Kevin Lewis

February 09, 2011

No matter how it is measured, income declines with global warming

Pin Ng & Xiaobing Zhao
Ecological Economics, forthcoming

The contemporaneous relationship between temperature and income is important because it enables economists to estimate the economic impact of global warming without assuming a structural model. Until recently, empirical evidence generally suggests that there is a negative relationship between temperature and income, and, therefore, global warming has an adverse impact on economic activity. However, Nordhaus (2006) argues that the temperature-income relationship depends on how income is measured. We show in this paper that the results of Nordhaus (2006) may be due to an omitted-variable problem. Based on a well-motivated temperature-income model, we find that the relationship between temperature and income is not dependent on income measurement. Our regression results show that the adverse impact of an increase of 1 °C in temperature can be as much as a 3% decrease in total income for the G-7 nations. Therefore, our results suggest an aggressive climate mitigation policy.


Make It Rain? Retrospection and the Attentive Electorate in the Context of Natural Disasters

John Gasper & Andrew Reeves
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Are election outcomes driven by events beyond the control of politicians? Democratic accountability requires that voters make reasonable evaluations of incumbents. Although natural disasters are beyond human control, the response to these events is the responsibility of elected officials. In a county-level analysis of gubernatorial and presidential elections from 1970 to 2006, we examine the effects of weather events and governmental responses. We find that electorates punish presidents and governors for severe weather damage. However, we find that these effects are dwarfed by the response of attentive electorates to the actions of their officials. When the president rejects a request by the governor for federal assistance, the president is punished and the governor is rewarded at the polls. The electorate is able to separate random events from governmental responses and attribute actions based on the defined roles of these two politicians.


The Long Term Consequences of Resource-Based Specialisation

Guy Michaels
Economic Journal, forthcoming

Using geological variation in oil abundance in the Southern US, I examine the long term effects of resource-based specialisation through economic channels. In 1890 oil abundant counties were similar to other nearby counties but after oil was discovered they began to specialise in its production. From 1940-90 oil abundance increased local employment per square kilometre especially in mining but also in manufacturing. Oil abundant counties had higher population growth, higher per capita income and better infrastructure.


Adaptation to Global Warming: Do Climate Models Tell Us What We Need to Know?

Naomi Oreskes, David Stainforth & Leonard Smith
Philosophy of Science, December 2010, Pages 1012-1028

Scientific experts have confirmed that anthropogenic warming is underway, and some degree of adaptation is now unavoidable. However, the details of impacts on the scale of climate change at which humans would have to prepare for and adjust to them are still the subject of considerable research, inquiry, and debate. Planning for adaptation requires information on the scale over which human organizations and institutions have authority and capacity, yet the general circulation models lack forecasting skill at these scales, and attempts to "downscale" climate models are still in the early stages of development. Because we do not know what adaptations will be required, we cannot say whether they will be harder or easier - more expensive or less - than emissions control. Whatever improvements in regional predictive capacity may come about in the future, the lack of current predictive capacity on the relevant scale is a strong argument for why we must both control greenhouse gas emissions and prepare to adapt.


Is there convergence of national environmental policies? An analysis of policy outputs in 24 OECD countries

Katharina Holzinger, Christoph Knill & Thomas Sommerer
Environmental Politics, February 2011, Pages 20-41

A central issue of globalisation research is the question whether globalisation leads to the convergence of policies or whether domestic responses to global challenges remain strongly influenced by existing domestic structures. In the field of environmental policy, there is some analysis of the diffusion of policy innovations, but there is a lack of systematic knowledge as to whether this leads to policy convergence at a broad scale. To what extent does environmental policy convergence take place? The analysis of policy development uses a data-set covering 22 different environmental policy measures in 24 OECD countries from 1970 to 2005. It reveals increases in the similarity of individual policies across countries, in the homogeneity of their policy repertoires and, particularly, in the strictness of regulations, as well as processes of catching-up and overtaking among countries.


Can domestication of wildlife lead to conservation? The economics of tiger farming in China

Brant Abbott & Cornelis van Kooten
Ecological Economics, 15 February 2011, Pages 721-728

Tigers are a threatened species that might soon disappear in the wild. Not only are tigers threatened by deteriorating and declining habitat, but poachers continue to kill tigers for traditional medicine, decoration pieces and so on. Although international trade in tiger products has been banned since 1987 and domestic trade within China since 1993, tigers continue to be poached and Chinese entrepreneurs have established tiger farms in anticipation of their demise. While China desires to permit sale of tiger products from captive-bred tigers, this is opposed on the grounds that it likely encourages illegal killing. Instead, wildlife conservationists lobby for more spending on anti-poaching and trade-ban enforcement. In this study, a mathematical bioeconomic model is used to investigate the issue. Simulation results indicate that, unless range states are characterized by institutions (rule of law and low corruption) similar to those found in the richest countries, reliance on enforcement alone is insufficient to guarantee survival of wild tigers. Likewise, even though conservation payments could protect wild tigers, the inability to enforce contracts militates against this. Our model indicates that wild tigers can be protected by permitting sale of products from tiger farms, although this likely requires the granting of an exclusive license to sellers. Finally, it is possible to tradeoff enforcement effort and sale of products from captive-bred animals, but such tradeoffs are worsened by deteriorating tiger habitat.


Holocene carbon emissions as a result of anthropogenic land cover change

Jed Kaplan et al.
Holocene, forthcoming

Humans have altered the Earth's land surface since the Paleolithic mainly by clearing woody vegetation first to improve hunting and gathering opportunities, and later to provide agricultural cropland. In the Holocene, agriculture was established on nearly all continents and led to widespread modification of terrestrial ecosystems. To quantify the role that humans played in the global carbon cycle over the Holocene, we developed a new, annually resolved inventory of anthropogenic land cover change from 8000 years ago to the beginning of large-scale industrialization (AD 1850). This inventory is based on a simple relationship between population and land use observed in several European countries over preindustrial time. Using this data set, and an alternative scenario based on the HYDE 3.1 land use data base, we forced the LPJ dynamic global vegetation model in a series of continuous simulations to evaluate the impacts of humans on terrestrial carbon storage during the preindustrial Holocene. Our model setup allowed us to quantify the importance of land degradation caused by repeated episodes of land use followed by abandonment. By 3 ka BP, cumulative carbon emissions caused by anthropogenic land cover change in our new scenario ranged between 84 and 102 Pg, translating to c. 7 ppm of atmospheric CO2. By AD 1850, emissions were 325-357 Pg in the new scenario, in contrast to 137-189 Pg when driven by HYDE. Regional events that resulted in local emissions or uptake of carbon were often balanced by contrasting patterns in other parts of the world. While we cannot close the carbon budget in the current study, simulated cumulative anthropogenic emissions over the preindustrial Holocene are consistent with the ice core record of atmospheric δ13CO2 and support the hypothesis that anthropogenic activities led to the stabilization of atmospheric CO2 concentrations at a level that made the world substantially warmer than it otherwise would be.


Turning on the Heat: Ecological Response to Simulated Warming in the Sea

Dan Smale et al.
PLoS ONE, January 2011, e16050

Significant warming has been observed in every ocean, yet our ability to predict the consequences of oceanic warming on marine biodiversity remains poor. Experiments have been severely limited because, until now, it has not been possible to manipulate seawater temperature in a consistent manner across a range of marine habitats. We constructed a "hot-plate" system to directly examine ecological responses to elevated seawater temperature in a subtidal marine system. The substratum available for colonisation and overlying seawater boundary layer were warmed for 36 days, which resulted in greater biomass of marine organisms and a doubling of space coverage by a dominant colonial ascidian. The "hot-plate" system will facilitate complex manipulations of temperature and multiple stressors in the field to provide valuable information on the response of individuals, populations and communities to environmental change in any aquatic habitat.


Can privatization of U.S. highways improve motorists' welfare?

Clifford Winston & Jia Yan
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

We assess the welfare effects of highway privatization accounting for government's behavior in setting the sale price, firms' strategic behavior in setting tolls, and motorists' heterogeneous preferences for speedy and reliable travel. We find motorists are able to benefit from privatization by negotiating tolls with private providers that increase their consumer surplus. Surprisingly, we find that by obtaining tolls and service that align with their varying preferences, motorists may be better off negotiating with a monopolist than with duopoly providers or under public-private competition. Toll regulation may be counterproductive because it is likely to treat motorists as homogeneous.


Carbon Control Policies, Competitiveness, and Border Tax Adjustments

Yazid Dissou & Terry Eyland
Energy Economics, forthcoming

Several propositions have recently been made to use border tax adjustments (BTAs) to address the loss of competitiveness induced by unilateral stringent domestic pollution control policies. This paper explores in a general equilibrium framework the sectoral and welfare implications of a unilateral domestic GHG control policy combined with a BTA scheme. Using the Canadian economy as an illustration, we assess the extent to which BTAs achieve their objectives and analyze the impacts of different methods of recycling the BTA proceeds to support domestic industries. Our simulation results suggest that imposing BTAs on the imports of non-fossil and energy-intensive products reduces or removes completely the negative competitiveness impacts that domestic industries suffer from. The use of the proceeds of the BTAs to support domestic energy-intensive industries improves their competitiveness and, more importantly, in some cases, overprotects them, as it allows them to even increase their output in comparison to the benchmark without emissions control. Our results also shed light on the existence of heterogeneity in the composition of energy-intensive industries as far as the recycling method of the BTA proceeds is concerned. Energy-intensive industries that are more oriented toward the domestic market are better off with the recycling of the BTA proceeds towards gross output than towards exports alone. Finally, abstracting from the environmental benefits of reduced emissions, we find that a BTA entails a higher welfare cost to households.


Cleaning Up Without Clearing Out? A Spatial Assessment of Environmental Gentrification

Adam Eckerd
Urban Affairs Review, September 2011, Pages 31-59

The environmental gentrification hypothesis predicts that environmental quality improvements in poor communities may spur gentrification and the displacement of residents. The author analyzes the relationship between hazardous site cleanups and gentrification in Portland, Oregon, during the 1990s. Using resident-defined neighborhoods as the unit of analysis, the author finds that there is no relationship between the extent of gentrification a neighborhood experiences and the perceived or actual environmental improvement that precedes it. Based on this evidence, the author suggests that similar types of cities may be able to improve environmental conditions relatively equitably without exacerbating concerns related to gentrification and social justice.


Carbon Capture by Fossil Fuel Power Plants: An Economic Analysis

Özge legen & Stefan Reichelstein
Management Science, January 2011, Pages 21-39

For fossil fuel power plants to be built in the future, carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies offer the potential for significant reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. We examine the break-even value for CCS adoptions, that is, the critical value in the charge for CO2 emissions that would justify investment in CCS capabilities. Our analysis takes explicitly into account that the supply of electricity at the wholesale level (generation) is organized competitively in some U.S. jurisdictions, whereas in others a regulated utility provides integrated generation and distribution services. For either market structure, we find that emissions charges near $30 per tonne of CO2 would be the break-even value for adopting CCS capabilities at new coal-fired power plants. The corresponding break-even values for natural gas plants are substantially higher, near $60 per tonne. Our break-even estimates serve as a basis for projecting the change in electricity prices once carbon emissions become costly. CCS capabilities effectively put an upper bound on the increase in electricity prices resulting from carbon regulations, and we estimate this bound to be near 30% at the retail level for both coal and natural gas plants. In contrast to the competitive power supply scenario, however, these price increases materialize only gradually for a regulated utility. The delay in price adjustments reflects that for regulated firms the basis for setting product prices is historical cost, rather than current cost.


The Carrot or the Stick? Evaluation of Education and Enforcement as Management Tools for Human-Wildlife Conflicts

Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Stewart Breck, Kenneth Wilson & John Broderick
PLoS ONE, January 2011, e15681

Evidence-based decision-making is critical for implementing conservation actions, especially for human-wildlife conflicts, which have been increasing worldwide. Conservation practitioners recognize that long-term solutions should include altering human behaviors, and public education and enforcement of wildlife-related laws are two management actions frequently implemented, but with little empirical evidence evaluating their success. We used a system where human-black bear conflicts were common, to experimentally test the efficacy of education and enforcement in altering human behavior to better secure attractants (garbage) from bears. We conducted 3 experiments in Aspen CO, USA to evaluate: 1) on-site education in communal dwellings and construction sites, 2) Bear Aware educational campaign in residential neighborhoods, and 3) elevated law enforcement at two levels in the core business area of Aspen. We measured human behaviors as the response including: violation of local wildlife ordinances, garbage availability to bears, and change in use of bear-resistance refuse containers. As implemented, we found little support for education, or enforcement in the form of daily patrolling in changing human behavior, but found more support for proactive enforcement, i.e., dispensing warning notices. More broadly we demonstrated the value of gathering evidence before and after implementing conservation actions, and the dangers of measuring responses in the absence of ecological knowledge. We recommend development of more effective educational methods, application of proactive enforcement, and continued evaluation of tools by directly measuring change in human behavior. We provide empirical evidence adding to the conservation managers' toolbox, informing policy makers, and promoting solutions to human-wildlife conflicts.


Profiling the ‘Pro-environmental Individual': A Personality Perspective

Ezra Markowitz, Lewis Goldberg, Michael Ashton & Kibeom Lee
Journal of Personality, forthcoming

There is considerable scientific interest in the psychological correlates of pro-environmental behaviors. Much research has focused on demographic and social-psychological characteristics of individuals who consistently perform such actions. Here, we report the results of two studies in which we explored relations between broad personality traits and pro-environmental actions. Using a wide variety of behavior and personality measures, we consistently found moderate positive relations between Openness to Experience and pro-environmental activities in both a community sample (Study 1: N=778) and an undergraduate student sample (Study 2: N=115). In Study 2 we showed that the effect of Openness on pro-environmental behaviors was fully mediated by individuals' environmental attitudes and connection to nature. Our findings suggest that high levels of aesthetic appreciation, creativity, and inquisitiveness, but not personality traits associated with altruism, may have motivated the performance of pro-environmental actions among our respondents. Implications for intervention development are discussed.


How Much Is Enough? Examining the Public's Beliefs About Consumption

Ezra Markowitz & Tom Bowerman
Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, forthcoming

Relatively little public opinion research has explored beliefs about consumption. This lack of research is surprising given the increasing attention paid by many commentators to the relationship between consumption and ecological sustainability. Reporting on data collected from a series of five statewide surveys of Oregonians conducted between 2008 and 2009, we find that a strong majority (74-88%) of the Oregon public supports reducing consumption and believes doing so would improve societal and individual well-being. These findings appear to challenge conventional wisdom about our collective and never-ending need for consumption of material goods. Our results reveal broad agreement on the consumption issue across traditional ideological divides. We also conducted in-depth qualitative interviews, which allowed us to explore what "consumption" means to Oregonians and why people think our country would be better off if we reduced consumption. Our findings suggest that populist attitudes toward reducing consumption may fill a role that policymakers avoid for a variety of reasons. We discuss the relevance of consumption beliefs to public policy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as directions for future research.

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