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AJ Witherell
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This reading did a tremendous job at bringing to light all of the negative effects of global climate change. Often times, readings of this nature only describe how it will affect agriculture, health, poverty, economics, and business in the United States. However, I enjoyed how this particular reading pointed to other regional areas around the world and provided a complete explanation as to how each area would be uniquely affected. For me, it was particularly interesting to read how certain levels of temperature change may lead to drastically increased chances of prevalent diseases in certain regions. I feel as though that is a major consequence that is often put on the back-burner and not mentioned/argued as often in the climate change debate, even though it presents a very serious issue. One question that I have always been curious about is how fast can we (as a worldwide population) slow down climate change? Obviously, the emissions that have already been released to atmosphere cannot be reversed and we can’t simply stop emitting immediately. So I think it would be interesting to see a study as to how long it would take to plateau the level of emissions and at what level that would be. Furthermore, in relation to this paper, at what temperature level would climate change eventually plateau. In addition, there is also the idea that the climate itself has not exactly “caught up” to the amount of emissions that have been released into the atmosphere. Even if we were to cut greenhouse gas emissions on the spot, the Earth would still heat over the next few decades until finally reaching an equilibrium. With this being considered, what levels of emissions and temperature change are we realistically already going to experience? Or has this factor already been included in the calculations for papers such as this?
Toggle Commented Mar 29, 2017 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
When beginning this reading, I had minimal knowledge of the implementation and effects of carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs. I knew nothing about the magnitudes of revenue or costs that were incurred, rather I just knew they existed. I think these articles did a good job presenting relevant information surrounding each initiative. One thing that stuck out to me was the policy establishment in the reading involving the case study in British Columbia, which I think a few have mentioned in this blog. It kind of surprised me that the carbon tax was passed successfully, despite its wide lack of support. Obviously most will be opposed to any new tax, but particularly one like a carbon tax that has very minimal noticeable costs on individuals, kind of seemed like it would be difficult to pass. Furthermore, how exactly did people begin to grow fond of it? Was it because of public dissemination of information and proof of its benefits? Very rarely have I seen articles publicized about the recent effects of taxes and its costs/benefits outlined, unless I specifically am searching for them. In addition, just based on these articles and Tuesday’s reading, I feel as though I am more a supporter of a cap-and-trade policy than a carbon tax. I feel as though setting a “cap” allows the government and organizations to more accurately limit the amount of emissions. Rather than just allowing companies/firms to emit as much as they want, and pay costs along with it. I obviously would need to do a little more research and discuss with others to further understand the costs/benefits of each side to make a full decision on which policy to favor.
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2017 on Econ 255 readings - update at Jolly Green General
Upon reading the two papers from this week, I have been introduced to many more consequences (both positive and negative) of fracking and the production of shale gas, and believe it is overall a benefit for our economy. However, I think that the difficulty in this argument is the evaluation of certain aspects in the process. For example, look at a few of the benefits associated with shale gas production in the U.S., such as decreased oil prices, improved security of supply, and additional employment. The first example is fairly easy to monetize because it is a direct market value of the costs of oil. Next, the production of shale gas has allowed the U.S. to be less vulnerable to fluctuations in global oil markets, but the total benefit would be difficult to determine due to scaling of U.S. imports with trading partners and predicting the future of these markets. The third one presents the interesting analysis that Sal mentioned in his response. If many of these jobs from boomtowns only last a short period of time then leave behind wasted infrastructure and unemployment, how do we value these “benefits,” as well as its subsequent “costs”? Naturally, this leads discussion into the other costs included, which were mentioned in the reading as being: water quality depletion, habitat fragmentation, and air quality impacts. I think that each of these presents the same issue as above, how does one value these impacts? As categorized in the reading, they are considered non-market impacts which makes them difficult to determine the true value/costs associated. In addition, I also think that there is an opportunity costs associated with fracking not mentioned in the reading for Thursday. I think the promotion and production of fracking is actually hurting our incentives to find renewable energy sources more quickly. I am not arguing that fracking is a bad thing for our economy (because to me it appears much better than coal), but I think that fracking, is encouraging our country to continue to rely on fossil fuels, which produce far more GHG emissions than renewable sources. In a way, it seems that we are just pushing off the bigger problem for a later date because of our ability to find another source of fossil fuels.
I found the “Fueling Our Future” from the Harvard Magazine to be the most interesting reading, particularly because of the latter portion of the article. The first half of the article was mostly facts and information that I had a fair amount of knowledge of previously. However, the second half, especially the sea-bed storage solution, was very interesting to me as I had little understanding of the process beforehand. Based on the information presented in this reading alone, I would say that it seems to be a fairly acceptable idea for confronting our CO2 emissions problems. I think that this article does a great job presenting enough evidence and information to convey the main idea, but I think more information is required to effectively determine the probability of this idea as an effective solution. In order for this method to be accepted, a few things must be established: it must be a cost-effective solution, the science must be sure about safety of sequestering emissions in the ocean, the environmental impacts should be positive (or at least significantly better than they are presently), and must be legal according to environmental protection laws. The information in this article answers some of these qualifications, but not all. According to Schrag, costs are estimated to be about 1% of GDP, which is a fairly substantial amount of money. In regards to the science, the article briefly explains the chemical science associated with injecting the CO2 into the sediment and allowing it to slowly release/dilute into the ocean. As mentioned in the reading, the environmental impacts of the slow diffusion of CO2 in the water allow it to be drastically diluted and remain at safe levels for marine ecosystems. In addition, there is predicted to be enough capacity to hold thousand of years of U.S. carbon emissions. The final point, perhaps one of the major hindrances as of now, was not mentioned at all in the reading, likely because laws and rules can often be changed if more information is discovered. I am not entirely sure of all of the environmental protection laws that exist, so I wonder if an idea like sea-bed sequestration of CO2 would be allowed under such laws. I think if the answer is “yes” to that final point, then the method of injecting emissions into the floor of the ocean sounds like a feasible plan for diminishing the carbon problem.
Toggle Commented Mar 8, 2017 on Econ 255 for next week at Jolly Green General
Prior to reading this article, I did not have much awareness of the negative externalities concerning the production and consumption of coal. Similar to Liam, I had assumed that coal consumption was not as large of a contributor to CO2 emissions as other sources of energy. However, according to the information presented in this research article, I was very wrong. I had very minimal knowledge of the additional carbon emission producers in the process, such as the release of CO2 from decaying methane and the effects of polluted soil during mountaintop removal, just to name a few. Furthermore, I had no understanding of the magnitude of the emissions released. With all that being said, I think that this paper did a great job outlining all of the various costs associated with each facet of the process. In addition, I believe that the authors of this reading did very well in presenting the information straightforwardly, allowing the reader to understand the true nature of the coal industry and all of its inefficiencies. However, one thing I have noticed between my own reaction and other responses in the comments is that many of us had not been aware of this information. I believe this is primarily due to the fact that we, individually, bear such a small amount of the costs. Overall, I think this article shows the reader how much coal production is affecting our environment, as well as alluding to the fact that we need to find more efficient substitutes as soon as possible if we, as a whole, plan to continue consuming more and more energy as our population grows.
I think this article does a great job assessing the economic structure of Tobago, the issues surrounding its success, and ways to perhaps fix these problems. Like a few other students have said, I was surprised that only a few amount of people in Tobago understood the economic influence of the reefs and other natural resources. The basis of this article is not only for the defense and conservation of the environmental resources, but also the local businesses that rely on the presence of these resources for business from tourism (which makes up about 37% of GDP in Tobago). The paper formulates multiple methods for attempting to reach the 3 goals set out by most MPAs in the Caribbean region. I think that two of the goals set out can be achieved relatively easily within the community of the islands, that being increasing education about conservation and increasing community involvement in the management/maintenance of the BRMP. However, I believe this goal also has a glaring difficulty: many of the people contributing to degradation of the reefs are the tourists. With this being said, there must be an emphasis and educational background given to tourists to understand the significance of their collective actions around the reef. The most difficult of the suggested mechanisms for conservation, in my opinion, is embedding the BRMP in ICZM. As the paper mentions, this method is particularly difficult due to its many facets regarding power and control. However, plans like this are the most effective means to creating a significant, long-lasting solution to the conservation debate. Time, effort, and money must be put into a process such as this now in order to save time, effort, and money restoring natural resources later. In addition, I also thought it was very interesting that there are no fees associated with visiting/using the BRMP, which seems to be an extremely easy way to raise funds for conservation efforts. Even a very minimal entrance fee can accumulate fairly quickly into a considerable amount of money.
As a few people have already commented here, I don’t think that this method of valuation would be as accurate or efficient on a wider-scale. As mentioned in the paper, the surveys only entailed the responses of 165 divers, which to me doesn't sound like very many and seems fairly easy to handle and analyze. However, if a group were to attempt to evaluate a natural resource that is far more often used/visited, then I believe it would become very costly to manage/analyze the data accurately and efficiently. In addition, the study from the reading has a basis in the monetary cost of the scuba activities occurring, but in some instances with natural resources there are very few monetary costs associated with using the property. So how would one effectively formulate a survey that encompasses such a vast audience that may all value the land at enormously different values? I think that at this point the research and survey would be a great cost and provide a less revealing analysis of data. Although this reading did result in some speculation as to its effectiveness on larger scales, it did provide an interesting look at the points we have discussed in class. I think the survey served as a great example of how the models/techniques for determining non-market evaluations of environmental resources are used in the real world.
When reading Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons,” I immediately regarded it as a piece primarily written about the over-population of man. I understood the first half of his writing to be an analogy for what he was going to attempt to elaborate on during the second half. Although his herdsman-cattle discussion details the potential danger to natural resources and the environment, I believe his primary purpose of this was to introduce a simpler scenario to represent the overpopulation discussion. Hardin argues that “freedom in a commons brings to ruin to all,” and that the “freedoms” experienced in this world are bringing humanity to an eventual “ruin.” However, I don’t think that Hardin effectively supported his arguments, it seemed as though he went in circles with a few of his points. He attacks the idea of communal property saying that it presents a danger that is “too horrifying” for us to imagine, and at the same time admits private ownership yields a great “injustice.” In this sense, he admits that each method of monitoring property has its respective pros and cons, but never gives full concrete evidence as to which type of ownership garners the most success (other than his opinion for private ownership). I accept the basis of his theory that a “commons” can be abused, but I also think that, in some instances, lands can be even more abused by private ownership. With this being said, I think that his argument for the effective use of property in the “herdsman” story was more clear and concise because of the simplicity of the scenario. However, I don’t think he elaborated well enough on the theories behind population monitoring. If he doesn’t believe an “invisible hand” will control population at some point, what policies does he suggest be implemented? What methods of coercion will be effective in changing the minds of subsequent generations?
I found these article to be very beneficial in dispelling misunderstandings/stereotypes that I had about economists as a whole, which apparently lots of others had as well. In addition, I was extremely surprised that 2,500 economists agreed to sign the same petition regarding policies surrounding carbon emissions. The most interesting discussion, in my opinion, was that of the failures, or inaccuracies of the "invisible hand." As I have been taught, the theory of the "invisible hand" referred to the idea that a market will reach it's greatest societal benefit, even though producers and consumers act primarily in their own interest. To this point, I had not considered the effects of taxes, but the New York Times article brought to light the externalities in certain markets that lead to inaccuracies. And in most cases, the most effective response in situations like these is to establish taxes to raise funds and diminish production/consumption. On another note, I also noticed the fact that none of the articles discussed no ways to decrease pollution by way of production efficiency. Rather, they all addressed "penalties" for producing pollutants into the atmosphere. I think that more emphasis should be placed on ways to be more "green" in the production process, which in turn, will be more effective across the board.