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Giddings Harrison
United States
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I have learned an incredible amount during this class. As an economics major and art history minor, I had not been exposed to environmental studies before this class. While I was a little outside of my comfort zone in this class, it also felt approachable as we used the economic framework that I already knew to discuss the environment. As an economics major, I have come to understand that efficiency is key. Whether in Game Theory or Macroeconomics, I learned that economists love efficiency. However, when it comes to the environmental economics, it seems that all we find is inefficiency. I ultimately left most classes frustrated by how inefficient environmental policy is. The question I continue to ask myself is: how is it 2020 and we are still using fossil fuels? Not only does it damage the environment, but it damages our health and makes our economy largely attached to the price of oil. Consider just two days ago when oil prices hit below $0 a barrel. While the U.S. has aimed to provide stable and low oil prices for Americans since the 70's, the coronavirus's effect on the oil market demonstrates that our economy is not immune to negative oil shocks. Throughout the class, I have really enjoyed thinking through how best to shift our economy to being less dependent on fossil fuels--to try to find a way to disentangle economic growth and fossil fuel consumption/production. The Solutions Project was fascinating to me as it provided a concrete pathway for our economy to become carbon-neutral. I think this project was by far my favorite part of the class as it gave me answers to the many questions I asked myself throughout the course. Ultimately, my next question is how do you convince people on both sides of the aisle that this is the best solution is in their best interest. While we have brought up many ideas on how to advocate for the environment, I still find it personally difficult to convince those in my family who disagree with me that we must make this switch. I have realized that it is of the utmost importance that we find a way to work with those who disagree with us to find a solution.
Toggle Commented Apr 22, 2020 on ECON 255 Final Exam at Jolly Green General
I really enjoyed this article as I found it to be true in my own life. When working in New York City in the summer, I have always felt a heightened sense of stress. Of course the city itself is full of people and a sense of hustle and bustle, but it also lacks a lot of green space, besides Central Park. My office this summer was situated on the Hudson. While the Hudson is not the cleanest river, my post-work runs along the Hudson always gave me a sense of relief or escape from the stress I felt while inside Manhattan. Today, we can see the importance that policy makers are placing on getting outside. Many states that have stay-at-home orders in place still allow and encourage people to go outside. This policy demonstrates that policymakers around the nation place a value on the outdoors for mental and physical health. Perhaps our time in quarantine has actually heightened our appreciation for and value on nature. Therefore, this approach to advocating for nature conservation could be powerful given our conditions today. Reading this article also reminded me of the approach that the Natural History Museum in Washington, DC took to argue for the protection of our oceans. The ocean has absorbed much of our carbon emissions, mitigating the effects of climate change. The Natural History Museum educates its viewers about the power of the ocean to help our climate and ultimately makes the viewer feel compelled to protect it. I think that this education about the ocean's ability to protect our climate coupled with Wallace Nichols' approach would adequately demonstrate all of the benefits of the ocean has to offer. Emphasizing what the ocean does for us, in protecting our climate and giving us mental health benefits, would perhaps motivate more individuals to care for the nature around them.
After reading the GND, I was curious how we would actually reach some of the objectives. It seems that many would agree in objectives of the GND: achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through "a fair and just transition for all communities and workers" or creating millions of jobs that "ensure economic prosperity and economic security." However, the disagreement seems to arise when we discuss how to achieve these goals. I found the Solutions Project particularly helpful in providing clear steps that we need to take in order to be carbon neutral by 2050. While many focus on the cost of shifting to a carbon neutral economy, this project demonstrates the savings that the country could see if we adopt there plan. For instance, the Solutions Project claims Americans could save $9,612 per person per year if we were to adopt the energy mix the project suggests. While I found these savings promising, I would like to understand a little more how they found these numbers and if there is a range of savings projected given different scenarios. I found "Getting to a Carbon-Free Economy" to be very helpful as it addressed many questions that I have myself: how do you transition America's fleet of planes to be carbon-neutral? what about cars? houses? buildings? This article gave a good glance into the process as it provided the technical process of switching to carbon neutral. For instance it explained that retrofitting older buildings will be a longer, more expensive process than electrifying new buildings. The article also provided the least cost solution for retiring existing capital at the end of its life span. For instance, once all new vehicles on the market are zero-emission vehicles, then over the next 15-20 there would be a shift to zero-emission vehicles. While this least cost solution takes a longer time, it ultimately prevents a major boom and bust in the market. This solution allows gradual changes to occur to reach the goals of the GND. It prioritizes both the health of the environment and the economy.
I found both of these articles helpful as they articulated the problems that many have with a carbon tax. We often talk about how people think of the economy and the environment on opposite ends of the spectrum. If we help one, we hurt the other. However, these articles pointed to the idea that a carbon tax could actually strengthen our economy. The Conservative Case brought in many ideas that I found compelling as to why we might need a carbon tax. First, a carbon tax would drive a change in behavior and lead to innovation and investment in new technologies. It would provide economic certainty for firms and households. Secondly, it would tip the economic scale toward the "little guy." Rather than focusing on the short term cost of the tax, the Conservative Case points to the "more durable economic growth." Thinking back to Paul Krugman's three I's, I believe this article would be a good way to begin policy discussion as it might sway people who often think of climate change policy as far too "left." As many have said, this article was encouraging as it promoted the idea of a bipartisan plan that would reduce our carbon footprint.
Toggle Commented Apr 13, 2020 on The Case(es) for a Carbon Tax at Jolly Green General
This article hammered in the idea that we should not only be worried about efficiency, but also social equity. As this article states, "African Americans account for 70 percent of all of the deaths in Louisiana so far. They make up just 32 percent of the population." I know people that have lost their loved ones to cancer and it has shaped who they are as a person. I cannot imagine watching friends, neighbors and family alike get cancer and knowing that it had to due with the plant. This virus has exposed the challenges and problems that we face in this country, especially in terms of public health and environmental policy. It is just mind-boggling that the CDC does not include those exposed to higher pollution levels as those to be of higher risk to COVID.
The Hamilton Project article was very interesting as it tied in key points that we made in class concerning the Marginal Damage Function and the ethics that go into climate policy. On page 7, the article proposes that damages to the economy grow with temperature change at an increasing rate. I often thought of the marginal damage function as damaging public health, but had never thought of this function as affecting crime or energy use. Were emissions to rise continually for the next 80 years (RCP 8.5), GDP could fall between 6.7%-14.3%. I had recently read that analysts are estimating the coronavirus will lead to 5-7% decrease in GDP without the proper fiscal and monetary stimulus. Governments and corporations around the world are trying to prevent this drop in GDP from occurring. I wonder if policymakers around the world were to equate the worst-case scenario of climate change to coronavirus's economic damage, would there be a quicker reaction and collective focus? Secondly, the project's point that struggling U.S. counties will be hit the hardest by climate change reminded me of our discussion surround MTR and its effects on Appalachia. While this article claims that climate change WILL hurt the poorest counties, I would argue that they already have been exposed to the effects of climate change.
There is clear worry about not only the health of Americans and other people around the world, but also about the economy. I understand that the government is trying to find ways to help companies get through this time as demand is low. However, I don't see how this relaxed regulation pads the economy at all. It seems that health and the environment are at odds with the economy currently. How do we keep people healthy and safe while also allowing people to work and maintain their livelihoods? This question is similar to how do we protect or conserve the environment while also finding ways to keep the economy growing? These are simple questions with complicated answers, but I think we are far from the solution if policymakers decide to relax environmental protection. I found this article to be particularly helpful in thinking about the economy and the environment. In this case, rolling back the fuel efficiency standard seems like it would actually hurt U.S. consumers. With consumer spending accounting for 70% of the economy, I am surprised that policymakers to do anything that would negatively impact consumer spending--especially given the current consumer demand climate. This policy not only will negatively impact the environment, it will also hurt consumers. Therefore, to answer your question, this policy makes no sense to me.
This article made it clear just how widespread the problems are with coal. It impacts a mining community's water, soil, air quality, housing values, workers' health, and economy, just to name a few. In Appalachia, areas with coal mining had an additional 10,923 deaths every year between 1997-2005. Not only has coal mining taken its toll on human lives, Mountain Top Removal has contributed to the loss and degradation of habitats within Appalachia, which is considered to have the second most rich biodiversity in its streams behind the tropics. This paper lays out a clear argument against coal to the point that I am shocked that the U.S. still chooses to use it. We have discussed the importance of interest and ignorance in relation to action around climate change. The first pro-coal argument that comes mind is jobs. However, this paper cites a clear inverse relationship between coal mining and income and employment. As mining increases in Appalachia, income and educational attainment declines, while poverty and unemployment rise. Beyond coal's costs to mining communities, coal power is responsible for 72% of CO2 emissions from power generation in 2005. In 2018, this figure had fallen to 65% according to the EIA (natural gas now accounts for 33%). Nonetheless, coal is responsible for much of the U.S. power generation-related emissions of PM, NOx, and SO2, which all increase the likelihood of respiratory illness, cardiac disease, asthma, and mortality. Coal combustion also releases methylmercury, the most toxic form of mercury, which can result in negative neurobehavioral effects on infants and children. All of this is to say that given the negative effects of coal, it is astounding that almost 40% of the world's electricity production came from coal in 2015, according to the World Bank.
Toggle Commented Mar 5, 2020 on Discussion Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
I found this paper to be a great extension of the conversation and readings that we had on Wednesday. This paper demonstrates the power of surveys in policymaking decisions as its findings have direct implications for the exit fee. While I was interested in the paper, I found the idea of PACT especially interesting. PACT is a private fund that finances conservation efforts. The fund aims to respond to: issues of biodiversity and ecosystem protection, financial stability of the National Protected Area System (NPAS), and extend the benefits of the NPAS to support local communities. While this fund seems to have the right intentions, I want to ask how Krutilla, the author of Conservation Reconsidered, might respond to PACT. Based on his work, it seems that organizing a private market for a public good can lead to problems. While I believe that PACT is striving to act in the best interest of the local communities and ecosystems in Belize, I wonder if it might have flaws that Krutilla pointed to in his article.
I enjoyed Krutilla's "Conversation Reconsidered" as it stressed not just the economic importance of natural resources (ie. profit), but the environmental and ethical value of nature. This article felt highly interdisciplinary and allowed some questions to go unanswered, such as: how do we value the environment? Krutilla pointed to recreational activities outdoors as one way to value the environment. By teaching people to camp, kayak, or fish, perhaps more people would demand wilderness-related opportunities. However, the most recent Census data shows that only 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, which makes up 97% of the U.S. land. I wonder if the trend towards urbanization has left people out of touch from nature and, thus, less likely to value it? Nonetheless, Krutilla brings in the idea of option demand, the willingness to pay to have the option to use an area that would be impossible to replace, such as the Grand Canyon. While I have never been to the Grand Canyon, I would like to see it. This idea of creating a market for option demand seems like a viable way to conserve natural landscapes that are irreplaceable and have no close substitute.
Giddings Harrison Professor Casey Blog 1: Coase Problem Coase’s paper informed many of the thoughts and debates that I have been having since joining this class. Environmental damage, whether that be wildfires, flooding or natural disasters lead to economic costs. Much of this environmental cost has been due to global warming. Therefore, I question why we as a society have not internalized these costs and changed our behaviors in the market. Much of Coase’s paper deals with two individuals that work to maintain their behavior by one individual internalizing the cost of the damage that he/she has caused that impacts the other individual. While his first example of the cattle-rancher and the crop-farmer is relatively simple, he expands to show that there are situations in which each individual is responsible for harming the other. This nuanced scenario as well as his addition of transaction costs to his model led me to understand his argument further. Coase definitely expanded on my understanding of government intervention, but I still was left with questions about the government's role in today's policies surrounding climate change. Thinking about today’s world in which both companies and consumers are aware of the cost of fossil fuels to the environment, I wonder how it is possible that we have not cut back our emissions more. If Coase’s theory holds merit, shouldn’t we have achieved a more optimal level of resource allocation at this point in time given the massive cost of climate change? While I can see change in the private sector, there has by no means been enough of it. If Coase's argument holds, shouldn't the market be increasing the cost of fossil fuel production? This reading left me with more questions than answers on how society should be tackling the issue of climate change.
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Jan 17, 2020