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News articles on environmental economics
Mongabay.com news articles on environmental economics in blog format. Updated regularly.
(11/01/2006) Avoided deforestation will be a hot point of discussion at next week's climate meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. Already a coalition of 15 rainforest nations have proposed a plan whereby industrialized nations would pay them to protect their forests to offset greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, last month Brazil -- which has the world's largest extent of tropical rainforests and the world's highest rate of forest loss -- said it promote a similar initiative at the talks. At stake: potentially billions of dollars for developing countries. When trees are cut greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere -- roughly 20 percent of annual emissions of such heat-trapping gases result from deforestation and forest degradation. Avoided deforestation is the concept where countries are paid to prevent deforestation that would otherwise occur. Policymakers and environmentalists alike find the idea attractive because it could help fight climate change at a low cost while improving living standards for some of the world's poorest people and preserving biodiversity and other ecosystem services. A number of prominent conservation biologists and development agencies including the World Bank and the U.N. have already endorsed the idea.
Animal pollinators responsible for 35 percent of world food crop
(10/25/2006) A new study calculates that 35 percent of the world's crop production is dependent on pollinators, like bats, bees, and birds. The research suggests that biodiversity loss could directly impact global food crops.
World Bank says carbon trading will save rainforests
(10/24/2006) Monday the World Bank endorsed carbon trading as a way to save tropical rainforests which are increasingly threatened by logging, agricultural development, subsistence agriculture, and climate change itself. The World Bank report comes on the heels of a proposal by a coalition of developing countries to seek compensation from industrialized countries for conserving their rainforests to fight global warming. Brazil is expected to announce a similar plan at upcoming climate talks in Nairobi.
Brazil proposes compensation plan for rainforest conservation
(10/16/2006) Last month Brazil proposed the establishment of a fund to compensate developing countries that reduce deforestation, a move that follows a similar initiative by a coalition of developing countries led by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica. The scheme could help cut greenhouse gas emissions that result from forest clearing and conversion. Deforestation currently is responsible for 20-25 percent of such heat-trapping emissions.
Unchecked global warming will cost trillions says report
(10/14/2006) A new Friends of the Earth-backed report by economists at Tufts University's Global Development and Environment Institute says that global warming could cost trillions of dollars should temperature increases exceed two degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)
Insurance industry needs to do more to fight global warming
(10/13/2006) The insurance industry needs to do more to address the growing impact of climate-change induced damaged according to a report issued this week by insurance giant Allianz and environmental group WWF.
Shell estimates cost of fighting climate change at 0.3% GDP
(10/13/2006) A new report by Shell Oil estimates that the cost of fighting climate change in the Britain by 2010 would be equivalent to just 0.3 percent of GDP. The report also says that the effort to address climate change could be worth £30bn ($56 billion) to businesses in the UK.
Privatize the Amazon rainforest says UK minister
(10/02/2006) At a summit this week in Mexico, David Miliband, Britain's Environment Secretary, will propose a plan to "privatize" the Amazon to allow the world's largest rainforest to be bought by individuals and groups, according to a report in the Telegraph newspaper online. The scheme, which has been endorsed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, would seek to protect the region's biodiversity while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming.
Boreal forests worth $250 billion per year worldwide
(09/25/2006) Boreal forests provide services worth $250 billion per year globally according to estimates by Canadian researchers. Mark Anielski, an Edmonton economist, says that environmental services from the boreal -- including carbon capture and storage, water filtration and waste treatment, biodiversity maintenance, and pest control -- are worth about $160 per hectare, or $93 billion per year in Canada alone.
Global Warming to Have Significant Impact on California
(07/31/2006) A new report from the state of California warns that climate change could have a significant impact on the state's economy and the health of its residents. The release of the report comes on the day that British Prime Minister Tony Blair and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a climate pact agreeing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Arguing climate change to an energy executive
(07/25/2006) Earlier this month I had the opportunity to make a pitch to "Mike," a top executive of a major energy company, about climate change and green energy. Mike said he didn't believe humans are influencing climate or that green energy is a key factor in the future business of his firm, "EnergyCo." I tried to persuade him otherwise, not by focusing on the science of climate change but on economics and market opportunities. It's not that science isn't important--I just didn't want to get caught up in an argument about core beliefs, which is akin to arguing over religion.
Pine plantations may be contributing to global warming
(07/24/2006) The increasing number of pine plantations in the southern United States could contribute to a rise in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, a new study reports. This is important because carbon dioxide is a key greenhouse gas, one that is linked to global warming. Landowners in the South are turning stands of hardwood and natural pine trees into pine plantations because pine is a more lucrative source of lumber. But pine plantations don't retain carbon as well as hardwood or natural pine forests, said Brent Sohngen, a study co-author and an associate professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State University.
Tropical Asia needs to act to save biodiversity, say scientists
(07/22/2006) A group of scientists urged governments of tropical Asia to take steps to stem biodiversity loss across the region. At the annual meeting for the Association for Tropical Biology and conservation, hosted at the Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the Yunnan province of China, scientists said that population growth and booming economic expansion are fueling illegal logging, wildlife poaching, and habitat destruction. The scientists noted that populations of elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, sun bears, orangutans, and other species unique to tropical Asia have fallen significantly in recent years as a result of these activities.
Bicycle riders worse for the environment than car drivers?
(07/22/2006) A new paper argues that bicycling may be more damaging to the environment than driving a car, but not for the reason you might think. Karl T. Ulrich, a professor at the Wharton School of the Business at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that there are environmental costs associated with increased longevity of those who engage in physical activity. Ulrich reasons that because cyclers live longer they will produce more carbon emissions over the course of their extended life.
Economists ignoring threat of climate change says Royal Society
(07/20/2006) Economists need to play "a bigger and more constructive role in dealing with the threat of climate change" said Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, the academy of sciences of the United Kingdom.
United States economy becomes more carbon efficient
(06/21/2006) The state of Nevada had the largest increase in carbon emissions between 1990 and 2001 according to mongabay.com's analysis of figures released by the Energy Information Administration. Carbon dioxide emissions climbed 47 percent during the period, while the state's economy grew by 85 percent and its population increased by 73 percent. The figures show that Nevada, like the rest of the United States, is becoming getting more out of its carbon dioxide emissions than it did in 1990. Overall the United States was about 20 percent more carbon dioxide efficient in 2001 than in 1990, with each metric ton of carbon dioxide generating from $1,614 to 1,724 worth of gross domestic product.
Venture Capitalists, China and Green Technology
(05/24/2006) A Bay Area venture capitalist with a storied past, has set his sights on "green technology" and ultimately China, after some compelling remarks from state representatives at a recent conference. Early this spring, Chinese officials named solar and clean coal technologies as two of their three pre-eminent priorities for investment and development in the near future. For a country with burgeoning energy needs surpassing what power is presently available, this is both realistic and positive news for environmentalists and economists alike. Hoping to capitalize, John Doerr and his associates are now funneling cash into the emergent green technology sector, which he, and an increasing number of other investors believe to be the next big thing.
US has low-cost alternatives to oil; peak oil frenzy and human-induced climate change avoidable says Columbia University
(05/14/2006) Surging oil prices have fueled calls for the United States to develop new sources of affordable and secure domestic energy. While renewable energy -- especially biofuels, wind power, and solar technologies -- is an area of particular interest, researchers from the Earth Institute at Columbia University say that the U.S. already has relatively low-cost alternatives to imported oil, including coal, tar sands, and oil shale. These resources can be extracted and used at a lower cost to the environment than some might expect. In a report published in the most recent issue of Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Klaus S. Lackner and Jeffrey D. Sachs argue that "coal alone could satisfy the country's energy needs of the twenty-first century." They say that "coal liquefaction, or the process of deriving liquid fuels from coal, is already being used in places and with expanded infrastructure could provide gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel at levels well below current prices." Further, Sachs and Lackner suggest that "environmental constraints such as increased carbon dioxide emissions arising from greater use of coal and other fossil fuels could be avoided for less than 1 percent of gross world product by 2050," a sum far less than others have estimated.
Carbon prices tumble 65 percent
(05/04/2006) Carbon prices tumbled 65 percent as a number of European countries announced lower than expected carbon emissions in 2005, suggesting there will be a surplus of pollution-permitting carbon credits. Several important conservation initiatives are based on the concept of a market where industrialized countries buy carbon emissions credits from developing nations in exchange for forest protection
Monkeys indicate economic decision-making may be innate
(05/03/2006) New research out of Yale University argues that monkeys and humans exhibit similar economic biases, suggesting that economic decision-making have deeper roots that many economists suspect. The Yale researchers found that monkeys conducting business-like activities - including trading and gambling - behave in ways that closely mirror human behvaioral inclinations.
Why is palm oil replacing tropical rainforests?
(04/25/2006) In a word, economics, though deeper analysis of a proposal in Indonesia suggests that oil palm development might be a cover for something more lucrative: logging. Recently much has been made about the conversion of Asia's biodiverse rainforests for oil-palm cultivation. Environmental organizations have warned that by eating foods that use palm oil as an ingredient, Western consumers are directly fueling the destruction of orangutan habitat and sensitive ecosystems. So, why is it that oil-palm plantations now cover millions of hectares across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand? Why has oil palm become the world's number one fruit crop, trouncing its nearest competitor, the humble banana? The answer lies in the crop's unparalleled productivity. Simply put, oil palm is the most productive oil seed in the world. A single hectare of oil palm may yield 5,000 kilograms of crude oil, or nearly 6,000 liters of crude.
Recent Coral Bleaching at Great Barrier Reef
(04/05/2006) An international team of scientists are working at a rapid pace to study environmental conditions behind the fast-acting and widespread coral bleaching currently plaguing Australia's Great Barrier Reef. NASA's satellite data supply scientists with near-real-time sea surface temperature and ocean color data to give them faster than ever insight into the impact coral bleaching can have on global ecology. Australia's Great Barrier Reef is a massive marine habitat system made up of 2,900 reefs spanning over 600 continental islands. Though coral reefs exist around the globe, researchers actually consider this network of reefs to be the center of the world's marine biodiversity, playing a critical role in human welfare, climate, and economics. Coral reefs are a multi-million dollar recreational destinations, and the Great Barrier Reef is an important part of Australia's economy.
Insects worth $57 billion to US economy
(04/01/2006) A new study says insects are worth at least $57 billion to the American economy. In the April 2006 issue of BioScience, John E. Losey of Cornell University and Mace Vaughan of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate conservation estimate the value of ecological services provided by insects. Looking at just four services--dung burial, control of crop pests, pollination, and wildlife nutrition--Losey and Vaughan calculate that the annual value of insects in these roles is at least $57 billion in the United States.
Slowing global warming may be less costly than initially thought
(03/09/2006) Preventing carbon dioxide levels from rising to potentially dangerous levels could cost less far less than originally projected--less 1 percent of gross world product as of 2050--but a major shift in the way energy is found, transformed, transported and used will be necessary to prevent a severe energy crisis within the next century, say researchers from the The Earth Institute.
Medicinal value of chocolate explored by scientists
(02/09/2006) The cocoa plant (Theobroma cacao) holds tremendous potential to impact public health and improve the socioeconomic and ecological landscape of the countries where it's grown, according to leading world scientists who convened at the National Academies today to examine the latest scientific advances in cocoa research.
Coral reefs and mangroves have high economic value
(01/24/2006) Protecting coral reefs and mangrove forests makes economic sense according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The report argues that conserving these ecosystems for the services they provide--from fisheries protection to erosion control to a source for medical compounds--is cost-effective relative to destroying them and substituting their role with man-made structures.
China and India Key to Ecological Future of the World, Says Report
(01/12/2006) Earth lacks the energy, arable land and water to enable the fast-growing economies of China and India to attain Western levels of resource consumption according to a new report released by the Worldwatch Institute .
2005 had worst weather-related economic losses in history
(12/07/2005) This year witnessed the largest financial losses ever as a result of weather-related natural disasters linked by many to human action, more than $200 billion compared to $145 billion in 2004, the previous record, according to statistics presented to the United Nations Climate Change Conference currently meeting in Montreal, Canada.
Mozambique Gets World Bank conservation, Tourism Project
(12/05/2005) More of Mozambique's natural ecosystems will be conserved, and thus draw more tourism to the country, thanks to a World Bank-funded project that aims to promote economic growth through sustainable use of natural resources.
Energy efficiency helped California grow an extra $31 billion finds study
(12/04/2005) Countering Bush administration claims to the contrary, environmental officials for the state of California and the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo have found significant evidence that greenhouse gas pollution can be substantially reduced at a profit rather than a cost. The study, commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, found that energy efficiency has helped the California economy grow an extra 3 percent - a $31 billion gain - compared to business as usual. Further, the researchers say that each Californian typically saved about $1,000 per year between 1975 and 1995 just through efficiency standards for buildings and appliances.
U.S. "exporting" carbon emissions to China says study
(12/01/2005) The growth of Chinese imports in the U.S. economy boosted the total emissions of carbon dioxide (a primary greenhouse gas) from the two countries by over 700 million metric tons between 1997 and 2003, according to a study published online in the journal Energy Policy. The analysis, prepared by two scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, suggests that American emissions of carbon dioxide in 2003 would have been 6% higher if the United States had manufactured the products that it imported from China. Meanwhile, China's 2003 emissions would have been 14% lower had it not produced goods for the United States.
Pantanal wetland in Bolivia threatened by port project says WWF
(11/20/2005) Plans for the construction of a commercial port and railway access line crossing Bolivia's Otuquis National Park -- a protected area and Ramsar site located in the heart of the world's largest wetland area, the Pantanal -- must be radically restructured so that it doesn't cause irreparable environmental damage and economic losses, warns WWF.
Coral reefs decimated by 2050, Great Barrier Reef's coral 95% dead
(11/17/2005) Australia's Great Barrier Reef could lose 95 percent of its living coral by 2050 should ocean temperatures increase by the 1.5 degrees Celsius projected by climate scientists. The startling and controversial prediction, made last year in a report commissioned by the World Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Queensland government, is just one of the dire scenarios forecast for reefs in the near future. The degradation and possible disappearance of these ecosystems would have profound socioeconomic ramifications as well as ecological impacts says Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, head of the University of Queensland's Centre for Marine Studies.
Flu pandemic "inevitable" and to cost $800 billion say World Bank, WHO
(11/07/2005) The potential economic cost of a pandemic of human influenza -- which the World Health Organization (WHO) now says is "inevitable" -- would top $800 billion according to a World Bank report released today.
Medicinal Plants could help poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa -- World Bank report
(11/03/2005) Dryland areas in Sub-Saharan Africa have a niche opportunity to use selected multipurpose medicinal plants to halt land degradation, and at the same time provide culturally acceptable healthcare, food, and a sustainable source of income by developing niche markets, according to the new World Bank report Capitalizing on the Bio-Economic Value of Multi-Purpose Medicinal Plants for the Rehabilitation of Drylands in Sub-Saharan Africa.
6.5 earthquake could cut off California's water supply
(11/02/2005) Appearing before a joint legislative committee, Department of Water Resources (DWR) Director Lester Snow today outlined the catastrophic impact a significant earthquake would have on Delta levees. He said failed levees would cause major floods, threaten public safety, damage the water supply infrastructure, and jeopardize the State's economy.
Global warming to fuel rise in asthma, malaria
(11/02/2005) The Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, along with co-sponsors Swiss Re and the United Nations Development Programme, today released a study showing that climate change will significantly affect the health of humans and ecosystems and these impacts will have economic consequences.
Rainforest conservation worth the cost shows new study
(11/02/2005) The economic benefits of protecting a rainforest reserve outweigh the costs of preserving it, says University of Alberta research--the first of its kind to have conducted a cost-benefit analysis on the conservation of species diversity. "The traditional moral and aesthetic arguments have been made about why we should conserve the biodiversity in rainforests, but little has been done that looks at whether it makes pure economic sense to do so," said Dr. Robin Naidoo, who did his PhD at the U of A in biological sciences and rural economy. "We provide some good evidence from a strict economic side, that yes, it does."
Invasive species date back thousands of years
(10/13/2005) Much has been made of the economic impacts of recent biological invasions, but what are the implications of invasions in deep time? Luiz Rocha leads geneticists who time travel through ocean environments. The results of their travels, published online in Molecular Ecology, tell us that during warm, interglacial periods, reef-associated fish (goby genus Gnatholepis), leapt around the horn of Africa into the Atlantic, where their range expanded as the world warmed.
Africa Heats Up -- climate change threatens future of the continent
(10/11/2005) A series of recent studies have revealed a sobering future for the majority of Africa, a future predicated by undeniable and significant climate change. The threat traverses all levels of the environmental, social, political and economic spheres, from heightened socio-economic disparity to dwindling fish populations, from civil strife to desperate hunger. The greatest and saddest irony of this dark fate projected for the continent is that while Africa has the world's lowest levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, contributing the least to global climate change, it has been forced to bear the brunt of the phenomenon.
Harvesting tornados as power plants; renewable wind vortex energy
(10/09/2005) Engineers are working to use artificial tornados as a renewable energy source according to an article in last week's The Economist. Storms release a tremendous amount of energy. Hurricane Katrina, a category 4 hurricane, released enough energy to supply the world's power needs for a year, while the typical tornado produces as much power as a large power station.
Environment killing millions says World Bank report
(10/07/2005) A new report from the World Bank says millions of deaths can be attributed to environmental factors, including climate change, pollution, unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene. These environmental conditions are significantly affecting health -- responsible for about a fifth of all ill health in poor countries -- and impeding economic development and growth. The report also links cancer to the environment.
Now identified as likely origin of SARS; will bats be killed in China?
(09/29/2005) The likely source of the respiratory disease SARS is the horseshoe bat, a new study in the journal Science suggests. Researchers found a virus closely related to the SARS coronavirus in bats from three regions of China. The 2003 SARS outbreak killed 770 people and caused billions in economic damaged.
First megatransect of Madagascar completed
(09/27/2005) Late last year an international team completed the first known transect of the island of Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island. The eight-month-long journey, dubbed "Hike Madagascar," took the group of intrepid hikers from the southern tip of Madagascar to the northernmost point of the island. The transect targeted rural communities along the eastern forest corridor, surveying villages and providing local farmers with techniques for improving rice yields and putting more food on the table for their families. The hike also provided a glimpse into some of the socioeconomic and environmental issues facing the island nation, which is one of the poorest in the world.
Danish researchers develop hydrogen tablet that stores hydrogen in inexpensive and safe material
(09/21/2005) Scientists at the Technical University of Denmark have invented a technology which may be an important step towards the hydrogen economy: a hydrogen tablet that effectively stores hydrogen in an inexpensive and safe material. With the new hydrogen tablet, it becomes much simpler to use the environmentally-friendly energy of hydrogen. Hydrogen is a non-polluting fuel, but since it is a light gas it occupies too much volume, and it is flammable. Consequently, effective and safe storage of hydrogen has challenged researchers world-wide for almost three decades. At the Technical University of Denmark, DTU, an interdisciplinary team has developed a hydrogen tablet which enables storage and transport of hydrogen in solid form.
Builder of rainforest canopy walkways believes conservation can be profitable
(09/20/2005) This month's issue of The Ecological Finance Review details Greenheart conservation Company, a for-profit company that designs, builds and operates conservation based canopy walkways (canopy trails) and other nature-based attractions around the world. Operating on the premise that conservation can be economically viable, Greenheart believes that is has already become a "model of how to shift gears from an industrial to a green economy." Greenheart has developed or is developing canopy walkways in Peru, Nigeria, Madagascar, Ghana, Brazil, Guyana, the United Kingdon, and Canada.
Cost of Iraq War to top $1.25 trillion says academic
(09/20/2005) The total cost of the Iraq War for the UK, the USA, Iraq and other nations is likely to top US$1.25 trillion dollars according to Keith Hartley, a professor at the University of York's Center for Defence Economics.
90% of largest companies concerned about climate change
(09/18/2005) More U.S. corporations than ever before now factor climate change into the risks and opportunities faced by their businesses, according to a report released today by the Carbon Disclosure Project, a coalition of institutional investors with more than $21 trillion in assets. Increased interest from the investment community, in conjunction with related macro-economic developments, is encouraging the development of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Economic impact of hurricane close to neutral
(09/07/2005) The CBO projects 400,000 people will be unemployed due to Hurricane Katrina. Further, the hurricane is unlikely to have much impact on overall economic growth in the United States. Generally, the overall impact of natural disasters is often close to neutral since lost output from destruction and displacement is then compensated for by a big increase in reconstruction and public spending.
Forest fires have serious economic and health consequences warns FAO
(09/05/2005) Large forest fires in South-East Asia, notably in Indonesia, have caused serious health and environmental problems, in particular choking haze in the region, FAO said today.
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