Kevin Lewis

March 30, 2016

Red, White, and Blue Enough to be Green: Effects of Moral Framing on Climate Change Attitudes and Conservation Behaviors

Christopher Wolsko, Hector Ariceaga & Jesse Seiden

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, July 2016, Pages 7–19

Widespread political polarization on issues related to environmental conservation may be partially explained by the chronic framing of persuasive messages in ideological and moral terms that hold greater appeal for liberals and egalitarians. A series of three experiments examined the extent to which variations in the moral framing of pro-environmental messaging affect liberals' vs. conservatives' conservation intentions, climate change attitudes, and donations to an environmental organization. While liberals did not generally differ across conditions, conservatives shifted substantially in the pro-environmental direction after exposure to a binding moral frame, in which protecting the natural environment was portrayed as a matter of obeying authority, defending the purity of nature, and demonstrating one's patriotism to the United States. This shift was pronounced when conservatives perceived the congruent appeal to be a stronger argument. Evidence of mediated moderation is also presented, in which the attitudinal and behavioral shifts for conservatives were a function of the degree to which the values present in the pro-environmental appeal were perceived as coming from the ingroup. Discussion focuses on future directions for more precisely specifying moral framing effects, and on considering the pros and cons of targeted messaging for the sustainability of environmental attitude change.


From plastic bottle recycling to policy support: An experimental test of pro-environmental spillover

Heather Barnes Truelove et al.

Journal of Environmental Psychology, forthcoming

Little research has investigated the extent to which performance of one pro-environmental behavior (PEB) spills over to increase or decrease support for pro-environmental policies or the mechanisms underlying spillover effects. In this study, 283 U.S. university students were randomly assigned via situational manipulations to either recycle a water bottle, throw the bottle in the trash, or a control condition. All participants then completed surveys assessing environmental identity, guilt, and environmental worry, as well as support for a pro-environmental campus green fund. Results showed evidence for negative spillover among Democrats only, which was mediated by environmental identity: Democrats who recycled the water bottle had lower environmental identities and were less supportive of the green fund than those in the control condition. Neither Republicans nor Independents displayed spillover. The results have implications for those interested in increasing small, easy PEBs in hopes of gaining future support for environmental policies.


Who Did the Ethanol Tax Credit Benefit? An Event Analysis of Subsidy Incidence

David Bielen, Richard Newell & William Pizer

NBER Working Paper, February 2016

Using commodity futures contract and spot prices, we estimate the incidence of the US ethanol subsidy accruing to corn farmers, ethanol producers, gasoline blenders, and gasoline consumers at expiration in 2011. We find compelling evidence that ethanol producers captured two-thirds of the subsidy, and suggestive evidence that a small portion of this benefit accrued to corn farmers. The remaining one-third appears to have been captured by blenders, as we find no evidence that oil refiners or gasoline consumers captured any part of the subsidy. This paper contributes to understanding of biofuels markets and policy and empirical estimation of economic incidence.


The Effect of Competition on Toxic Pollution Releases

Daniel Simon & Jeffrey Prince

Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, forthcoming

We examine how competition affects toxic industrial releases, using five years of data from thousands of facilities across hundreds of industries. Our main result indicates that competition reduces toxic releases at the facility level. On average, each percentage-point reduction in the Herfindahl Index (HHI) results in a nearly two-percent reduction in a facility's toxic releases. At the same time, we find no evidence that competition increases aggregate pollution. Further analysis sheds some light on the mechanisms through which firms reduce pollution releases due to increased competition. In particular, we find suggestive evidence that this relationship is due to both reduced output and increases in abatement. We find no evidence that our result is driven by: consumer aversion to pollution, regulations changing with competition, or technologies introduced by new firms. Taken together, our results indicate that competition may be good, at least for public health in areas near polluting facilities, and fail to provide support for the hypothesis that competition leads to more socially undesirable behavior.


Of Disasters and Dragon Kings: A Statistical Analysis of Nuclear Power Incidents and Accidents

Spencer Wheatley, Benjamin Sovacool & Didier Sornette

Risk Analysis, forthcoming

We perform a statistical study of risk in nuclear energy systems. This study provides and analyzes a data set that is twice the size of the previous best data set on nuclear incidents and accidents, comparing three measures of severity: the industry standard International Nuclear Event Scale, the Nuclear Accident Magnitude Scale of radiation release, and cost in U.S. dollars. The rate of nuclear accidents with cost above 20 MM 2013 USD, per reactor per year, has decreased from the 1970s until the present time. Along the way, the rate dropped significantly after Chernobyl (April 1986) and is expected to be roughly stable around a level of 0.003, suggesting an average of just over one event per year across the current global fleet. The distribution of costs appears to have changed following the Three Mile Island major accident (March 1979). The median cost became approximately 3.5 times smaller, but an extremely heavy tail emerged, being well described by a Pareto distribution with parameter α = 0.5–0.6. For instance, the cost of the two largest events, Chernobyl and Fukushima (March 2011), is equal to nearly five times the sum of the 173 other events. We also document a significant runaway disaster regime in both radiation release and cost data, which we associate with the “dragon-king” phenomenon. Since the major accident at Fukushima (March 2011) occurred recently, we are unable to quantify an impact of the industry response to this disaster. Excluding such improvements, in terms of costs, our range of models suggests that there is presently a 50% chance that (i) a Fukushima event (or larger) occurs every 60–150 years, and (ii) that a Three Mile Island event (or larger) occurs every 10–20 years. Further — even assuming that it is no longer possible to suffer an event more costly than Chernobyl or Fukushima — the expected annual cost and its standard error bracket the cost of a new plant. This highlights the importance of improvements not only immediately following Fukushima, but also deeper improvements to effectively exclude the possibility of “dragon-king” disasters. Finally, we find that the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) is inconsistent in terms of both cost and radiation released. To be consistent with cost data, the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters would need to have between an INES level of 10 and 11, rather than the maximum of 7.


Life goals predict environmental behavior: Cross-cultural and longitudinal evidence

Wenceslao Unanue et al.

Journal of Environmental Psychology, forthcoming

Prioritizing intrinsic life goals (self-development, community involvement, relationships) rather than extrinsic ones (money, fame, image) is said to foster not only personal wellbeing, but also pro-social behavior such as protecting the environment. We explored concurrent and prospective links between intrinsic (versus extrinsic) life goals and self-reported environmentally responsible behavior, using correlational and longitudinal data from adult participants in a mass consumer society (UK) and a fast developing nation (Chile). In both countries, the importance of intrinsic (versus extrinsic) life goals was associated cross-sectionally with environmentally responsible behavior, even after controlling for possible effects of environmental worldviews and environmental identification. In longitudinal analyses, life goals prospectively predicted environmentally responsible behavior over a two-year period, whereas, rather unexpectedly, environmental worldviews and environmental identification did not. We conclude that focusing on intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, life goals may be important not just for individuals’ well-being, but also for the well-being of future generations.


The Role of Sales Agents in Information Disclosure: Evidence from a Field Experiment

Hunt Allcott & Richard Sweeney

Management Science, forthcoming

With a large nationwide retailer, we run a natural field experiment to measure the effects of energy use information disclosure, customer rebates, and sales agent incentives on demand for energy-efficient durable goods. Although a combination of large rebates plus sales incentives substantially increases market share, information and sales incentives alone each have zero statistical effect and explain at most a small fraction of the low baseline market share. Sales agents strategically comply only partially with the experiment, targeting information to more interested consumers but not discussing energy efficiency with the disinterested majority. These results suggest that seller-provided information is not a major barrier to energy-efficiency investments at current prices in this context.


Is California More Energy Efficient than the Rest of the Nation? Evidence from Commercial Real Estate

Matthew Kahn, Nils Kok & Peng Liu

NBER Working Paper, January 2016

California’s per-capita electricity consumption is 50 percent lower than national per-capita consumption. Mild climate, deindustrialization, and its demographics explain part of this differential. California energy efficiency policy is often claimed to be another key factor. A challenge in judging this claim is the heterogeneity of the real estate capital stock. Residential homes differ along a large number of physical attributes. We access a proprietary dataset from a large hotel chain that allows us to evaluate the environmental performance of comparable commercial real estate across the United States. Controlling for climate conditions and geographic location, we document that California’s commercial real estate stock is the most energy efficient at a point in time but this differential is quantitatively small. However, over the years 2007 to 2013, California’s hotels achieved much greater energy efficiency progress than hotels in other states.


Is Shale Development Drilling Holes in the Human Capital Pipeline?

Dan Rickman, Hongbo Wang & John Winters

Oklahoma State University Working Paper, January 2016

Using the Synthetic Control Method (SCM) and a novel method for measuring changes in educational attainment we examine the link between educational attainment and shale oil and gas extraction for the states of Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The three states examined are economically-small, relatively more rural, and have high levels of shale oil and gas reserves. They also are varied in that West Virginia is intensive in shale gas extraction, while the other two are intensive in shale oil extraction. We find significant reductions in high school and college attainment among all three states' initial residents because of the shale booms.


An Input-Output Model of the U.S. Economy with Pollution Externality

Nicholas Muller

NBER Working Paper, March 2016

Input-output (I-O) analysis represents the flows of goods and services within the market. Environmentally-extended I-O (EEIO) models include flows of both pollution and consumption of resources and energy. The present paper proposes a conceptual structure for EEIO accounts that builds on the work of Leontief (1970) and Hendrickson, Lave, and Matthews (2006), and then estimates empirical EEIO accounts for the U.S. economy in 1999 and 2011. The empirical accounts provide the first complete characterization of the air pollution damage flows throughout the U.S. economy. Pollution intensity fell from 7 percent of value-added in 1999 to 2 percent in 2011. The utility sector exhibits the highest ratio of pollution damage from value-added production to supply chain damage; this ratio was 22 in 1999 and 54 in 2011. About one-half of all damage comes from intermediate demand, one-third from household consumption, and about 7 percent each from fixed investment and government use of commodities. In both 1999 and 2011, damages would have been about 7 percent higher had all imports been made domestically. The damages from exported goods nearly doubled from 5 percent to almost 10 percent of total pollution damage.


Environmental Pollution and Biodiversity: Light Pollution and Sea Turtles in the Caribbean

Michael Brei, Agustín Pérez-Barahona & Eric Strobl

Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, May 2016, Pages 95–116

We examine the impact of pollution on biodiversity by studying the effect of coastal light pollution on the sea turtle population in the Caribbean. To this end we assemble a panel data set of sea turtle nesting activity and satellite-derived measures of nighttime light. Controlling for the surveyor effort, the local economic infrastructure, and spatial spillovers, we find that nighttime light significantly reduces the number of sea turtle nests. According to data on replacement costs for sea turtles raised in captivity, our result suggests that the increase in lighting over the last two decades has resulted in the loss of close to 1,800 sea turtles in the Caribbean, worth up to $288 million. Incorporating our empirical estimates into a stage-structured population model, we discover that the dynamic effect of nighttime light on future generations of sea turtles is likely to be much larger, with a cost of approximately $2.8 billion for Guadeloupe alone. More generally, our study provides a new approach to valuing the cost of environmental pollution associated with species extinction.


Trends in mercury wet deposition and mercury air concentrations across the U.S. and Canada

Peter Weiss-Penzias et al.

Science of the Total Environment, forthcoming

This study examined the spatial and temporal trends of mercury (Hg) in wet deposition and air concentrations in the United States (U.S.) and Canada between 1997 and 2013. Data were obtained from the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) and Environment Canada monitoring networks, and other sources. Of the 19 sites with data records from 1997–2013, 53% had significant negative trends in Hg concentration in wet deposition, while no sites had significant positive trends, which is in general agreement with earlier studies that considered NADP data up until about 2010. However, for the time period 2007–2013 (71 sites), 17% and 13% of the sites had significant positive and negative trends, respectively, and for the time period 2008–2013 (81 sites) 30% and 6% of the sites had significant positive and negative trends, respectively. Non-significant positive tendencies were also widespread. Regional trend analyses revealed significant positive trends in Hg concentration in the Rocky Mountains, Plains, and Upper Midwest regions for the recent time periods in addition to significant positive trends in Hg deposition for the continent as a whole. Sulfate concentration trends in wet deposition were negative in all regions, suggesting a lower importance of local Hg sources. The trend in gaseous elemental Hg from short-term datasets merged as one continuous record was broadly consistent with trends in Hg concentration in wet deposition, with the early time period (1998–2007) producing a significantly negative trend (− 1.5 ± 0.2% year− 1) and the recent time period (2008–2013) displaying a flat slope (− 0.3 ± 0.1% year− 1, not significant). The observed shift to more positive or less negative trends in Hg wet deposition primarily seen in the Central-Western regions is consistent with the effects of rising Hg emissions from regions outside the U.S. and Canada and the influence of long-range transport in the free troposphere.


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