it mentioned and explained much of what we talked about in class on Tuesday and all semester (about how carbon taxes would help). I appreciated the comparison of taxes and cap-and-trade because it reminded me of when we discussed the idea of either choosing the quantity of emission in the atmosphere (cap-and-trade) or choosing your price to stay at (tax). I didn't fully realize before, though, how there was also the option of joint policies that used both strategies and also that these types of policies do exist in the world. It makes me want to study those systems more in depth (British Columbia, EU, etc.) and how they link to culture and politics in order to understand more about why the US lacks progress in this area. It made me wonder, too, how these governments were using their revenues and ideas about whether their systems have been working. Also, I remember where the article mentioned that one way to minimize cost of mitigating emissions would be to lower demand for energy-intensive activities. I wonder if that is even a possibility in the US and how it could be done. It makes me think that the US needs some sort of artistic or philosophic movement to move toward simplicity and reminds me of some relatively modern art movements I have been studying in Art History.
Toggle Commented Mar 31, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
Personally, I'm so used to discussing (or maybe just thinking of) climate change in general terms. However, in "The Power Problem" article, it was enlightening and in a weird way refreshing to read about specific causes and specific changes to pragmatically change anything in whatever time we have left. For instance, after reading about all the negative impacts of changing to nuclear sources of energy, I was very opposed to working toward this change instead of any better one (wind energy, etc.). Still, after understanding more about the idea of a "diverse portfolio" for energy sources in order to have enough of a substitute and to make any progress, I'm a little more "open" to the idea. After reading Graham Allison's quote on p. 41-42, though, I don't entirely agree with her. I feel that we should not just allow economics to run its course and wait to see which energy source ends up to be the most widespread because of cost. In my opinion, we should control the process in a similar way we did for CFCs, leaded gasoline, or even fluorescent lightbulbs. The government should find economic incentives to encourage people/companies to invest in sustainable energy and pick up the pace over time (with even stronger incentives) to invest in energy is the most sustainable. Hopefully, this process that seems fairly slow would be fast enough to fit the studies/plans that Schrag's graduate students put together and even with so much uncertainty, would be the plan that luckily wins the roll of the dice.
Toggle Commented Mar 17, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
While reading this article, many questions kept drifting through my mind as they always do. First of all, I had never distinguished coal for electric power from coal for other uses, such as transportation. Why exactly did the authors of this study only limit themselves to only power uses? Was it because of difficulty in collecting data for non-power uses? I thought it was helpful that they identified measurable, quantifiable, and qualitative costs because they all definitely do matter. However, I had always thought of "measurable" and "quantifiable" as one concept. Is there a prominent distinction as far as economics? I remember learning in Kim Cowgill's class that China consumes the most coal and that the US has the most coal reserves. It made me wonder what actions, if any, other countries could take to lessen emissions and help China to find other sources because it has such a collective, overall, and conclusive effect on the world. First of all, what policies has China come up with? Is there a large effort in their country, and how does culture play into their environmental perspective? Also, are there any ways for other countries to enforce mutual agreements, treaties, and policies in multiple countries without becoming standoffish or violent? I guess certain countries could place embargoes and tariffs on other countries, but that would be more of a country-country relation, not so much international-country relation. Have embargoes and tariffs ever been used for environmental reasons, which are ethical in some ways? (I know they're mostly used during wars, etc.) Are there any other methods? Also, as a final point, I remember reading about the carbon capture and storage (CCS) method and completing disagreeing with its purpose. In my opinion, that method would not be sustainable at all. Those types of "solutions" that are so expensive and try to lesson/change the path of the issue instead of entirely confronting the cause of the issue just send society into dizzy circles of confusion and a messy world. I do not think it would be economically efficient at all. Is there a large group of people who do? I guess I could see the usefulness of CCS in a case that could not be avoided as long as we could get the costs to a manageable level and not create any more problems in the process, but for coal, which has so many alternatives, it does not seem practical.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2016 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
This article was my favorite one so far. It addresses the major points about diversity problems, what plans have been made, and why they're not working. It also addresses the main components of what needs to be done to bring about progress. I think that one of the main factors that makes environmental issues like biodiversity so complicated to solve is how interrelated, interdisciplinary, and correlative the issues are with still a layer of uncertainty. Because of so much interrelated complexity, there are so many tradeoffs. For example, I never quite realized that, as this article mentions, technology and initiatives for solving climate change can negatively impact other aspects of the environment, such as biodiversity. Deciding which situations maximize utility is difficult. Who determines what factors play into measuring the value of an environmental good or service, and is there one uniform valuation process that the community of economists have overall agreed upon? Right now, it seems that our society is still in a fairly early stage of paradigms concerning economic understanding of how to best control the environment and which policies are the most efficient for societies to get to the point of best control. Both scientific and economic theory (esp. addressing new topics) seem to move forward by solving and creating new paradigms. While reading this article, one question that popped into my head was whether the special factors of the biodiversity negative externality (distant in time and space) impact economic models because of a difference in marginal social cost. Also, what would happen to the economy if agricultural subsidies were taken away? Would the long-term effects be better? Would consumers overall save money on cost of living because of not having to pay for externalities (filtering water, paying more for health due to pesticides and hormones, etc)? Or would people just have to cut back on purchasing food overall because of higher costs?
Toggle Commented Mar 3, 2016 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
This whole study was interesting to read through because I've always wondered exactly how certain statistics were calculated/economic determinations made in order to end up with final public policy based on solid enough reasoning. It all shows, with so much more clarity, how economists compare costs and benefits of tradeoffs concerning environmental goods and services with no market value by actually determining a economic value for them. Still, of course, much of the specifics about the setup of the study and calculation procedures did go over my head (like the modeling/the 3 types of logits and controlling of irrelevant factors). It would be enlightening to study the statistics more to better understand where the value for the coral reefs came from and how to plan similar studies. It makes me think of the point that this study provides a nice basis for similar studies in the future. How many studies to determine value of non-market goods have, in fact, been done? More studies certainly need to be done. I would hope that they have at least been done in places with critical and controversial environmental issues, like West Virginia, where there is much valuable biodiversity yet also much needed and dependable coal. So many of those valuable species and habitats in that special area in the world are quickly disappearing. Even though the studies must be greatly expensive (how expensive, I wonder?), it would help us get so much closer to better decisions, a better world, and even a better economy. Also, how much relevant public policy has been enacted after studies like this? I would hope that regulations have been put in place in Barbados to better protect the coral reefs and thus to better uphold/strengthen their economy. Afterward, even though some beach-goers and fishers might be upset that they may no longer to enjoy the the benefits of the ocean and the reefs, the reefs would be better preserved, and the economy would actually prosper more with more divers, etc. because of it. I know the article mentioned at one point that the overall goal (the idea of a perfect solution) would be to "promote uses [of the environment] that enhance human well-being in near term and that are compatible with long-term conservation objectives." This idea reaching toward sustainability and efficiency sounds like it would please as many sides of the issue as possible and provide as many benefits and as few costs as possible, especially while focusing on time (short-term and long-term). It still doesn't seem like the optimal solution (especially for the environment) since it does of course focus on human well-being and short-term benefits (which commonly cause environmental destruction), but at least there is also some focus on long-term costs and benefits (to compromise with future generations in the future world). Progress step-by-step is so much better than no progress at all.
Toggle Commented Feb 4, 2016 on ECON 255 for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
In Krutilla's piece, "Conservation Reconsidered," Krutilla makes a valid point that technology gives a large, exponential boost to industry and makes it incredibly harder to support and preserve the "traditional natural resources sector." He refers to the production possibilities curve and tradeoffs involved in the choice between recreation/scientific research and extractive purposes such as mining, land-clearing for timber, etc. Krutilla points out that the choice with the largest net benefit may not match with the most sustainable option for the environment. This unideal situation, however, seems to only include certain monetary and human-based quantities of costs and benefits, such as money from products produced or money brought in from recreational purposes (money to hike, swim, go on tours or money to park in the parking lot). The hard part, I think, that plays into making these decisions includes finding some quantitative way to measure costs and benefits to other parts of our worldwide community: the other living things (animals, plants, etc.) and their entire ecosystems. After all, even people in the Amazon and other areas of the world who continue living away from “modern society” and even animals and plants deserve a voice; we can’t forget them. Have ecologists found some way to take nature into account, or do they only focus on value measurements/ costs and benefits that pertain to humans. Do they ask in which ways the natural resources would best affect the ecosystems? It seems as though economics, a fairly new discipline of knowledge developed as society has zoomed forward, only includes humans. There are so many factors that play into making decisions and exactly who those decisions affect. Is there a way to further develop economics to better incorporate nature (the world overall, objectively), or has it already included such factors in ways that I don’t fully understand? It makes me wonder about the history of economics, especially as it pertains to environmental awareness and development. After all, economics seems to be a widely quantitative, practical type of analysis, and nature much of the time seems to depend on the more qualitative, subjective, and ethical paths. It’s poets, writers, and artists that so much of the time have the greatest influence on me. How do we most effectively present people with plain, strong facts to actively protect the environment and live in a sustainable way? What exactly defines whether certain ways are more economically or environmentally efficient than others?
Toggle Commented Jan 22, 2016 on ECON 255 for Friday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 21, 2016