Economic theory predicts that international environmental agreements will fail due to free-rider problems, and previous empirical work suggests that such agreements do not in fact reduce emissions. This column presents evidence that the Basel Convention and Ban on trade in hazardous waste has also been ineffective. The authors find no evidence that Annex-7 countries that ratified the Ban slowed their exports to non-Annex-7 countries as the agreement requires.
Market-based mechanisms such as cap-and-trade can tackle externality problems more efficiently than command-and-control regulations. However, politicians in the US and Europe have retreated from cap-and-trade in recent years. This column draws a parallel between Republicans’ abandonment of market-based environmental regulation and their recent disavowal of mandatory health insurance. The author argues that in practice, the alternative to market-based regulation is not an absence of regulation, but rather the return of inefficient mandates and subsidies.
There is growing evidence that adverse infant health can have lasting effects on human capital formation and economic outcomes in adulthood. Among others, the poor environmental conditions have been linked to increased infant mortality and poor health. This column looks at the long-run effects of early-life pollution exposure. Using the Clean Air Act enacted in 1970 as a policy experiment, the study finds an association between reduced pollution and labour-market outcomes 30 years later. Reduced-pollution increases labour-force participation rate for affected individuals, which translates into a 1% increase in annual earning for an average individual in a cohort.
Compared to coal and oil, shale gas offers the prospect of greater energy independence and lower emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. However, fracking is controversial due to the local externalities it creates – particularly because of the potential for groundwater contamination. This column presents evidence on the size of these externalities from a recent study of house prices. The effect attributable to groundwater contamination risk varies from 10% to 22% of the value of the house, depending on its distance from the shale gas well.
The economic benefits and costs of mitigating global warming are widely debated. This column shows that based on current scientific knowledge and standard economic principles, a simple formula for the marginal damage of emissions can be constructed. The formula considerably strengthens the case for carbon taxation versus caps, allows straightforward calculation of the ‘global carbon debt’ rich nations owe to poor nations and future generations, and offers a yardstick for carbon capture and storage investments.
Other Recent Articles:
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CEPR Policy Research
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- 21st Century Challenges: The Mobile Middle Class13 - 13 March 2014 / Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, SW7 London / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)
- The 13th Annual GEP Postgraduate Conference 20141 - 2 May 2014 / Nottingham / Sponsored by Nottingham Centre for Research on Globalisation and Economic Polic