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01/10/2017

Comments

Brianna Rakouska

It is refreshing and comforting to read about economists that consider and care about the environment. Krugman states that 2,500 economists see the importance of limiting greenhouse gas emissions, indicating that economists are more enthusiastic about the environment than many assume. Being that this was originally published in 1997, I can only assume this number has increased dramatically in the face of the growing concerns with climate change. Despite this, there has been little progress in adjusting the market to accommodate for this concern.

Inevitably, when considering economics and the environment the problem of valuation and the cost of degrading that environment comes up. As discussed in class, it is easy to put a price on a barrel of oil or a ton of timber. There are obvious problems with measuring the costs of pollution and environmental degradation because it is difficult to place a value on a something that does not act as a regular market good. Additionally, ecosystems are more complex than we realize and our actions may have unexpected and seemingly unrelated consequences. Stavin says that “perfectly functioning markets are the exception rather than the rule” which hits the nail on the head. In my Business and the Natural Environment class we discussed consumer demand as one way to mitigate externalities like environmental degradation instead of through taxes. Similar to the invisible hand, if individual consumers were demanding products that were not harmful to the environment, the market would shift to accommodate these preferences, benefiting humanity and the environment. This is fairly unrealistic as it would require more education for consumers on the environment, full information for them to make informed decisions, and the means to be discerning when they make purchases.

Liam Curtin

To me, the role of an economist has always been in the realm of business, using math and graphical analysis to perform all sorts of economic functions, from optimization to valuation. Economics is a necessary field of study, but one that always seemed too mundane and focused on the niche of markets. However, as many of my peers have pointed out, after reading the article by Paul Krugman, I have realized the scope of economics in interdisciplinary studies that pertains to this class. I had the same pre-disposition that Krugman described when he said that "economists know the price of everything, but the value of everything" because I always viewed economics as a science that was shrouded by numbers and only trusted in the absolute. Because of this, it was easy for me to assume that economists cared little for the environment. However, after reading the article and seeing how closely associated economics and the environment is, it is difficult to view a world where they aren't as close, but in a different sense from the way markets normal work. Every time a natural resource is extracted from the earth causes further implications down the line that affects future extraction, something that is not present in the traditional goods market. The further implications caused by the markets for natural resources and environments also have further ripples caused by the initial extraction and implications that truly distinguish this discipline of economics from the traditional view of the field.
This deviation from traditional economics has piqued my interests, but many questions remain unanswered after reading the articles, such as how to properly valuate a natural resource based on its scarcity if it is not regenerative, but can be easily replaced, like the case with natural gas/petroleum and newer forms of energy such as wind and solar energy. My basis question is how can natural resource markets, and the subsequent regulation of it stay relevant when there are new technological advancements in competing markets, such as wind and solar, that happen daily. I feel that the technology moves to quickly for the bureaucracy to keep up with appropriate taxation to keep pollution in check.

Jones Veith

I began my reading with Paul Krugman’s article. To me, Krugman’s ability to address the stereotype of an economist, explain some basic and easily understandable principles of economics, and then finally to explain why many economists are actually “enthusiastic environmentalists” was the strongest and clearest argument made in any of the readings. While certainly some of the prices don’t match up with some of the social costs, the most important part of Krugman’s article lies in the negative externalities, such as pollution, that can come from not considering the environment. This point is also made in Chapter Two of Kahn. Similarly, Krugman’s quotation from an economics textbook significantly strengthened his argument. Furthermore, Krugman’s ability to provide a link to the article “Economists Statement on Climate Change” added validity and effectiveness to his argument. In Kahn’s textbook, however, one of the first statements he made did the opposite. The sentence, “protestors argue that free markets are the root of all social evils, particularly with respect to the environment,” seemed to be not only be a broad generalization, but also not wholly truthful. While I am certainly not an expert on these issues, I disagree with the statement that political protests in Latin America and Asia revolve particularly around environmental issues. Regardless, the importance of recognizing that environmental factors can cause market failure remains. Lastly, it was familiar to see the issues that arose in the New York Times article and once again proved a few things about our government. Specifically, anti-environmental policy can come from both sides of the aisle and can be advertised as one that essentially has no environmental repercussions (and it was interesting to see HRC’s name mentioned in the article).

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