Friday, October 30, 2009

Earth Scars - holes to die for

A picture is worth a thousand words - these are impressively big holes. Is there room for more holes this size elsewhere - sure there is. The earth is a big place.

The scale can only really be appreciated in the shots that include tiny houses and trucks.

10 Most Incredible Earth Scars [Environmental graffiti]

The best commentary:

The size of the hole is such that wind currents inside cause a downdraft that has resulted in helicopters being sucked in and crashing. Good to know the area above it is now a no-fly zone.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CO2 Emissions: Cumulative vs Annual

This is a picture I have wanted to see for a long time but was too lazy to do it myself.

The result is interesting on many levels. The US is very naughty although China is catching up quick.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Does trade openness improve environmental quality?

A perfect "globalisation and the environment" paper that I need to read. Another one on the ever growing list.

The results appear plausible and the methods appropriate.

Does trade openness improve environmental quality?

Shunsuke Managia, Akira Hibikic and Tetsuya Tsurumia

Received 8 February 2008.
Available online 26 June 2009.


The literature on trade openness, economic development, and the environment is largely inconclusive about the environmental consequences of trade. This study treats trade and income as endogenous and estimates the overall impact of trade openness on environmental quality using the instrumental variables technique. We find that whether or not trade has a beneficial effect on the environment varies depending on the pollutant and the country. Trade is found to benefit the environment in OECD countries. It has detrimental effects, however, on sulfur dioxide (SO2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in non-OECD countries, although it does lower biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) emissions in these countries. We also find the impact is large in the long term, after the dynamic adjustment process, although it is small in the short term.

Keywords: Trade openness; Composition effect; Scale effect; Technique effect; Environment; Comparative advantage; Environmental regulations effect

JEL classification codes: F18; O13; L60; L50

Environmental Economics Survey

Apologies - original post edited at request of the survey designers - to be posted again once the results are known.

My thoughts on this survey could potentially bias the results.


Elinor Ostrom research papers

I am afraid I opted out of all the "Ostrom" fever that has been keeping the blogosphere busy in recent days.

It is sad to admit that the majority of "environmental economists" that I know including experts on the "commons" had little recognition of the name. Of course this is our failing as "mainstream economists" I expect.

To remedy this here is a selection of Ostrom's papers - for FREE. The remarkable thing about these papers is that I have published in some of these journals and it is not just a list of Econometricas and AERs. There is hope for us all.

Elinor Ostrom

* The value-added of laboratory experiments for the study of institutions and common-pool resources
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Volume 61, Issue 2, 2006, Ostrom, E.

* Local enforcement and better forests
World Development, Volume 33, Issue 2, 2005
Gibson, C.C., Williams, J.T., Ostrom, E.

* The contested role of heterogeneity in collective action: Some evidence from community forestry in Nepal
World Development, Volume 29, Issue 5, 2001
Varughese, G., Ostrom, E.

* Dilemma games: Game parameters and matching protocols
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Volume 46, Issue 4, 2001, Schmidt, D., Shupp, R., Walker, J., Ahn, T.K., Ostrom, E.

* The concept of scale and the human dimensions of global change: A survey
Ecological Economics, Volume 32, Issue 2, 2000
Gibson, C.C., Ostrom, E., Ahn, T.K.




Friday, October 16, 2009

Bunny slaughter keeps Swedes warm at night

The news that Swedes are being kept nice and toasty at night due to the wholesale slaughter of thousands and cute and cuddly bunnies is a newspaper (and blog writers) dream.

Bunny boliers of the world unite.

Cue picture of fluffy bunny as used on the BBC website.

Swedes divided over bunny biofuel [BBC]

Residents in Stockholm are divided over reports that rabbits are being used to make biofuel.

The bodies of thousands of rabbits are fuelling a heating plant in central Sweden, local newspapers say.

The city of Stockholm has an annual cull of thousands of rabbits to protect the capital's parks and green spaces.

The rabbits, not native to Sweden, are mainly the offspring of pets released by owners, and are said to be destroying parks in the capital.

Since they have no natural predators, the city administration of Stockholm employs hunters to kill the rabbits.

Tommy Tuvunger, one of the hunters, told Germany's Spiegel website that 6,000 rabbits were culled last year, and another 3,000 this year.

"They are a very big problem," he said. "Once culled, the rabbits are frozen and when we have enough, a contractor comes and takes them away."

The frozen rabbits are then taken to a heating plant in Karlskoga which incinerates them to heat homes.

Bunny boilers

Leo Virta, the Managing Director of Konvex - the plant's suppliers - told the BBC that Konvex has developed a new way of processing animal waste with funding from the EU as part of the Biomal project.

He says that with this new method, raw animal material is crushed, ground and then pumped to a boiler where it is burned together with wood chips, peat or waste to produce renewable heat.

"It is a good system as it solves the problem of dealing with animal waste and it provides heat," said Mr Virta.

Reaction in Sweden has been divided, said James Savage, managing editor of The Local - an online news service covering Sweden.

"In the town where they are burning them the reaction of the residents is quite relaxed," Mr Savage told the BBC World Service. "But in Stockholm there's the big city attitude of the rabbits being cute.

"That's amongst some people, particularly among some animal rights activists who think this is not a good way to treat rabbits."


Friday, October 09, 2009

Environmental crises: past, present, and future

Scott Taylor gave this paper at the 2009 European Association of Environmental Economists conference in Amsterdam this year. It was an excellent talk and is a great paper.

I buy the story and the model. The increase in CO2 can be viewed as a crisis in the making. This paper is a ripping yarn of death, doom and destruction. Recommend to all (with a maths and squiggly pictures warning).

Innis Lecture: Environmental crises: past, present, and future

M. Scott Taylor

Department of Economics, University of Calgary


Abstract . Environmental crises are distinguished by rapid and largely unexpected changes in environmental quality that are difficult if not impossible to reverse. Examples would be major extinctions and significant degradations of an ecosystem. I argue there are three preconditions for crisis: failures in governance, an ecological system exhibiting a tipping point, and an economy/environment interaction with positive feedbacks. I develop a simple model to illustrate how a crisis may arise, and draw on our knowledge of past and present crises to highlight the mechanisms involved. I then speculate as to whether climate change is indeed a crisis in the making.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The weight of wee and why it matters

I am a little surprised this has not been thought of before. If an airline could extract the urine out of all passengers before they embark it could come pretty close to saving the planet.

Just think of the benefit if all human waste products could be removed prior to flying.

I shall endeavor to do my best before each flight which will significantly lower the guilt that I usually feel when flying.

Pee before you fly policy of Japanese airline [Metro]

Japanese airline ANA is introducing a policy that some think really takes the pee. They want passengers to relieve themselves before they board the aircraft, in a somewhat desperate attempt to reduce carbon emissions.

The airline's chiefs say that empty bladders means passengers will weigh less, so their fleet of aircraft will save fuel and reduce their carbon emissions.

All Nippon Airways reckons that the policy could lead to a five-tonne reduction in carbon emissions per month, as well as saving the company money.

The new regulation will be policed by 'loo monitors', who stand by boarding gates and take waiting passengers to the lavatories before they embark.

Japan's NHK television says that the loo rule, which began on October 1, is a four-week experiment that ANA may well poo-poo in the end.

It may sound plane crazy, but ANA should at least be given some credit for trying. After all, flying is the fastest-growing source of carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for more than 600 million tons of the greenhouse gas per year.


Monday, October 05, 2009

Polls show global warming nothing to be scared of.

Polls, polls and more polls.

In the poll results below I suppose it depends on what people perceive as "scare worthy". Whilst man made global warming is most probably occurring as I write I am not personally "scared". I might be if I lived on the coast of Bangladesh though.

Lawrence Solomon: The end is near [National Post]

I know that the global warming scare is over but for the shouting because that’s what the polls show, at least those in the U.S., where unlike Canada the public is polled extensively on global warming. Most Americans don’t blame humans for climate change — they consider global warming to be a natural phenomenon. Even when the polls showed the public believed man was responsible for global warming, the public didn’t take the scare seriously. When asked to rank global warming’s importance compared to numerous other concerns — unemployment, trade, health care, poverty, crime, and education among them — global warming came in dead last. Fewer than 1% chose global warming as scare-worthy.

At least "Business" is taking it seriously. The quote below links to a previous post - now carbon subsidies are out there everyone is trying to profit maximize by gaming the system. Entirely rational.

None of this matters anymore, I recently heard at the Global Business Forum in Banff, where a fellow panelist from the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change told the audience that, while she couldn’t dispute the claims I had made about the science being dubious, the rights and wrongs in the global warming debate are no longer relevant. “The train has left the station,” she cheerily told the business audience, meaning that the debate is over, global warming regulations are coming in, and everyone in the room — primarily business movers and shakers from Western Canada — had better learn to adapt.

Her advice was well accepted, chiefly because most in the room had already adapted — they are busy trying to cash in by obtaining carbon subsidies, building nuclear plants, or providing services to the new carbon economy.


Should Europes poor help the rich to help the poor?

Poland have a good point. When the EU promise such massive transfers of wealth from the EU to the developing world to mitigate climate change where exactly does the money come from? For sure some of it comes from the poor countries of Europe such as Poland.

There is a long long way to go - the chances of success at Copenhagen are increasingly slim. The differences between and within regions are just too large.

Economists are pessimistic in nature but it is increasingly difficult to see the light at the end of this particular tunnel.

Poland refuses to pay poorer nations' climate tab [EU Business]

(BRUSSELS) - Poland on Friday put a giant spoke in European negotiations on financing the fight to tame global warming when it refused to stump up for richer, western partners.

"Quite frankly, from our point of view it's totally unacceptable that the poor countries of Europe should help the rich countries of Europe to help the poor countries in the rest of the world," said Polish Finance Minister Jan Rostowski.

"We will not agree to a mechanism which would lead to such a completely unjust proposal," he added.

European Union finance ministers are meeting in Gothenburg seeking to agree on who pays how much into a pot aimed at convincing newly industrialised countries to sign up to a post-2012 global pact.

The European Commission estimates that five billion to seven billion euros annually will be needed in the 2010-2012 period until long-term "financial architecture" is put in place, hopefully, at a UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December.

Brussels says the annual figure needed to help developing nations combat and deal with climate change will hit 100 billion euros (147 billion dollars) per year by 2020.


Disagreements have also emerged among EU member states on Franco-German ideas for a carbon tax on imports from regions with poor environmental standards.


SOS climate

From the inbox: The scientists are getting rather hot under the collar.

I like this anti-cap and trade quote:

Cap and trade is the worst choice for pricing carbon. It is proven ineffective even in its best incarnations, is influence-prone, creates a huge, risky, game-able carbon market that is extremely complex, subject to manipulations, whose likely bubble-bust will overshadow the mortgage or the dot com bubble.

I would like to intelligently counter these criticisms of cap and trade but I fear that there is more than an element of truth in this quote. What the alternative should be is a subject for another cut and paste post ;-)

Here is the press release with the good bits in bold.

Climate SOS: Senate Bill "Condemns us to Climate Chaos"

Climate SOS, a coalition of scientists and activists who support science- and environmental justice-based climate legislation, today characterized the draft Senate bill, called the “Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act” which was introduced on Wednesday by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) as an “irresponsible non-solution.”

They maintain that any bill that embraces cap and trade, offsets, outrageously inadequate emission reduction targets, and counter-solutions such as biomass burning, nuclear power and more coal fired power plants (under the guise of partial carbon capture technology that is as yet unavailable) will fail to meet its stated goal of forestalling catastrophic climate change.

Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Citizens Climate Lobby, Center for Biological Diversity and others have also rejected the Senate bill for its lack of grounding in science and its failure to consider global environmental justice concerns.

Maggie Zhou, a Climate SOS organizer, and project coordinator with the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities, said “Cap and trade is the worst choice for pricing carbon. It is proven ineffective even in its best incarnations, is influence-prone, creates a huge, risky, game-able carbon market that is extremely complex, subject to manipulations, whose likely bubble-bust will overshadow the mortgage or the dot com bubble. While cap and trade is the scheme of choice for polluters and Wall Street executives, a revenue-neutral carbon tax-and-dividend program would be much more straightforward, equitable, less prone to fraud and gaming, and would compensate people, not corporations, for the costs of pricing carbon.” She added “The US forced cap and trade into the Kyoto protocol, which we didn’t even ratify. It’s time to correct that mistake, and lead the world in implementing a much more sensible system that could simplify global efforts on fighting climate change, that has a real chance of success.”

"It is no consolation that the Senate sets superficially more ambitious goals for emission reductions than the House," said BiofuelWatch co-director and Climate SOS spokesperson Rachel Smolker. "While the House bill required landfill gas to be captured, the Senate bill allows those projects to be used as offsets to allow additional emissions from smokestacks. This slight of hand allows politicians to claim ‘stronger targets’ when in fact it’s all number-smithing. Dire predictions from climate scientists make it clear that even if all the offset provisions are stripped away, the stated targets in both the Senate and the House bills (which are at most a few percentage point cuts below 1990 emissions by 2020) are still pathetically trivial, unable to even approach a greenhouse gas stabilization at 450 parts-per-million (ppm), while it is becoming clear that the safe level is no more than 350 ppm, way below what’s already in the air today (387 ppm). In introducing an ineffective legislation, the senators send a poor message to Copenhagen and condemn us to climate chaos."

The Senate bill is modeled upon the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA), passed by the House of Representatives late June. In the past month, members of climate SOS, lead by Duff Badgley, founder of One Earth Climate Action Group, met with senate staffers in North Dakota, Indiana, Ohio, and Arkansas in an effort to rally opposition to the false climate bill on environmental grounds. "Voting against such a poor bill would in fact be the environmentally responsible choice”, said Badgley. Last week, the coalition also joined forces with activists from Rising Tide North America and many climate justice groups in actions from east to west coast, exposing the polluter-protection nature of the “landmark climate legislation”. Their voices were heard inside and outside the police blockade of the UN climate summit in NYC, at the Danish environment minister’s lecture that urged US to pass this false climate bill, and outside offices of big corporate green groups such as NRDC, Environmental Defense, and Nature Conservancy.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

On Spatial Heterogeneity in Environmental Compliance Costs

A must read paper. All of Randy Becker's papers are excellent and show off the quality of data in the US.

I have been trying to look at this issue using other country data but any paper is always going to be of a lower quality due to data issues (and natural talent issues).

On Spatial Heterogeneity in Environmental Compliance Costs

Date: 2009-09

By: Randy Becker


This paper examines the extent of variation in regulatory stringency below the state level, using establishment-level data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Pollution Abatement Costs and Expenditures (PACE) survey to estimate a county-level index of environmental compliance costs (ECC). County-level variation is found to explain 11-18 times more of the variation in ECC than state-level variation alone, and the range of ECC within a state is often large. At least 34% of U.S. counties have ECC that are statistically different from their states’. Results suggest that important spatial variation is lost in state-level studies of environmental regulation.

Keywords: environmental costs, regulation, manufacturing, U.S. counties
JEL: Q52

The Pollution Game for the Classroom

An excellent resource for teaching (and students in environmental economics). I would certainly use this if I was still teaching env-econ (a victim of my increased management role).

The Pollution Game: A Classroom Exercise Demonstrating the Relative Effectiveness of
Emissions Taxes and Tradable Permits

By Jay R. Corrigan


This classroom exercise illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of various regulatory frameworks aimed at internalizing negative externalities from pollution. Specifically, the exercise divides students into three groups—the government regulatory agency and two polluting firms—and allows them to work through a system of uniform command-and-control regulation, a tradable emissions permit framework, and an emissions tax. Students have the opportunity to observe how flexible, market-oriented regulatory frameworks can outperform inflexible command-and-control. More importantly given the ongoing debate about how best to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, students can also observe how the introduction of abatement-cost
uncertainty can cause one market-oriented solution to outperform another.

Keywords: classroom experiments, emissions taxes, pollution, tradable emissions permits.