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Modeling Energy Efficiency as a Supply Resource

Energy efficiency may be an inexpensive way to meet future demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet little work has been attempted to estimate annual energy efficiency supply functions for electricity planning. The main advantage of using a supply function is that energy efficiency adoption can change as demand changes. Models such as Duke University’s Dynamic Integrated Economy/Energy/Emissions Model (DIEM) have had to rely on simplistic or fixed estimates of future energy efficiency from the literature rather than on estimates from energy efficiency supply curves. This paper attempts to develop a realistic energy efficiency supply curve and to improve on the current energy efficiency modeling. It suggests an alternative approach based on saved-energy cost data from program administrators and explains the methodologies employed to create the supply curve. It illustrates this approach with results from DIEM for various electricity demand scenarios. The analysis suggests that an additional 5%–9% of energy efficiency is deployed for every 10% increase in the cost of electricity. Therefore, DIEM “invested” in energy efficiency up to an inelastic point on the energy efficiency supply curve. By contrast, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s energy efficiency approach assumes that realized energy efficiency is fixed, and has no elasticity, regardless of changes to marginal costs or constraints that affect emissions or economics. 

Authors: Etan Gumerman abd Tibor Vegh

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Climate and Energy

Environmental Economics

Modeling

Working Papers

Adaptations to Maintain the Contributions of Small-Scale Fisheries to Food Security in the Pacific Islands

In several Pacific Island countries and territories, rapid population growth and inadequate management of coastal fish habitats and stocks is causing a gap to emerge between the amount of fish recommended for good nutrition and sustainable harvests from coastal fisheries. The effects of ocean warming and acidification on coral reefs, and the effects of climate change on mangrove and seagrass habitats, are expected to widen this gap. To optimise the contributions of small-scale fisheries to food security in Pacific Island countries and territories, researchers write in the journal Marine Policy that adaptations are needed to minimise and fill the gap and they outline policies needed to support lists of key recommended adaptations.

Authors: Johann D. BellAndres Cisneros-Montemayor, Quentin Hanich, Johanna E. Johnson, Patrick Lehodey, Bradley R. Moore, Morgan S. Pratchett, Gabriel Reygondeau, Inna Senina, John Virdin, and Colette C.C. Wabnitz.

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Ocean and Coastal Policy

Journal Articles

Data and Modeling Infrastructure for National Integration of Ecosystem Services into Decision Making: Expert Summaries

Resource managers face increasingly complex decisions as they attempt to manage for the long-term sustainability and the health of natural resources. Incorporating ecosystem services into decision processes provides a means for increasing public engagement and generating more transparent consideration of tradeoffs that may help to garner participation and buy-in from communities and avoid unintended consequences. A 2015 White House memorandum from the Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Management and Budget, and Office of Science Technology and Policy acknowledged these benefits and asked all federal agencies to incorporate ecosystem services into their decision making. This working paper, expanded since its initial publication in November 2016, describes the ecological and social data and models available for quantifying the production and value of many ecosystem services across the United States. To achieve nationwide inclusion of ecosystem services, federal agencies will need to continue to build out and provide support for this essential informational infrastructure.

Authors: Lydia Olander, Gregory W. Characklis, Patrick Comer, Micah Effron, John Gunn, Tom Holmes, Robert Johnston, James Kagan, William Lehman, Eric Lonsdorf, John Loomis, Timon McPhearson, Anne Neale, Lauren Patterson, Leslie Richardson, Taylor Ricketts, Martin Ross, David Saah, Samantha Sifleet, Keith Stockmann, Dean Urban, Lisa Wainger, Robert Winthrop, and David Yoskowitz

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Ecosystem Services

National Ecosystem Services Partnership

Working Papers

Strengthening Governance of Small-Scale Fisheries: An Initial Assessment of the Theory and Practice

Small-scale fisheries (SSFs), most of which are found in developing countries, have been poorly measured at a global level, and they have often been ignored in states’ policy making—yet estimates suggest their aggregate global contribution to nutrition, food security, and poverty eradication is massive. These fisheries face multiple conflicts over space and resources—conflicts that scholars now believe can be mitigated with interactive governance or ecosystem-based management. However, there is little consensus in the literature on how local conditions affect linkages between desired outcomes and different forms of governance in small-scale fisheries (i.e., there is no appropriate full-fledged framework to understand under what conditions a particular form of government will lead to sustainable or more equitable use of marine resources in one geographic region versus another). A diverse group of organizations provide support to small-scale fisheries governance, typically support for science and research, governance capacity building, bridging functions across different organizations and geographies, policy development, policy delivery, alternative livelihoods/compensation for reduced fishing, and technology innovations. The level of financing provided to support small-scale fisheries governance varies according to the financier, but worldwide is likely to be relatively small. Another challenge is achieving small-scale fisheries governance reform at a large spatial scale (e.g., at the scale of ecosystems or value chains). Through surveys and a global workshop, practitioners around the world were asked how they would approach this challenge. They recommended (1) building a new global research agenda to fill in knowledge gaps on small-scale fisheries and communities, (2) supporting agents of change by establishing a capacity building platform for small-scale fisheries to better organize, and (3) expanding direct support to SSF communities to govern in a manner consistent with sustainable management guidelines and with the support of state agencies where needed. These recommendations could inform a round of increased global support for small-scale fisheries as part of the movement to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, turning them into reality, and supporting SSF governance reform widely enough to make global progress toward the SDGs, will likely require much more capital—including more public aid and private investment.

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Ocean and Coastal Policy

Fisheries

Reports

So You Want Your Research to Be Relevant? Building the Bridge between Ecosystem Services Research and Practice

There is growing demand for information regarding the impacts of decisions on ecosystem services and human benefits. Despite the large and growing quantity of published ecosystem services research, there remains a substantial gap between this research and the information required to support decisions. Research often provides models and tools that do not fully link social and ecological systems; that are too complex, specialized, and costly to use; and that are targeted to outcomes that differ from those needed by decision makers. Decision makers require cost-effective, straightforward, transferable, scalable, meaningful, and defensible methods that can be readily understood. This article in the journal Ecosystem Services provides illustrative examples of the gaps between research and practice and describes how researchers can make their work relevant to decision makers by using benefit relevant indicators (BRIs) and by choosing models appropriate for particular decision contexts. These examples are primarily drawn from the United States, and they include cases that illustrate varying degrees of success in closing these gaps. The article includes a discussion of the challenges and opportunities researchers face in adapting their work to meet the needs of practitioners.

Authors: Lydia Olander, Stephen Polasky, James S. Kagan, Robert J. Johnston, Lisa Wainger, David Saah, Lynn Maguire, James Boyd, and David Yoskowitz

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Ecosystem Services

Journal Articles

Environmental Impact Investing in Real Assets: What Environmental Measures Do Fund Managers Consider?

As concerns over climate change and natural resource depletion grow, investors have begun seeking opportunities for generating both market-rate financial returns and quantifiable environmental gains. Investing with the objectives of social or environmental return is often referred to as impact investing. Measuring and reporting the environmental impact of such investing is becoming of greater interest to environmental managers and investors. This report presents findings from interviews of investment fund managers of environmental real assets—defined here as real assets that rely on ecological systems to generate cash flows (e.g., timber, agriculture, fisheries, water rights). The interviews reveal little consistency in how environmental returns are measured and reported. Importantly, most of the environmental metrics are not designed to allow for evaluation of funds’ environmental performance. Hence, investors are unable to distinguish among funds in terms of environmental returns. Moreover, investors are also generally uninterested in such information. In short, impact investors seek environmental impact funds so long as they have risk-adjusted, market-rate returns regardless of environmental performance. To better evaluate the environmental returns of impact investments, whether real assets or other types of investments, fund managers and investors should directly engage the environmental science and operations management community. That community could offer insights to help ensure that investments are delivering and reporting on promise and that capital is being steered toward effective projects and opportunities.

Authors: Liz Spence, Belton Copp, Xander Kent, Dan Vermeer, and Martin W. Doyle

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Reports

What’s the Damage from Climate Change?

This contribution to Science's Perspectives underscores the importance of work to update estimates of the cost of carbon dioxide emissions, a cost that pervades government policy making. It explains the efforts of an interagency group charged with improving estimates of the so-called social cost of carbon (SC-CO2)—the dollar value of damage associated with 1 ton of additional emissions—and hence its equivalent, the benefit of avoided damage. It explains that in 2017 a U.S. National Academy of Science panel recommended use of updated damage models that translate climate change into impacts measured against the baseline economic activity and population. An improved damage model architecture for the United States has produced new estimates: 3 degrees Celsius of warming would lead to a loss of ~2 percent of U.S. gross do­mestic product; 6 degrees Celsius of warming would lead to a ~6 percent loss. But the real value of the new model architecture is enhanced credibility for future benefit es­timates built on it and the architecture’s capacity to incorporate new studies and additional economic sectors—a capacity that speaks directly to National Academy of Sci­ences recommendations that modeling be “consistent with the state of scientific knowledge as re­flected in the body of current, peer-reviewed literature” and that there be “a regularized process for updating SC-CO2 estimates.” The new modeling effort has several caveats, and three other components needed to compute the SC-CO2 need upgrades. Nevertheless, the emphasis of conservative governments, including the cur­rent one, on cost-benefit analysis can lead these governments to support envi­ronmental regulation.

Author: William Pizer

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Environmental Economics

Modeling

Journal Articles

Estimating the Value of Public Water Data

Public water data, such as river flow from stream gauges or precipitation from weather satellites, produce broad benefits at a cost to the general public. This paper presents a review of the academic literature on the costs and benefits of government investments in public water data. On the basis of 21 studies quantifying the costs and benefits of public water quantity data, it appears that the median benefit-cost ratio across different economic sectors and geographic regions is 4:1. But a great deal of uncertainty attends this number; very few studies empirically quantify or monetize the costs, the benefits, or both of water information with sound economic methods, and no studies have quantified the value of water quality information. This review is part of an ongoing effort by the Nicholas Institute of Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University and the Aspen Institute to develop the foundations of an Internet of Water by quantifying the potential value of open and integrated public water data. 

Authors: John Gardner, Martin Doyle, and Lauren Patterson

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Water Policy

Working Papers

Resolving the Inherent Uncertainty of Carbon Taxes

This introduction to symposium essays in the Harvard Environmental Law Review describes the role of pricing carbon in contemporary climate change policy (with a summary of experience with carbon tax and cap-and-trade policies around the world) and points out similarities of carbon tax policies and cap-and-trade policies based on the academic literature. But it focuses on how a tax and cap-and-trade schemes differ in terms of their economic and emission outcomes in light of the uncertainty characterizing the markets and economies in which these instruments are used. These differences have potentially important economic, environmental, and political economy implications for U.S. climate change policy. Finally, the article highlights the proposals and key findings of each of the symposium essays, including Increasing Emissions Certainty under a Carbon Tax.

Authors: Joseph E. Aldy, Marc Hafstead, Gilbert E. Metcalf, Brian C. Murray, William A. Pizer, Christina Reichert, and Roberton C. Williams III

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Carbon Tax

Climate and Energy

Environmental Economics

Journal Articles

Increasing Emissions Certainty under a Carbon Tax

Various organizations and individuals have proposed that the United States consider use of a carbon tax as the primary federal policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon tax establishes a fixed fee per unit of emissions and thereby provides a certain price incentive to cut emissions. However, one concern regarding a carbon tax is that it does not ensure that the nation will achieve a specific emissions goal because the economy’s response to such a tax is unknown in advance. Ultimately, there is an underlying tradeoff between certainty about emissions and certainty about prices and costs. Mechanisms that balance emissions and cost uncertainty can be viewed as a way to structure a more careful compromise between cost concerns and environmental interests. Under a carbon tax, mechanisms that can increase mitigation action may allow environmental constituencies to agree to what they may view as an environmentally risky tax with the assurance that further steps will be taken should emissions become too high. This symposium essay in the Harvard Environmental Law Review discusses a range of mechanisms that could increase emissions certainty under a carbon tax. It draws from recent discussions between the authors and other policy experts, and its goal is to define a set of options for deeper exploration. It begins with a discussion of how to measure emissions performance, or what it means to be achieving or not achieving an emissions goal, which could provide the basis for pursuing remedial mechanisms. Next, it presents a taxonomy of such mechanisms and the challenges and opportunities of each. Finally, it discusses ideas for initiating these mechanisms, either through some automated or discretionary procedure, and summarizes areas for additional research.

Authors: Brian C. Murray, William A. Pizer, and Christina Reichert

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Carbon Tax

Journal Articles

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