On the 4th of May 2017 I will be speaking as a panelist at the `Dialog on Deck‘ on the MS Wissenschaft in Trier. The topic will be economic and political aspects to local as well as global means by which climate change can be curtailed. The other panelists are Prof. Dr. Antje Bruns, expert for sustainable development and climate change, University of Trier; Prof. Dr. Günther Heinemann, Polar- und climate scientist, University of Trier; Dr. Dietmar Kraft, climate expert and consultant, Trier; everything being moderated by Martin Schmitt from SWR. This event is organized by the German Ministry of Education and Research.
The main idea behind this panel is to have a deep exchange with the general public. So, if you are interested, please feel free to attend and ask questions. You will find us in Trier, on the 4th May 2017, 18.00-19.30, at Zurlaubener Ufer, Anleger Kaiser-Wilhelm-Brücke, Viking River Cruises. The overall language will be German.
In a recent piece entitled “Our Climate Future Is Actually Our Climate Present” (April 19, 2017) the New York Times discusses what Benteng Zou and myself in an article published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management in 2008 called Pollution Perception. We argued that individuals perceive pollution to differ from its actual level because ” consecutive generations are not truly aware of, or cannot fully relate to, the environment as it was a generation ago.” We argued that this not only leads to higher levels of pollution and lower welfare, but also that it poses problems for the most commonly used measures of intergenerational equity.
Interestingly, a psychologist had already defined this concept earlier than us, and we were unfortunately not aware of this. This shows how little interaction there is among different academic disciplines sometimes. Peter Kahn, a Psychology Professor from Washington, called this “environmental generational amnesia.”
What the NYtimes article emphasized was that “”it’s possible to adapt and diminish the quality of human life.” Adapting to avoid or cope with the suffering wrought by climate change might gradually create other suffering.” This is quite interesting and a valid point that we did not study. For example, increased carbon emissions will lead to more heat death due to warmer climates, but it could also trigger large scale shifts in ecosystems which would result from e.g. a change in the Thermohauline Circulation. If we can mentally adapt to warmer temperatures, which would arise from a change in pollution perception, then we may be less inclined to lower our carbon emissions and thereby make the shifts in the ecosystems more likely. Thus, in a sense, a limited pollution perception or environmental amnesia implies a decrease in the social cost of carbon and, while it may be argued to be an adaptation mechanism, it can have unwanted side effects.
The other point is obviously whether or not we want our future generations to adapt to a worsened environment. For example, a variety of studies “found that the reported happiness of people who lost a body part was only marginally lower than the reported happiness of population means. Therefore, people are simply able to learn to live with certain health problems.” Nevertheless, forcing our future generations to adapt to a worsened environment decreases their menu of choice, which in turn is likely to decrease their capabilities or opportunities. And if we believe philosophers like Amartya Sen, then precisely these are to be maximized.
Together with Cees Withagen and Eric Strobl I organized the IPAG Workshop New Challenges in Environmental Economics 2017, which we held on the 4th and 5th of April 2017 in Paris and which was financed by IPAG Business School. We were really happy to have an impressive line-up of speakers, with a good mix of theory, empirical and experimental papers.
For those interested here is the Programme. This will be a recurring event at IPAG so keep your eyes open!
On Sunday 5th March there is the deadline for submissions to the ISEFI conference, organized by IPAG Business School in Paris, to be held 22-23 May 2017. Eric Strobl, Cees Withagen and myself are organizing the environmental economics half of that conference, while the rest of the conference will focus on energy and finance. Keynote speakers are Amy Myers Jaffe and Richard S.J. Tol. You can find more information and submission guidelines here: https://isefi.sciencesconf.org/ Please do consider presenting your article if you feel you have a nice contribution to environmental economics that you would like to share with us.
The European Environmental Agency just published the updates on the shares of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption across Europe. Nearly every European country fully met or even exceeded their targeted shares of renewable energy. Only Netherlands did not meet its goal, while Luxembourg just about met its target. But Luxembourg’s performance is nevertheless really disappointing. I am going to argue that the only serious policy option for Luxembourg is to increase its renewables in energy target and thereby start to become energy independent.
The recent 2016 EU Air Quality Report nicely shows that air quality in Europe has been improving since 2000 across nearly all indicators. Whenever I can present a graph like the one on the right, I am happy. It makes me smile. I feel things are improving and my kids have a chance at a better future. With all the recent terrible events out there, the rise of right-wing attitudes and the many wars that are still being fought, these are finally good news.
BUT, like oh so many times, there is a catch. In fact, there are two catches.