News

Mapping the Potential Economic Effects of Climate Change

Commenting for National Public Radio on a study in Science that reveals which parts of the United States are likely to suffer the most from climate change, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solution’s Billy Pizer says such research brings the threat into focus. “It’s important to figure out: Are we talking about something the size of a bread box or the size of an elephant or the size of a mouse?” he says. “And I think getting those sorts of magnitudes right, I think is really important, and I think that's what this paper does.”

Climate Change Will Hurt the Poor and Help the Wealthy

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solution’s Billy Pizer commented in Newsweek on a new study in the journal Science that estimates that every 1 degree Celsius of warming will cost the United States 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product, worsen economic inequality, and exact other costs, including human deaths, agricultural declines, and even increased crime. This study “is the first comprehensive estimate of climate change damages driven by state-of-the-art empirical studies of climate change impacts,” said Pizer, who wrote a perspective accompanying the study in Science but who wasn’t involved in the research. “These are combined into a single, aggregate damage function, relating temperature change to dollar estimates of damages.” He added that “It is not clear that anything, besides cutting emissions, can be done to avoid these economic consequences. Because of the way the estimates are constructed, they should already include various opportunities for averting behavior. Perhaps innovation and technological change in the future will find ways to avoid some of these consequences more cheaply. That said, there are many relatively inexpensive opportunities to cut emissions.”

Biodiversity Loss from Deep-Sea Mining Will Be Unavoidable

An international team of 15 marine scientists, resource economists and legal scholars, including Nicholas Institute senior scholar Linwood Pendleton, argued in a letter published in the journal Nature Geoscience ($) that deep-sea mining will come at a cost to biodiversity. “The extraction of non-renewable resources always includes tradeoffs,” Pendleton said. “A serious trade-off for deep-sea mining will be an unavoidable loss of biodiversity, including many species that have yet to be discovered.” Given this inevitable outcome, it’s critical to understand deep-sea ecosystems and what we stand to lose before mining begins, he said.

Energy Program on Chopping Block, But New Data Suggest It Works

Research presented in a working paper in the Environmental and Energy Economics Working Paper Series organized by the Duke University Energy Initiative (DUEI) and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions has yielded new data about an energy efficiency program slated for elimination in the Trump administration’s proposed budget. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessments Centers program aims to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers become more energy-efficient by providing free energy “audits” by universities around the country. According to the Duke analysis, which was made by possible by the DUEI’s Energy Research Seed Fund, the program works. Given the potential uses of the results by the private sector (particularly by electric utilities), other funding possibilities may emerge, reported the Duke Research Blog.

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Creating and Internet of Water Database Would Help Manage Water Sustainably

Water is a precious resource, as the five years of extreme drought Californians have just lived through teach us. The lesson learned is how the private and public sector manage water can help take stress off of watersheds. To better manage water, open and shared data is necessary. Aspen Institute, along with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University and Redstone Strategy Group, released a report with findings and guidance on how to use water data to improve sustainable use of the resource. 

Q&A: Increasing Emissions Certainty under a Carbon Tax

Some organizations and individuals have expressed interest in a carbon tax as the primary federal policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but such a tax leaves the emissions outcome uncertain. In an issue of the Harvard Environmental Law Review focusing on carbon taxes, three researchers affiliated with Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions examine options for increasing emissions certainty. Brian Murray, Billy Pizer, and Christina Reichert discuss how these options could respond to deviations from identified emissions goals as well as identify the challenges and opportunities associated with different approaches.

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Duke, Durham React to U.S. Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement

In response to the U.S. exit from the Paris Climate Agreement, the city of Durham and Duke University have reaffirmed their commitment to combating climate change. Nicholas Institute faculty fellow Billy Pizer suggested that when national government is less polarized, signals from sub-national actors could begin to shape national policy. “My feeling is that the problem will only be tackled successfully when there is either national-level policy or a large enough number of state-level actors who take action like California and New York," Pizer told the Duke Chronicle. He added that acting without federal coordination states could simply shift emissions to each other without meaningfully reducing emissions. Nicholas Institute Environmental Economics Program director Brian Murray noted that cities can exert economic influence. “Most of the economic activity throughout the world happens in cities,” Murray said. "Individual cities can impose ordinances or have policies or create incentives for companies to act in more climate friendly ways, in addition to using their bully pulpit to say that we don't believe that what the president did is good policy.”

A Look at how Trump's Climate Moves affect the Coal Industry

President Donald Trump says withdrawing from a global climate change agreement will boost the U.S. economy, but existing market forces have had far more of an effect on the fossil fuel industries than climate regulations. Utilities "are not going to flip on a dime and say now it's time to start building a whole bunch of coal plants because there's a Trump administration," Brian Murray, director of environmental economics at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, tells the Associated Press.

New Report Calls for 'Internet of Water' to Increase Sustainability

Aspen Institute, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and Redstone gathered experts, researchers and stakeholders for talks throughout much of 2016 into 2017 to figure out better water infrastructure and what’s holding back the current system. SmartCities Dive writes that among the actions the report recommends is to articulate a vision of sustainable water resource management, develop tools opening existing, public water data for both producers and users and creating or identifying an organization that can enable a system of data.

Paris Accord Withdrawal Divides NC Pols

As an aide to then-Senator Joe Lieberman, the Nicholas Institute’s Tim Profeta helped shape the Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act of 2003, which at the time was considered a symbol of growing bipartisan agreement on climate change policy. Since then, Profeta told StarNews Online, dialogue around climate change has become divisive. “Because of the political dynamic during the Obama Administration, in particular,” he said, “it became much more partisan, and your thoughts about how to address climate change became part of your political identity.” On the state level, Profeta said, North Carolina legislators could effectively address climate goals by continuing to craft policies that encourage investment in renewable resources. Failing to do the same at the national level, he added, could result in the movement of solar, wind, and similar technologies’ manufacturing jobs overseas.