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Izzy Koziol
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This week’s topic of environmental racism reminds me of discussions that I engaged in last year in my poverty class. One broad concept we talked about was the climate gap, which is the phenomenon that people of color and poorer communities are unequally/disproportionately affected by climate change and climate mitigation policy. This relates to the discussion in the Environmental Science and Technology article, for example, about how communities of color in the United States are systematically exposed to higher levels of air pollution. In my poverty class, we talked about climate vulnerability, which is a function of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity to environmental issues, and communities of color are particularly vulnerable. Interestingly, in one of the articles we discussed I remember learning that people in different ethnic groups were surveyed and asked about their level of concern about climate issues, and the hispanic respondents had the highest likelihood of considering climate change an issue. This should definitely concern policymakers tasked with dealing with issues like climate change because communities that are disproportionately more affected are also expressing their concerns though these research initiatives. Relating this back to the Hendryx’s point about when the research will be enough to bring about comprehensive policy changes, my question after taking my poverty class and completing these readings is when will the research connecting poverty, communities of color, and adverse effects of climate issues be enough to bring about necessary changes?
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2022 on Last Post for the Semester at Jolly Green General
This article relayed the findings of an investigation into how the costs of climate policy affect households. I found it interesting that they looked at two scenarios, optimistic and pessimistic outcomes, under the Waxman-Markey bill. They noted that the allocation scheme has multiple possible outcomes, which speaks to the fact that uncertain provisions of the bill could or could not lead to more efficient results. The estimates for average household burden range from $138 in the optimistic version of Waxman-Markey to $436 in the pessimistic scenario. While they address that “we are describing two versions that we feel bound the likely range of outcomes and illustrate the range of possibilities,” it seems to me like the estimates are such a wide range that it is difficult to make a strong conclusion about the true burden to households. This exemplifies the challenge that economists consistently face when attempting to draw conclusions while dealing with uncertainty.
Toggle Commented Mar 21, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I appreciated the first two articles particularly for their focus on topics that have not previously been explored in related literature. I was perplexed by the first article about the impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance because while I have been aware of the adverse effects of poor air quality and the contributions to increased illness, hospitalization, and mortality, I have not previously learned about the effects on cognition. The article outlined three main findings, all of which are highly concerning. The first two findings were that air pollution inhibited test performances, and the damage of air pollution on cognitive performance is more sizable when using a longer window of exposure measure. These two findings speak to how essential and time sensitive the issue of air pollution is, because there are severe damages to cognition that become worse with more exposure to air pollution. The last finding was that air pollution exposure seems to exert a more negative effect on verbal than math test performance, which becomes stronger as people age, especially for less educated men. This is concerning because people affected by this become disadvantaged in attempts to make important decisions about their lives, and they even become less equipped to make simple day to day decisions. The aging population should not have to live in fear that the air quality will cause their brains to deteriorate, so governments need to aid poor cities with bad air pollution in efforts to remedy this issue.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I have appreciated reading both of these articles because among the multitude of things that I learned from them, I was particularly enlightened by the discussion of fossil fuel alternatives which could fulfill our energy needs. I have been frustrated by the fact that we have known for a while now that our emissions from burning fossil fuels are driving climate change, and we have also known of multiple energy alternatives that do not involve emitting heat trapping gasses. So, my question has been, if members of the energy industry and lawmakers have been aware of these things, why has more progress not been made towards a global energy transition. The two articles made me aware that while there are energy alternatives that exist, there are caveats to all of them. For example, while nuclear energy use does not emit any greenhouse gasses, according to the “Confronting the Climate–Energy Challenge” article, nuclear power would only be effective at reducing carbon emissions if two large nuclear plants were built each week for the next 100 years, which is not feasible. Both articles lead to the conclusion that there is not one be all and end all solution to climate change, even though the cause is relatively singular. The Fueling our Future article makes a concluding statement that alternative energy sources will be important to utilize more, but in order to meet demand while keeping atmospheric CO2 in check, we will also have to “burn coal with advanced technologies that allow its carbon content to be captured.” The article offers a comprehensive, two part engineered solution that involves gasifying the coal and sequestering it into underground reservoirs. This solution is unique as it does not argue that fossil fuel energy sources need to be eliminated (which is pretty unrealistic), and it is also attainable because expert engineers have proposed a step by step plan. The next step is to implement a comprehensive and attainable solution like this before it is too late.
Toggle Commented Mar 8, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
This article reiterates the main argument of the Tragedy of the Commons philosophy: open access resources are subject to overexploitation, and global fisheries exemplify this phenomenon. Most fisheries are open access or common-pool resources that may have some restrictions on inputs like seasons, but the open access equilibrium still results in overexploitation of the stock of fish, according to the article. The global ocean is the extreme of the open access problem because it does not have any regulations or property rights defining who can exploit its resources, or how much they can take. This is especially a problem because the inevitable loss of biodiversity, species abundance, and fish abundance threaten the future of human well being. The article emphasizes that the best way to combat the open access issue is to implement restrictions on access to fisheries. One specific solution is the creation of Marine Protected Areas which create invisible borders around spatial regions of the ocean in order to establish regulations that limit or prohibit human activities. These protections should allow fish biomass to increase and improve the health of fisheries. Although, the article argues, and I agree, that MPAs alone will not be sufficient at conserving fisheries. They should be established along with rights-based fishery management which can eliminate the issue of open access by allocating property rights that can be traded among fishery stakeholders. Attempts to privatize the ocean are necessary to protect fisheries from overexploitation.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
This article about China’s effect on the Brazilian Amazon reminds me of the significant impacts that the world’s strongest powers can have on ecosystems globally. China can extend its desire for economic gains across the world to the Amazon, where their maximization of profits results in harmful effects on the environment, including deforestation. China has notably few environmental restrictions compared to other world powers and continues to finance the construction and operation projects like “a railroad between Cuiaba´ (Mato Grosso) and Santare´m (Para´),” which cuts right through Amazonia. This massive project, which can result in the destruction of much of the Amazonian ecosystem, shows how dangerous it is for rich, world powers to have little care for harmful environmental effects. This issue makes me question how more environmentally conscious countries’ governments can influence China to adopt more environmental restrictions, which would be globally beneficial?
Toggle Commented Feb 2, 2022 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Both of these pieces brought to light the effectiveness of a simple solution to environmental issues in tropical areas. They both ironically argue for the utilization of the main cause of the problems themselves, tourists, to help finance conservation efforts. According to the ocean and coastal management study, the amount of litter on beaches is linked to visitor density and tourism activities, and in the marine policy article, it is stated that the greatest use of the Belize Barrier Reef ecosystem is by tourism, which threatens its well being. However, the articles do not conclude that tourism should be eliminated in order to conserve these places, because wiping out the tourism industry would destroy their economies. Instead, they relay evidence that tourists can provide finances for conservation efforts and are actually overwhelmingly willing to do so. In the cases of litter elimination in Barbados and conservation in Belize, tourism taxes and exit fees are mutually beneficial and subject tourists to the insignificant tradeoff of a small fee in exchange for the conservation of their beautiful destination. In comparison to the costs of a vacation to Belize, for example, which would include airfare, food, lodging, and activity costs, the increase of the exit fee from $3.75 to $20 is minor for the tourists, but very significant for Belize. Thus, using tourists to fund conservation efforts is a clear and simple solution for these places that are tourist destinations. This leaves me with the question of how can developing countries without a strong tourism industry finance conservation efforts?
Toggle Commented Feb 2, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Solow’s discussion of what sustainability means and entails struck me because of its human-oriented nature. I have read many arguments for sustainability that, to an extent, vilify humans and put the environment’s apparent needs at the front and center. For example, many environmentalists promote preserving “unspoiled lands” or “wilderness” for the sake of keeping them pure and untouched by human civilization. Solow takes a more practical approach and argues that no one resource needs to be preserved as long as there are substitutes for it, and that making no use of usable resources is actually unreasonable. He simplified sustainability to mean nothing more specific than an obligation to the future to give the future generations the option or capacity to be as privileged as we are. We can pleasure ourselves by using resources as long as it does not hurt future generations, but Solow does not argue that our consumption has to not hurt aspects of the environment. We could overfish a species of fish to extinction, but as long as other fish remain, it is perfectly reasonable. This is not the view held by all sustainability advocates. Another interesting idea that Solow brings up is the extremely high level of uncertainty associated with sustainability. This is due to many factors including the uncertainty in the private and public sector, the future, the general uncertain nature of human behavior, and the immense uncertainty within the field of environmental science. The idea of uncertainty is so relevant to the discussion about sustainability and solving environmental issues because they require the understanding of the intersection between human behavior and environmental science, which are impossible to fully understand at this point.
Toggle Commented Jan 19, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 19, 2022