May 13, 2013
Genetically Engineered Trees
American chestnut trees may be on the rise again due to a genetic engineering breakthrough that protects them from a debilitating fungus. If the transgenic chestnuts can be successfully integrated into woodland ecosystems, similar genetic engineering methods may be able to reestablish other trees.
In Resources magazine, RFF Associate Research Director and Fellow Juha Siikamäki discusses the potential for bioengineering to create a “blight-resistant American chestnut.” This was the topic of an RFF First Wednesday Seminar that featured a panel of experts involved in the Forest Health Initiative. Watch the video from the event to learn more.
The debates continue about the carbon emissions—or carbon neutrality—of burning biomass for fuel. “The [United Kingdom’s] government's own research has shown that using wood from whole UK conifers results in an increase in emissions of 49 percent compared with coal.”
However, RFF Senior Fellow Roger Sedjo says that the emissions should be measured using a life cycle assessment—a method that measures the environmental impacts of a product over its lifetime, from raw material extraction through disposal. In new research, he examines three different approaches to life cycle assessment and finds that, “given sufficient time and assuming that complete regeneration replaces harvest, all three approaches will generate no net emissions for their respective forest since each becomes a fully regulated forest in which growth equals harvest.”
Responding to Ecological Loss
In a recent article for Resources magazine, RFF Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth Jim Boyd notes the difficulty of applying traditional market-driven methods to ecological issues, which can lead to underinvestment in information about the best ways to mitigate ecological loss. Last week, RFF hosted a seminar on such limits to ingenuity, focusing on the role of new technologies (such as genetically modified organisms), the capability to substitute for nature, and the ethics of certain innovations to limit ecological loss. Watch the full video from the seminar here.
May 6, 2013
Costs of Disaster Relief
A new report from the Center for American Progress shows that extreme weather events have cost the federal government $136 billion in relief efforts
since 2011. The federal government’s role
in hurricane relief in particular has jumped from a 26 percent share of the costs (pre-Katrina) to 69 percent (post Katrina).
In a post to Common Resources, RFF Visiting Scholar Lynn Scarlett questions if taxpayers should “continue to foot the bill for measures to protect communities in areas at high risk from natural disasters.” She notes that the choice is complicated because communities may opt to implement cost-effective ways to reduce risks. There are also costs that are unaccounted for from such weather events, as noted by RFF Fellow Carolyn Kousky. She says that natural disasters also result in non-monetary costs—loss of family heirlooms, emotional stress, and environmental degradation—for which valuation or compensation are difficult.
The US Environmental Protection Agency recently lowered its estimate
of the amount of methane that is leaked during natural gas production. However, as noted by the Associated Press, “the estimates aren’t based on independent field tests of actual emissions, and some scientists said that’s a problem.”
April 29, 2013
: In the past, innovation has been able to address natural resource limits. However, RFF’s Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth
asks “Are there substitutes for wilderness, wildness, and natural beauty? Can we substitute our way out of ecological problems? Are there limits to ingenuity?” Register online to attend “The Promise and Limits of Ingenuity”
on May 6 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EDT at RFF.
Carbon Tax Effects
Last week the Senate Finance Committee introduced the idea of a carbon tax in a list of “prominent tax reform options
.” Many have noted that such a tax could negatively impact the poor
, and the Committee has said that it would be a challenge to maintain the progressivity of the tax.
RFF’s Daniel Morris
and Clayton Munnings analyzed over 20 years of economic research
to explain the distributional consequences of a carbon tax. They note that lower-income households could be compensated for increases in electricity and gas prices resulting from a carbon tax through direct rebates or targeted tax swaps, and maintain that “when accounting for how households anticipate spending over time . . . a carbon tax begins to appear more progressive than previously suggested.”
The History of Shale Gas
Driven by the US natural gas boom, many countries are beginning to develop their own shale gas reserves and are facing challenges in balancing environmental protection with cheaper energy and economic growth.
he key question for policymakers in countries attempting to develop shale gas resources is how to generate a policy and market environment in which firms have the incentive to make investments and would eventually find it profitable to produce shale gas,” writes RFF Fellow Zhongmin Wang and Senior Fellow Alan Krupnick in new research about the history of shale gas development in the United States.
April 22, 2013
RFF Senior Fellow and Research Director Margaret Walls discusses “how to live, work, and play more sustainably” in a Wall Street Journal video discussion with actor Ed Begley, Jr. and Kateri Callahan of the Alliance to Save Energy. She says that one roadblock is that people lack information about the impacts of their energy use and options for reducing consumption. Walls also suggests ways to close the information gap in an online post for the Journal.
The March 29 oil pipeline spill
in Mayflower, Arkansas, “released at least 157,000 gallons of crude oil,” which ran through neighborhoods and yards.
The premier of Alberta, Canada, recently said that such spills “are very isolated
incidents,” although as noted in the above article, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, “between 2008 and 2012, US pipelines spilled an average of more than 3.1 million gallons of hazardous liquids per year.”
In a recent blog post, RFF Fellow Lucija Muehlenbachs
and Beia Spiller examined the data on pipeline spills. While they note
that "the number of major spills greater than 250 barrels has been decreasing over time," they also caution that "it is important to consider pipeline integrity for decades to come—the Arkansas pipeline was 63 years old." They conclude that a more in-depth examination of the data would be a worthy exercise.
April 15, 2013
California’s Air Resources Board and Governor Jerry Brown approved a proposal to link California’s carbon market with Quebec’s, to allow for greater investment in low-carbon technologies, more flexibility for companies to trade carbon permits, and larger reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
RFF’s Dallas Burtraw, Karen Palmer, C
layton Munnings, and Matt Woerman, along with Paige Weber from Yale University, recently introduced a framework to help policymakers who are working to link cap-and-trade markets. They note: “
The incremental alignment of program elements—which we call ‘linking by degrees’
—can capture benefits in program administration, build institutions and political support, and may influence the design of expected rules governing greenhouse gas emissions under the US Clean Air Act.“ They also apply the framework to California’s cap-and-trade program and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, finding that “the two markets are nearly ready to formally link
Eradicating Extreme Poverty
Last week, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced that, “The world can end extreme poverty by 2030
.” He calls for continued sustainable growth in the developing world, and cites climate change as “a fundamental threat to economic development and the fight against poverty.”
In his Resources 2020
lecture at RFF, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz noted that “inequality ought to be a fundamental consideration when fashioning environmental policies.” He continued: “In democracies, the desperately poor tend to have less of an interest in pursuing policies designed to protect the environment, because their most important concern is doing whatever’s necessary to get out of the current situation. So societies with more inequality will get less support for good environmental policies.” Read an excerpt from the lecture here
or watch the full video here
Energy Tax Reform
The Obama administration is having bipartisan discussions on energy tax
policy issues. Administration officials have said that maintaining the production tax credit for renewable energy is a priority, which they hope will be maintained in the tax code.
However, in new research
, RFF Fellow Joshua Linn
and Clayton Munnings examined five renewable electricity policies and found that the production tax credit “is the least cost-effective policy.” They suggest “[financing] the subsidy from a charge to consumers rather than out of general tax revenue,” to stabilize electricity prices, which can cause increased electricity consumption.
April 1, 2013
Funding New Energy Technologies
A new initiative by the US Department of Energy is funding research and projects to improve clean energy products. Assistant Secretary of Energy David Danielson noted that one of the goals of the initiative is to improve the cost-competitiveness of these technologies, a move that would ultimately remove their dependence on subsidies.
RFF Research Director and Senior Fellow Margaret Walls was invited to discuss government financing for new energy technologies in a Wall Street Journal online forum, where she calls for the implementation of a price on carbon: “The most important first step to bring these technologies to market is not direct government financing but a carbon price. . . . As carbon-intensive fossil fuels become more expensive, private industry will . . . search for new low-cost alternatives. And as consumers demand more efficient products to lower their energy costs, industry will have incentives to provide them.” She also explains how a carbon tax could be implemented.
China’s Shale Gas
Royal Dutch Shell will spend $1 billion annually to explore China’s shale gas resources as part of a contract to begin developing shale gas in the country. Developing China’s large reserves could significantly help the country overcome its energy and environmental challenges.
In an interview with the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in China, RFF Fellow Anthony Liu, a visiting assistant professor of economics at the school, discussed these issues: “Shale gas will have two major macroeconomic impacts on China if it is developed to scale. First, it will lower the cost of energy. . . . Second, it will create new jobs.” He also noted that “a reduced reliance on coal and a greater reliance on natural gas would definitely improve air quality and would certainly reduce the carbon intensity of the economy.”
A study of the Colorado River Basin shows water shortages in effect across the US Southwest as a result of climate change. Water conservation across sectors, reuse in cities, and watershed management have been suggested as possible mitigation actions.
Lynn Scarlett, RFF visiting scholar and co-director of RFF’s Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth, analyzes water governance in the United States, especially challenges that arise from multi-jurisdictional water systems. She suggests that meeting these water management challenges requires a mix of “new management tools that emphasize integrated and adaptable water management; filling in governance gaps with additional networking glue; and identifying misalignments of specific policy tools that deter coordination.” An interview with Lynn Scarlett on this issue is also available.
March 25, 2013
Genetically Modified Foods
Select US grocery stores announced that they will not sell genetically modified salmon, despite the Obama administration’s preliminary approval of the product. Whole Foods also said that it will label all genetically modified foods by 2018—a requirement many advocacy groups have pressured the FDA to implement for all grocery stores.
At an RFF First Wednesday seminar moderated by Visiting Scholar Randall Lutter, experts in agricultural biotechnology discussed the future of genetically modified foods, debating how labeling products as genetically modified could affect the marketing, consumption, and economic sustainability of these foods. Video of the seminar is available here.
EPA Emissions Regulations
Reports suggest that implementation of EPA’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new power plants will likely be delayed to ensure it can withstand potential legal challenges. However, RFF’s Dallas Burtraw, Arthur Fraas, Karen Palmer, and Nathan Richardson note that other issues exist. In comments submitted to EPA about its original proposal for new power plants, they raised concerns about the need to reduce regulatory uncertainty regarding existing power sources, as well as carbon capture-and-storage technology. They recommended “that EPA should move toward flexible GHG performance standards that allow trading, banking, and averaging among new and existing sources in different classes of emitters—not just the electric power sector.”
While several states are drafting plans to better prepare homes, businesses, and infrastructure for weather disasters resulting from climate change, Governor Paul LePage of Maine recently halted the creation of his state’s climate adaptation strategy. However, with such weather events now considered threats to national security, it is unclear what role the states can or should play in these efforts.
RFF Vice President for Research Molly Macauley recently noted: “The effects of climate change will primarily be local, but they won’t fall within neat state governmental boundaries. There is a key federal government role both in terms of implementing new policies and jettisoning some current ones that prevent a sensible response.” For example, Senior Fellow Winston Harrington proposed a competitive grant program to award funding to state and local agencies to conduct research on and implement innovative adaptation strategies. RFF University Fellow Kerry Smith suggests implementing flexible pricing policies for services such as water and power that reflect real conditions, such as drought or electricity scarcity, to control for increases in demand during extreme events.
March 18, 2013
Coal and Natural Gas Exports
Many recent debates have centered on oil and natural gas exports, given increases in production. Some are supportive of expanding producers’ market access, while others have appealed to the Obama administration or proposed moratoria on these exports, citing environmental and energy security issues.
RFF Senior Fellow Joel Darmstadter tackled this complex issue, examining the impacts of natural gas and coal exports on domestic prices and the environment. He finds that “
even an elevated amount of [natural gas] exports will leave domestic prices well contained” and that “it is almost certain that US exports merely displace Colombian, Australian, Indonesian, or other coal supplies that would fill the breach created by US export restrictions.”
Shale Gas Impacts on Surface Water
The potential effects of shale gas development on water quality
in Pennsylvania have been of concern to residents and environmentalists, with much of the attention focused on groundwater. However, recent research
by RFF scholars shows that shale gas experts are also concerned about potential impacts on surface water.
In a new study
published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
RFF’s Sheila Olmstead
, Lucija Muehlenbachs
, Jhih-Shyang Shih
, Ziyan Chu, and Alan Krupnick
found statistically significant water quality impacts from shale gas development wastewater treatment and runoff from activity related to shale gas infrastructure in Pennsylvania: “While much of the public concern and controversy around shale gas development has focused on its impacts on groundwater, our findings indicate that there are risks to rivers and streams.” Muehlenbachs elaborated on Common Resources
that the data show no evidence
of “systematically dumping or accidentally spilling wastewater into nearby streams. . . . Chloride entered indirectly, via waste treatment plants.”
to RFF Nonresident Fellow James Sanchirico
and coauthor Kailin Kroetz, individual transferable quotas (ITQs) “have been found to significantly reduce the likelihood that fish stocks are overfished and that fishermen compete to catch as much as possible as fast as possible by capping the aggregate industry-wide catch and guaranteeing fisherman a share of the catch.” This system eliminates the “race to fish” that exists under traditional “derby-style” management systems, while encouraging economic efficiency and healthy fishing communities and ecosystems.
March 11, 2013
Coal in India
Coal India expects to import 20 million tons of coal to meet the demand of newly commissioned power plants—in addition to existing plants—across India.
In an article for Resources magazine, RFF Senior Fellow Maureen Cropper and Kabir Malik of the University of Maryland note that “the increased use of cheap coal resources comes at a heavy cost.” They examine India’s reliance on coal, finding that “
approximately three-quarters of the premature deaths associated with coal-fired power plants in India are attributable to [sulfur dioxide] emissions. In response, the country needs to consider controlling this harmful pollutant.”
China’s Carbon Tax
China is deferring introduction of a carbon tax until after this year because of concerns that such a tax may impede
economic growth. The country has recently pledged to limit greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency initiatives, and establish several pilot carbon trading programs.
RFF Fellow Anthony Liu
, who also teaches at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, writes that “A carbon tax in China is a great idea
.” He notes that it would help lessen air and water pollution and allow for continued economic development while reducing carbon emissions. However, he raises questions about how the tax would be implemented.
Natural Gas Vehicles
Natural gas is becoming increasingly popular
as a fuel for trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles. Yet widespread enthusiasm for natural gas cars remains low among consumers due to a lack of refueling stations and higher upfront costs.
, RFF senior fellow and director of the Center for Energy Economics and Policy
, analyzes the likelihood
of natural gas becoming a viable fuel for passenger vehicles. He notes, “While a hybrid is more expensive than its gasoline-fueled counterpart by almost $400 per year, the natural gas Civic is $721 more expensive per year when the annualized cost of a home-fueling unit is included.”
Ecuador’s largest oil company is approaching rural communities throughout the country for permission to begin extracting oil from their land. Some Ecuadorans welcome the prospect of economic development, while others are concerned about the effects on some of the world’s most diverse habitats within the Amazon rainforest.
RFF University Fellow Billy Pizer (Duke University) elaborates on an interview he gave on NPR’s Planet Money on this topic, stressing the importance of valuing “the oil being extracted versus the forest that was being preserved.” The option of exchanging international aid contributions for halting oil development and avoiding deforestation creates a complicated precedent that could “encourage other countries to threaten to destroy their own forests unless the world pays up.”
March 4, 2013
Safety Measures for Deepwater Drilling
The federal civil trial on the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill commenced last week, with experts raising concerns about BP’s culture of prioritizing cost cutting and increasing production over ensuring adequate safety measures.
In a report prepared by RFF experts at the request of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, authors Mark Cohen, Madeline Gottlieb, Joshua Linn, and Nathan Richardson examine the importance of a “safety culture” in avoiding accidents in high-risk industries. They identify several policy changes to incentivize a stronger safety culture, such as raising the liability cap and requiring risk-based fees. Other key recommendations related to the oil spill can be found here.
Paying for Natural Disasters
The New Madrid Floodway diverts Mississippi River floodwater from reaching Cairo, Illinois, but local residents have taken to farming the floodway land when not in use. Now, residents are calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to fund the $165 million remodel of the floodway to better accommodate crop cultivation.
Lynn Scarlett, RFF Visiting Scholar and Co-Director of the Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth, writes that the level of risk, relative costs of doing nothing or relocating, and alternative mitigation strategies must be considered before projects are funded with taxpayer dollars. Similarly, RFF’s Sheila Olmstead and Carolyn Kousky raise concerns about “development in risky locations,” and find that “Federal polices can alter the incentives individuals face to locate in hazardous areas…or invest in risk-reducing measures.”
Carbon Tax Debates
Last week, a study by the National Association of Manufacturers found that a carbon tax could lead to reduced consumption, job loss, real wage reductions, and other negative impacts. On that same day, The Brookings Institution released a policy proposal in favor of a carbon tax, asserting that it could replace costly subsidies and encourage economic activity.
On February 27, experts from RFF, the American Enterprise Institute, and Harvard, Stanford, and Duke Universities discussed the potential costs and benefits of a carbon tax at a seminar co-sponsored by RFF and the International Monetary Fund’s Fiscal Affairs Department: “Comprehensive Tax Reform and Climate Policy.” Full video of the discussion is available here.
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February 25, 2013
Carbon Tax Announcements
Earlier this month, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation
calling for a tax on carbon and methane emissions in an effort to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases. She proposed allocating the tax revenue toward consumer rebates and clean energy projects. China has also recently announced
a decision to implement a carbon tax, which it calls an “environmental protection tax,” although it is unclear how such a tax will interact with its current cap-and-trade program.
In an article for Resources
magazine, Ian Parry (formerly of RFF and currently with the International Monetary Fund) and RFF’s Rob Williams
review various climate policies and find
that “a carbon tax…has a substantial cost advantage over cap-and-trade systems” because of the opportunity to use revenues to substitute for tax increases. Both authors will join an expert panel this Wednesday at RFF to discuss the role a carbon tax might play in reforming the US tax code: “Comprehensive Tax Reform and Climate Policy.”
Register for the event here
The Indonesian government has begun cloud seeding
—injecting chemicals into clouds to increase the frequency of rain production—to help prevent further flooding in Jakarta. Even though this strategy will bring more precipitation, experts believe that inducing rain to fall over the ocean, before the clouds reach land, can help avert flooding.
2005 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences Thomas Schelling recently spoke at RFF on the topic of geoengineering
as part of the Resources 2020
lecture series. He highlighted the need to cautiously test such experiments, but also expressed concern about potential unknown global implications: “There would probably need to be recognition that if a nation is harmed, [from the effects of geoengineering] whether it can sue the perpetrators…or ask for compensation? Would any international body assume jurisdiction?” Video of the full lecture is available here
February 11, 2013
Results from RFF’s Survey of Shale Gas Experts
In a recent letter
, Senator Wyden (D-OR) called for balanced regulations on hydraulic fracturing that protect public health and the environment, especially in terms of air and water quality.
Potential risks to surface water and air quality are also highlighted as priorities in a new report
by experts in RFF’s Center for Energy Economics and Policy
. A key finding in the report is a high degree of consensus among experts from government agencies, industry, academia, and nongovernmental organizations about the specific environmental risks to mitigate. Read more about the survey and experts here
Washington, DC tops the list for worst traffic congestion
in the United States for the second straight year. The research shows that “unless something is done about traffic, the economic recovery will put more wheels on the road and create more congestion.”
Research by RFF scholars
examines congestion in the DC area, finding that while high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes may have “disappointed their many advocates,” converting HOV lanes into high-occupancy/toll (HOT) lanes could be a win-win. They note, “People pay HOT lane tolls only if they are more than compensated by the value of travel time savings, and drivers remaining in adjacent unpriced lanes benefit from reduced congestion.”
Energy Efficiency Gap
A new report
on improving energy efficiency finds that consumers need better information about efficiency opportunities, and suggests that “Congress should reform and extend federal tax incentives that promote energy efficiency.”
Strategies to improve information can help address the energy efficiency gap—the failure of consumers to make seemingly economically beneficial investments in energy efficiency—according to research
by RFF Research Director and Senior Fellow Karen Palmer
and Kenneth Gillingham of Yale University. However, they note that tax incentives may not generate the desired effect and instead suggest a tax on emissions, which would “raise the price of energy, making energy efficient products more financially attractive.”
February 4, 2013
While many states continue to raise revenue for transportation infrastructure
through gasoline taxes, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell recently proposed eliminating the gas tax in his state and replacing it with an increased sales tax allocated to transportation.
RFF Thomas J. Klutznick Senior Fellow and Research Director Margaret Walls
agrees that the gas tax
will generate even less revenue in the future due to greater fuel efficiency, alternative fuel vehicles, and changes in driver habits. She also notes that a gas tax has other limits, such as not addressing congestion issues, and suggests “mov[ing] beyond the long-standing political stalemate over increasing the gas tax to think creatively about new policy choices and funding approaches.”
Perceptions about Climate Change
According to a recent survey, the weather
seems to influence American voters’ views on climate change from day to day. When interviewed on unseasonably warm days, independent voters “tend to agree with the scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change. On unseasonably cool days, they tend not to.”
Flood Insurance Program
A comprehensive aid package
for Hurricane Sandy victims passed the Senate last week and was signed into law by President Obama. The $50.5 billion package is the second federal action taken to assist victims and repair damages in New York and New Jersey—the first was a $9.7 billion bill to fund flood
insurance claims and extend the scope of the National Flood Insurance Program.
RFF Fellow Carolyn Kousky
, along with Okmyung Bin and John Bishop of East Carolina University, examine the question of whether the National Flood Insurance Program disproportionately benefits
Although the authors “find no evidence that the NFIP disproportionally advantages richer counties,” they acknowledge that, “Payments may be slightly progressive because nationally speaking, riskier areas tend to be lower income despite discussions of mansions on the Florida coast.”
January 28, 2013
Climate Change in Obama’s Second Term
In President Obama’s inaugural address, he stated
that the United States will “respond to the threat of climate change” by leading efforts such as developing sustainable energy sources.
However, RFF’s Clayton Munnings and Nathan Richardson
noted that, “However much climate hawks enjoyed the president’s speech . . . there was nothing concrete to reassure them climate is not once again a low priority relative to other issues. Words are welcome, but political action is what matters.” In a new post on Common Resources
, they ask
, “Will the president prioritize bold, smart action from EPA, or real support for legislation creating a carbon price? Maybe.”
The resiliency of the European Union’s carbon market is being questioned as carbon prices have fallen
to their lowest levels ever. A vast oversupply of permits with few buyers could result in a complete collapse of the market: "Until there is a clear will to give legislative support to this market we cannot expect participants to keep believing in it."
A new RFF discussion paper by Duke University’s Richard Newell, William Pizer, and Daniel Raimi examines carbon markets, assessing challenges, lessons learned, and opportunities. They note that confidence
plays an important role: “Governments cannot provide certainty where it does not fundamentally exist. Looking forward, however, authorities need to be clearer and more orderly about policy revisions and recognize the consequent impacts on market price, market participants, and future market confidence.”
In a recent article, Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Laureate and Columbia University professor, proposed that inequality
is impeding economic growth in the United States, and cautioned, “Economic inequality leads to political inequality and a broken decisionmaking process.”
RFF hosted Stiglitz as part of its Resources 2020
Nobel Laureate lecture series, where he discussed how this economic inequality impacts environmental policy: “Environmental degradation is…especially a problem for the poor for obvious reasons – their position is more precarious, and when things go wrong…there are fewer ways to respond. So in this sense, inequality ought to be a fundamental consideration in fashioning environmental policies.” Video of his lecture is available here
January 22, 2013
A new study asserts that black carbon
—soot emitted from diesel engines and wood or coal-fired stoves—is “the second-largest human contributor to climate change,” and reducing these emissions could result in immediate cooling.
magazine, Drew Shindell of the NASA Goddard Institute writes that reducing black carbon emissions would not only have implications for global warming, but it would also help to improve
public health and food security. He notes that the fine particulates in soot can be inhaled, causing cardiovascular disease and lung cancer, and that reducing emissions in places where “seasonal timing of crops coincides with high concentrations of ozone” would result in higher yields.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in China
A recent report released by the China Meteorological Administration measured carbon dioxide levels in Qinghai province at 392.2 parts per million—the highest level of emissions
since data collection began in 1990. Triggered by a combination of “industrial emissions, automobile exhaust, and coal burning for winter heating,” extreme levels of greenhouse gas emissions have recently caused heavy smog
across northern China.
RFF Visiting Scholar Mun Ho
, along with colleagues Jing Cao and Dale Jorgenson, examined policies to reduce emissions in China that would also result in “co-benefits,” such as reduced environmental health damages and global warming risk.
They find that “the hidden co-benefits that accompany carbon mitigation tax policies could exceed the mitigation costs and produce a ‘win-win’ solution for China’s future carbon abatement and sustainable development.”
Rising Sea Levels
A 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimate that sea levels
could rise up to 23 inches by 2100 has been reevaluated in a new study, with updated predictions of up to three feet. The original estimate did not take into consideration contributions from melting ice sheets because of a lack of information, which accounts for the discrepancy.
The latest study uses a technique to incorporate uncertainty called structured expert judgment (SEJ),
developed by RFF Chauncey Starr Senior Fellow Roger Cooke
. The method was used to develop a consensus estimate from various expert predictions. He describes the contribution of SEJ to difficult questions like melting ice sheets in a recent Common Resources
January 14, 2013
Green Infrastructure and Flooding
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and other weather disasters of 2012, experts are drawing connections between climate change and the rising costs of frequent disasters, noting that “weather-related disasters in North America have increased five-fold in the last 30 years, costing $1 trillion in damages.”
RFF experts Carolyn Kousky
, Sheila Olmstead
, Margaret Walls
, Adam Stern, and Molly Macauley
explore whether strategically place natural lands and open space—“green infrastructure
”—could serve as “a cost-effective substitute for the pipes, dams, levees, and other gray infrastructure that have typically been used to manage local and regional flood risk.” They note that such investments could also provide benefits like better water quality and groundwater source protection.
Heat Warning Systems
With 34,008 daily high records set across the country, 2012 was the hottest year ever. Although natural variability played a role, many scientists agree that greenhouse gas emissions also contributed and warn of more likely heat extremes to come.
An RFF report by Jonathan Samet of the University of Southern California’s Institute of Global Health recommends implementing a heat warning system
to prepare for such conditions: “Measures that might be taken to protect the public include media announcements, the activation of support networks, the implementation of a ‘heatline,’ taking steps to protect susceptible groups, and providing air‐conditioned shelters.”