Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Chance for some blogging...

What is happening in Copenhagen next month?

What are the goals?

What are some of the keys to success?

What is the general outlook?

Cruise port expanding in Barbados

From today's NationNews: $70 Million Cruise Plan.


Was there an environmental impact analysis?
Was there a cost-benefit analysis?

Suppose we were interested in understanding the merits of this plan. What information would we need? What costs and benefits would we have to measure? What valuation methods might be useful?

The article mentions a sustainable recreation experience. I wonder what that means...

Chance for some blogging credit

As we approach the end of the term, among other things I'm considering how everyone is grasping the big picture.

One central theme throughout the course is that while sustainable resource use is best for society, most decisions regarding use are made at the individual level. Often, when it comes to the environment, what is best for the individual is not what is best for society as a whole. Result: over-use.

Here's a question to think about ...

Are there circumstances under which the individual considerations of self-interest and the resulting social outcomes are compatible with true environmental sustainability? Or does this notion of compatable individual and social well-being have to be forced by policy?

Feel free to provide real, hypothetical or historic examples or a general description.

The definition of sustainable development

The United Nations Division for Sustainable Development defines sustainable development as:

"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

What do you think about this definition?

Particularly, do you think this definition is useful for policy action?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unintended consequences of REDDs

REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation.

The system works as follows:

Estimated carbon savings from standing trees are estimated.
Those carbon credits are then sold in international carbon markets.
This provides a monetary incentive to preserve standing forests, essentially by increasing the environmental rent to a point where it is higher than the rents from various forms of development.

Sounds good. We address the issues associated with the skewed intertemporal and international distribution of costs and benefits associated with deforestation, as developed countries buy carbon credits from developing nations and forests are preserved for future generations.

Problems and unintended consequences? Yep.

Read more here and here.

Norway to fund forest preservation in Guyana

From WorldWatch: "Norway to help protect Guyana's Forests".

This is a great example of econ principles in action.

Quotable line regarding land rent, discount rates and incentives: "If we don't start paying people for the ecosystem services that forests provide, they'll be used for other economic activities that result in deforestation and degradation." (Brendan Mackey, forest ecologist with the Australian National University)

Pigouvian tax on driving

From Deutsche-Welle (German newspaper), the Dutch government is imposing a new tax to replace current road taxes and auto sales taxes. The new system will impose a tax on each car based on distance driven. More fuel efficient cars will be taxed at a lower rate. Driving during congested periods will be taxed at a higher rate. How can they do it? GPS tracking. Interesting (and pretty solid IMO) application of Pigou ... but a bit scary in terms of, you know, the big brother implications.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thomas Friedman on tropical deforestation

From today's N.Y. Times.

Friedman describes the state of the problem (it's all about relative discount rates isn't it?), and the need for wholesale change in the way we go about encouraging economic development.

He sums it up in one sentence: "But it takes money."

Connection between this post and the previous one?

Meat production, consumption and climate change

A new report from Worldwatch Institute suggests that up to 51% of annual worldwide GHG emissions are attributable to meat (cows, pigs, chickens, etc) grown for food. Previous estimates from FAO suggested the figure was 18%. Some of the conclusions of the new study will certainly be questioned. For example, the study includes animal respiration (breathing) in its calculations. You can read it yourself (pdf available here). But either way, there is no question that meat production is a huge source of emissions, responsible for more GHGs than transport (driving cars).

So, does this mean that you can't really claim to be an "environmentalist" if you eat meat?

Hat tip: env-econ

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Costs and benefits aren't always immediately obvious

Here is a short report on an interesting discovery from the British Antarctic Survey.

Basically, melting ice can have positive impacts on climate change. New open land (that once was ice) allows trees to grow, sequestering C02. New open water (that once was ice) allows phytoplankton to bloom, also sequestering carbon. The former effect appears larger than the latter, and both are small relative to global emissions (less than 1%). Neither effect appears to have been incorporated into climate modeling and the associated predictions.

Science people... we call this 'negative feedback', right? That is, higher C02 creates conditions that diminish C02.