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Just finished Bill Bryson's book "A Walk in The Woods", which was a very entertaining read.

Something I found very interesting and relevant was his discussion of the American Chestnut Tree. Apparently 1 in every 4 trees in the Appalachian Woods used to be an American Chestnut. Then about 100 years ago a fungal disease introduced from trade with Asia resulted in 3-4 billion of the iconic American Chestnut trees being killed in a very short amount of time, and it is now a critically endangered species.

Just thought this was very relevant and is a reminder of how fragile and unprepared ecosystems can be for rapid human advances.

Maisie Strawn

I found the map in the “Ten Facts about the Economics of Climate Change and Policy” illustrating the effect of climate change on per capita GDP in 2100 by Country to be particularly striking and concerning. The economic impact of climate change on the global economy is potentially devastating--if we take no action. However, there is reason for hope if we follow the powerful economic argument to take action now, particularly by putting a price on carbon. The authors illustrate how the price of renewable energy is already falling despite most GHG emissions still not being covered by a carbon pricing initiative.If the U.S. did institute a price on carbon price starting at $50 per ton we could reduce our carbon emissions by up to 30%!, “yielding climate-related benefits that exceed the economic costs by about 70 percent”. These benefits can already be seen in the U.S. in states that are participating in the RGGI. A report from the Analysis Group (2018) (https://www.analysisgroup.com/globalassets/uploadedfiles/content/insights/publishing/analysis_group_rggi_report_april_2018.pdf) found that, as a result of their participation, RGGI states have generated approximately $4 billion in net positive economic value for their economies. Another study from the Acadia Center (2016)(https://acadiacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Acadia_Center_2016_RGGI_Report-Measuring_Success_FINAL_08092016.pdf) finds that initiative has added tens of thousands of job years in participating states. While enjoying these economic gains, RGGI states have also substantially decreased their green-house gas emissions, which obviously has its own benefits. We have the opportunity to actually increase economic prosperity for all while addressing climate change.

Nikki Doherty

A theme that has stuck out to me throughout this semester is that of vulnerability. This is highlighted by the “Struggling US counties will be hit hardest by climate change” and “Globally, low-income countries will lose larger shares of their economic output” sections from the Ten Facts about the Economics of Climate Change.

Communities ranking lowly in terms of labor markets and income are most likely to face the largest damages from climate change. In fact, countries ranking in the bottom quintile of economic vitality, experience damages costing almost 6 percent of their county GDP more than the GDP of countries ranking in the top quintile of economic vitality. Given that they are likely already lower in GDP, this is increasingly concerning. Low quintile countries have diminished voice and resources to combat the changes occurring, and they are less likely to have people looking out for them. Moreover, the people in these areas are likely low income and unable to migrate to areas with lesser damages. Thus, minorities and indigenous communities bear a greater burden of climate change relative to other social groups. This differential is increasingly problematic as these populations already lag in health outcomes.

On a global scale, inequity also exists. Countries that contribute very little to climate change (low per capita emissions) suffer higher climate damages per capita relative to high contributors. Moreover, the bottom third of countries regarding income make up almost all the countries racing an increase in mortality rates (from climate change). This may lead more developed countries to fail to take into account the entire social cost, because they are not the ones being hit the hardest. They remain individualistic in the sense that, because they aren’t see big damages on their own populations, they aren’t acting on the problem.

The “endogeneity of growth” is an interesting concept from the Boston Review article that makes a ton of sense. If developing countries face the most damages and destruction from climate change, their economic growth is going to be most stunted. Destruction will destabilize their industries, their way of living, their capital, their resources, etc. If this happens, developing countries will then even less resources that they began with to mitigate climate change. They become hit doubly hard and are struggling to stabilize and shift technology away from carbon usage. If we want to hold these countries accountable for climate change, then we should offer them increased aid.

An article I read uses the term “climate refugees” to refer to the groups hit doubly hard by economic/social marginalization and the consequences of climate change (Global Citizen). The article sites Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico’s poorest communities. While wealthier groups had opportunities to leave or rebuild, poorer groups waited years for assistance from an underfunded relief effort. They suggest that this is not a unique incident, but a trend that will become increasingly common—natural disasters leading to deepening inequality. Additionally, the Global Citizen article estimates that by 2030 100 million people living in developing countries will be pressed into poverty as a result of climate change. As displacement continues happening because of environmental changes, more and more people will seek refuge in different areas and countries. Considering the current hostility many countries have in conversations regarding refugees, The Global Citizen deems displacement even more problematic.

By not changing our behaviors, we are continuously stacking the odds against our most vulnerable populations.

Links Referenced:

Didi Pace

Stern notes that climate change is a global problem, and solutions will require coordinated action for both rich and poor nations. In Sustainable Development, we talked about how poorer nations can take advantage of technological leapfrogging. In essence, this means that developed countries invest in the research and development, and the underdeveloped nations use this information for implementing new climate technologies. This technological coordinated action seems crucial in combatting climate change.

Using the cigarette smoking example, Stern says we need to look beyond traditional economic incentives. Economics tells us that if the financial benefits are greater than the financial costs, people will act. Yet, behavioral economics says that we will break this cost-benefit Neoclassical economic principle if there are other incentives at play. These incentives include embarrassment, praise, approval of others, fairness, competitiveness, etc. I would like to think that eventually, if not already, these alternative incentives will impact climate change like they did with cigarette smoking.

Olivia Luzzio

Brookings’ “Ten Facts about the Economics of Climate Change and Climate Policy” article emphasizes the disproportionate impact climate change is expected to have on low-income communities. Within the U.S., those with the lowest-ranked economic vitality are predicted to incur the highest damage costs. Worldwide, low-income countries will experience the largest proportionate impacts on GDP and the highest climate-related mortality rates. Germanwatch has developed an index called the Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) which quantifies the impacts of extreme weather events in terms of fatalities and economics losses. The ten countries they predict will suffer the most from climate change are all in South America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, or Africa. This aligns with the Brookings article’s map predicting the effect of climate change on per capita GDP in 2100 throughout the world. It appears that the global South will be the hardest hit due largely to the excessive emissions and lack of regulation in North America, Europe, and China.
This brings to mind the dependency theory we discussed in development economics, wherein resources flow from underdeveloped countries (largely the global South) to developed countries (largely the global North). This leads to the enrichment of wealthier countries at the expense of poor nations. In the case of climate change, the global North extracts vast amounts of resources from the environment, weather that be natural resources or clean air, and the global South bears the cost of this extraction. Whether or not this phenomenon persists depends on the extent to which developed countries instigate policies that reduce their contribution to global emissions. Whether these policies are developed is likely related to how much each country has to lose. Since low-income communities in the U.S. stand to suffer the most from climate change, the priority placed on these communities is a primary indicator of the importance of policy development. Unfortunately, in a nation where the income gap continues to widen, the prioritization of low-income Americans is questionable, as is the potential for development of effective environmental policies.


Lucas Roberton

Just a few things I found interesting:

First, in the Brookings article, I found it crazy that according to the projections, this year the U.S. would only be pricing about 1% of their carbon emissions. I looked into this a bit further and found a map that shows the states that are currently pricing carbon and their systems for it: https://www.c2es.org/document/us-state-carbon-pricing-policies/
My thoughts are that if a few states are able to find ways to price carbon, there is no reason the federal government can't mandate that each state use a system to price their carbon. Giving them the freedom of choice for their system of pricing carbon would most likely make them more accepting of this idea. If we were to do this, I have a feeling we would be pricing a lot more than 1% of our emissions, which would not only create an incentive to use cleaner energy, but would obviously decrease our carbon use.

The other thing I found interesting from these readings is that in the Boston Review piece, I had not considered that the rising temperatures would actually be harming those who were already less well off more. The damage on the agricultural sector would be increased greatly, which would certainly hurt those who are living off of farming and aren't necessarily making great amounts of income.

Steven Black

There were many interesting points raised in these two articles. One point is that while we often focus on the negatives of climate change, there are actually some countries that would benefit from a 3 to 5-degree celsius increase in global temperatures. Canada, Chile and most of Europe would see an increase in GDP greater than one percent. Additionally, these countries along with parts of the US, Central and South America, Asia, southern Africa, and Australia would see a significant number of lives saved as a direct result of climate change. This is where global equity concerns come into play since wealthier countries either have a positive effect or a much smaller negative effect from climate change than lower-income countries. The distribution of costs and benefits among countries makes it very difficult to obtain global cooperation to address climate change issues. It would be difficult to imagine a country like Russia to willingly bear a heavy cost to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when rising temperatures would both increase their GDP and save a large number of lives within Russia.

Overall the Environmental Facts were a lot more comforting than most of the articles we read. The cost of wind and solar energy generation has declined drastically over the past decade, thus making them competitive with fossil fuels. Energy intensity in economic output has also fallen drastically in the US. While still low, the share of greenhouse gas emissions covered by carbon pricing initiatives has risen rapidly over the past decade as well. Evidence from carbon pricing structures has shown them to be effective, which would likely lead to their continued use in more areas. The abatement costs for different policy options were also interesting. Energy efficiency policies can have a negative cost, which you would expect firms to gladly implement without any push from the government.

Margot McConnell

Something I think is important to always point out in the context of climate change is that there is always an unequal distribution of burdens, which ultimately can have an impact on economic outcomes. An article I read earlier about this injustice shows that there must be action towards addressing climate change in order to help reduce these inequalities. We talked a lot in class earlier this semester about the impact that climate change has on certain populations such as the rural farmers. When the climate is warmer, it can be harder for them to grow certain crops. Additionally, there is more likely to be a shortage in the water supply. Issues that people like rural farmers face due to climate change have a big impact on their lives especially when farming is their main source of income and is what their family has traditionally been doing for many years. It is not easy to switch to another job outside of farming when the climate becomes too hot. Also, learning how to work with a new crop, for example, requires a different set of knowledge. Just by this example with the farmer, you can see how much climate change can affect someone on the individual level. This article goes further to mention that maybe addressing these climate issues will incentivize people to consider social injustices in general, not just on the climate front. I think that is something that our country and others need to focus on, and starting on the climate front could be a great way to acknowledge and address these inequities.

Reading the article from the Boston Review made me think back to the Sustainable Development class. My project focused on the investment piece of sustainability. The main point is that there has to be an effort from both the public and private sector when it comes to investing in sustainable technology especially in terms of energy. I think this in a lot of ways ties back to what the Boston Review article pointed out about how the rich and the poor have to come together through a set of shared goals in order to address these global issue. The point on global collective action is really important when it comes to climate issues. We all exist together on this earth, so it should not be up to just a select few countries to make progress towards improving environmental equality; everyone has to be in this together. In a lot of ways, what is happening with COVID-19 reminds me of this whole concept of global collective action. Even just within the United States, there has to be a collective action among all the states to listen to social distancing measures and to stay at home if we want to combat this pandemic. This sort of idea can be carried over into the environmental realm. Half the states within the United States cannot decide they are not going to abide by environmental regulations (not that there are any right now to be honest) while the other half make strides towards improving sustainable efforts. Nothing will ever be accomplished unless there is a collective action to combat an issue that is on the larger scale than just one city or state.


I read "Can We Stop Global Warming?" By Nicholas Stern with the terms mitigation and adaptation in my mind. Last “class” session we attempted to make the distinction between the two terms and while reading the article I came across some clarity: while mitigation deals with preventative measures to lessen the blow, unfortunately the global community seems to have passed that threshold and is a period of rather slow adaptation to the new setting of a speedily warming Earth.
In very simple terms Stern defines what happens if indifference and inaction are our attitudes toward climate climate change: temperature rise would become unbearable by 2035. Of weather-induced deaths, heat-related fatalities are highest on average. Before we even get to our next decade the slow warming will likely force many communities in already unbearably hot conditions to suffer.
Stern states, “In fact, failing to act is anti-growth, since it risks the future of growth itself.” Renewable energy which the article refers to as ‘carbon-free technology’ is readily available. Advancement and innovation in these fields is ongoing and continually expanding. However, “...these markets can only be created at scale if an effective global response is realized.” Here is where the phrase “mutually agree to mutually coerce” comes to play, the global community as whole must work to reduce emissions. However, the problem that surfaces is the optics of developed nations who were responsible for, “ 79 percent of the cumulative energy emissions over the last 50 years,” beginning to police/ask developing nations to turn to alternative sources of success as they try to advance themselves. After benefiting from the initial ease of fossil fuels and ecologically degrading behavior, it is a hypocritical position of authority to govern the emissions of up and coming nations but perhaps potentially necessary, considering “ “All the players need to understand the implications for them, their growth, their mortality rates, and the survival of species and natural flora and fauna in their country.” Additionally, Stern hopes to determine whether government involvement is necessary and the best answer is: ‘it depends’.
Overall, this article did a good job incorporating many of the concepts we have learned over the course of our study of Natural Resources and Environmental Economics.

Max Gebauer

In Stern's article, he briefly discusses the problems of allocating the burden of abatement across countries with differing historic and current emission levels. He notes what I call the "fairness in development" argument which holds that less-developed nations (think Annex 2 countries) should. be allowed to develop in the same GHG emission heavy manner that Annex 1 nations did. Understandably, representatives of Annex 2 nations have found it hypocritical of Annex 1 nations to suggest that Annex 2 nations shouldn't pursue a similar approach to development that 1s did. However, this is implicitly holding that the only effective path to development involves the heavy use of energy sources that emit large amounts of GHGs. In fact, it seems that many of the readings we've done for this class give convincing reasons why this is certainly not the only path to development, and perhaps not even the "best". Full cost-accounting of coal and other fossil fuels suggests that it's economically prudent to actually pursue renewable energy, especially for powering our electric grids. Once externalities are internalized, clean energy heavy development could potentially be not only viable, but preferable.

This brings me to a related point, what are we concerned with? We only value GDP derivatively, in that its valuable only insofar that it often appears to promote things that we actually value in and of themselves. I contend that discussions on the effects of effective response to climate change over focus on measures such as GDP which could potentially distort cost benefit analysis if we fail to recognize to non-equivalence between GDP and well-being. I personally subscribe to a version of the Capabilites based approach to measuring and comparing human flourishing. Sen famously held that we don't (and shouldn't) value income in and of itself, rather we should understand income as a means of increasing our well-being and agency freedom. With this understanding of welfare, the dollar costs of abatement could theoretically be offset by increases in what we really value: human capabilities. To put it bluntly, who really cares if GDP grows at a slower rate if citizens see noticeable increases in their capability to pursue well-being and agency goals that often have nothing to do with wealth, physical goods, or resources? I don't think many would. Even if you reject this understanding of welfare, it's always important to ask oneself "what is our actual goal?" or "what do we really value here?"

Sydney Goldstein

The “Ten Facts about the Economics of Climate Change and Climate Policy” article discusses how climate change will increase mortality rates, especially in Africa and the Middle East because warming will exacerbate heat related health issues. This got me thinking about how it might contribute to increased mortality rates in other regions due to other less direct causes. Specifically, I pondered how it would impact Bermuda. Bermuda although surrounded by water, is faced with the challenge of freshwater shortages due to a lack of groundwater, lakes, rivers, etc. The country has been able to adapt to these shortages by collecting rain water. The iconic white, stepped, limestone roofs associated with Bermuda actually slow rainfall so that it can be stored. The white color reflects UV light from the sun and helps purify the water. Fresh water shortages are such a big problem that Bermuda law mandates that each house must have eight gallons of rain water storage per square foot of roof space. Since climate change includes changes in precipitation patterns in which some regions will receive less rainfall, I wonder how this will impact countries such as Bermuda that rely on rainfall for freshwater. So besides posing a threat to ecosystems and agriculture, a change in precipitation in some regions may threaten water supply and subsequently public health and wellbeing.

On the bright side I was happy to read more about how renewable energy prices are falling not including subsidies. Eventually technological advancements will make the price so low that the market will shift to it without question.

Christopher Watt

One of the things I found most salient in the "Ten facts about the economics of climate change and climate policy" article is the continued discussion of the distributional harms of climate change. Again, it is evident that those most harmed by climate change are and will be those with the least resources to respond, and largely with the least responsibility for its harms. I found Figure E particularly interesting (and clear) in illustrating some of the harms of GHG emissions under different policy agendas. Amazingly, the pledge agenda is only slightly better than the current policy agenda, and still far off from the 2 degree celsius pathway...we have a lot of work to do.
Additionally, something I found very encouraging about the article, which I did not realize to be the case, is that energy intensity and carbon intensity, particularly relative to GDP, have been falling in the US. Simultaneously, the price of renewables is falling; hopefully this will push our economy toward a quicker switch to renewables and reduce both the economic and social costs of GHG emissions.
Though it is coming as a result of other great economic, social, and physical harms, it is really interesting to see how Covid-19 is inducing emissions declines around the globe. Of course, as we discussed last week and was described in the Vice article, the fall in labor supply has been used to "rationalize" emissions regulation reductions, which there is nothing truly rational about; however, over all, the world and atmosphere are experiencing benefits in this time from reduced emissions. It will be really interesting to see how those return following the worlds "return to normalcy" or whatever that new normal will look like, and whether the private sector will take this time to consider making transitions to cleaner/renewable energy sources to continue the trend of cleaner/lower emissions.

Adam Harter

Looking at the figure “Average Abatement Costs for Select Policy Options” in the "Ten facts about the economics of climate change and climate policy," I became interested in what were considered to be the worst policy options and to see why they were still used. As far as energy efficiency goes, the worst of the bunch is the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) with a score of 359. What WAP does is go into low-income houses and make them more efficient. The direct effect of this is lowering the energy bills of the household, and it provides jobs to the people who do the installation. Neither of these benefits mentioned in the article or the article that was the source of the figure. Instead, WAP shown as being not energy efficient. They argue that to reduce a ton of carbon through this method has a very high cost. And they are not wrong with this conclusion. The point I want to make is that there is more to this policy than just energy efficiency. There are struggling households that are receiving real benefits and putting more money in their pocket because of this program. It was easy for me to write off this program as the worst of them all because it was at the bottom of the list. Easy to say, well, we should only implement policies that have the lowest abatement cost, so I’m happy I took a more in-depth look. I truly do not know if it is a worthwhile policy in the grand scheme of things because of my still limited knowledge. But I did find it interesting that none of these articles pointed out the possible upside argument that goes beyond the environment.

Gillingham, Kenneth, and James H. Stock. 2018. “The Cost of Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 32 (4): 53–72.

Walker Morris

While I believe that his article is overly optimistic, David Victor's forum response on pursuing innovation with regards to clean coal brings up a potential scenario that we are living through today. Throughout most of the article, Victor evaluates potential methods for generating energy with coal by limiting it's carbon emissions. These include carbon sequestration, and efficiency maximizing production methods. While these approaches to using coal are innovative and enticing, they are also very expensive. For this reason, Victor argues that coal will continue to be the preferred energy source for much of the world unless if oil prices were to drop significantly: "Absent an unlikely plunge in gas prices, coal is here to stay." Today, eight years after the article was written, oil prices have reached their lowest level since the turn of the century. This sharp decrease in the price of oil was caused by a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, and will most likely be temporary. However, the Saudis can drill oil at a very low cost which opens up the possibility of the price war lasting for months or even years. In the unlikely event that the price of oil remains permanently low, it will allow for energy production through oil to be much more attractive than coal. This will motivate many countries and companies to pursue energy production through oil rather than coal. While oil is by not renewable and is by no means a "clean" option, it is still significantly better for the environment than coal. Abandoning electricity production through coal for oil is certainly a move that slow the rate of global warming, but it is not a solution. Furthermore, the law of supply and demand suggests that the price of oil would inevitably rise if more and more countries shift to oil for energy production. Still, the current price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia is important to follow, and could have serious consequences in the realm of energy production and climate change if it persists.

Link on the historical price of oil: https://tradingeconomics.com/commodity/crude-oil

Valerie Marshall

My biggest take away from these two readings is the role that environmental justice has to play in any international and national climate change policies. The Hamilton Project fact sheet made this clear in their graph on which areas of the world would have their GDP be the most impacted by climate change, and most of the countries that would be heavily affected were developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, and South America. Europe and the United States are projected to have climate change have a much smaller impact on their GDP, and for some European nations they would even see a positive impact to their GDP. Looking at the U.S. specifically. Another figure on the fact sheet showed how counties within the U.S. in the lower quintiles of economic vitality would be much more negatively economically impacted by climate change than countries in the upper quintiles of economic vitality. Given the reality of who will be impacted most from climate change, I think policies combating climate change need to be aware of the environmental justice concerns and create certain adaptation plans that target low income counties and countries specifically.

These articles also discussed how environmental justice is extremely important to take into consideration when creating international treaties to combat climate change. The article “Can We Stop Global Warming?” focused on the necessity for global action to be taken to truly defeat climate change. Developed nations have been the larger contributors to GHG emissions for the past 150 years, but over time developing countries have been catching up to them. There is a heavy duty on developed countries to cut their GHG emissions because they can afford to do so, and throughout history have been the major contributors. Also, it is not fair to require developing countries to halt their economic growth and leave their people in poverty in order to combat climate change. However, as the article states, developed countries cutting their carbon emissions will not be enough. Developing nations have to contribute to the effort as well. Many argue the only way to be fair to developing nations though is to have wealthier countries provide them aid in this switch to renewable energy. While to many that sounds like a fair and doable idea, it will of course reach much political resistance in developed countries, especially the U.S. I think most people are aware of the importance of environmental justice in climate change policy, but actually achieving it sounds like it will be a monumental task.

Giddings Harrison

The Hamilton Project article was very interesting as it tied in key points that we made in class concerning the Marginal Damage Function and the ethics that go into climate policy. On page 7, the article proposes that damages to the economy grow with temperature change at an increasing rate. I often thought of the marginal damage function as damaging public health, but had never thought of this function as affecting crime or energy use. Were emissions to rise continually for the next 80 years (RCP 8.5), GDP could fall between 6.7%-14.3%. I had recently read that analysts are estimating the coronavirus will lead to 5-7% decrease in GDP without the proper fiscal and monetary stimulus. Governments and corporations around the world are trying to prevent this drop in GDP from occurring. I wonder if policymakers around the world were to equate the worst-case scenario of climate change to coronavirus's economic damage, would there be a quicker reaction and collective focus?

Secondly, the project's point that struggling U.S. counties will be hit the hardest by climate change reminded me of our discussion surround MTR and its effects on Appalachia. While this article claims that climate change WILL hurt the poorest counties, I would argue that they already have been exposed to the effects of climate change.

Lauren Paolano

In "Ten facts about the economics of climate change and climate policy," I became very interested in fact number 2: struggling US countries will be hit the hardest by climate change. Figure 2 on page 8 depicts the economic damages to US counties from climate change by quintile of economic vitality index. Counties that will be hit the hardest by climate change tend to be located in the South and Southwest regions of the US. These climate change damages include massive flooding to households, and Rao found that nearly two million homes are at risk of being underwater by 2100. Majority of these homes located in Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Caroline, and Texas.

As we talked about in developmental economics last semester, it is difficult for lower income families to pack up and leave their homes in the south and southwest to a more stable region of the northeast in order to avoid these floods. This could be because they cannot sell their homes once the global climate changes become too severe, or they might not have the financial means to migrate. According to the article, the concentration of climate damages in the South and among low-income Americans implies a disproportionate impact on minority communities.

I found this article that digs into the global countries that will suffer the most severe consequences from the climate crisis. These countries will suffer even more so than the Southern and South Western counties in the US.


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