Publications

Incentivizing the Reduction of Pollution at U.S. Dairies

This article examines the intricacies of environmental credit generation from concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) farm systems. This article describes the stacking problem and explores possible solu­tions, such as temporal constraints on credit issuance and discounting credits to account for additionality problems.

Effects of Technology Assumptions on US Power Sector Capacity, Generation and Emissions Projections: Results from the EMF 32 Model Intercomparison Project

This article is one of two syntheses in a special issue in the journal Energy Economics on the EMF 32 study, a major modeling study of the electric power sector’s emissions in various policy intervention scenarios. This article focuses on the effects of technology and market assumptions with projections out to 2050. A total of 15 models contributed projections based on a set of standardized scenarios. The scenarios include a range of assumptions about the price of natural gas, costs of end-use energy efficiency, retirements of nuclear power, the cost of renewable electricity, and overall electricity demand. The range of models and scenarios represent similarities and differences across a broad spectrum of analytical methods.

The EMF 32 Study on Technology and Climate Policy Strategies for Greenhouse Gas Reductions in the U.S. Electric Power Sector: An Overview

This introduction to a special issue of Energy Economics presents the key findings of Energy Modeling Forum Model Inter-comparison Project Number 32 (EMF 32) entitled “The EMF 32 Study on Technology and Climate Policy Strategies for Greenhouse Gas Reductions in the U.S. Electric Power Sector.” This study focused on the development and cross-model comparison of results from U.S. climate policy intervention scenarios focusing on policy strategies for achieving greenhouse gas emission reductions in the electric power sector and the sensitivity of emissions and economic results to changes in technology and market assumptions. This overview article describes the motivation for the EMF 32 study, identifies the models used in the study, describes the study's scope and design, and reviews insights in the special issue's articles. A related article focuses on the effects of technology and market assumptions with projections out to 2050. 

Increasing Emissions Certainty under a Carbon Tax

Should 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—but it does not ensure that the nation will achieve a specific emissions goal because the economy’s response to the 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 mechanisms that could increase emissions certainty under a carbon tax. 

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.

On Morals, Markets, and Climate Change: Exploring Pope Francis’ Challenge

This article in Law and Contemporary Problems explores the contrast between the movement toward environmental markets, characterized by the emergence of new carbon markets across the globe, and the renewed opposition to markets manifested in the pope’s encyclical and the views of some environmental advocates. It considers the arguments raised by these latter critics, explores alternative views of their concerns, and examines how market-based climate policies could be designed to alleviate these concerns. Others have examined the moral and ethical dimensions of market-based climate policies, but this article contributes to the literature by providing a contemporary examination of the papal encyclical’s prominent questioning of the use of markets to address climate change. 

Ecosystem Service Concepts in Practice

Economists have long embraced the idea that services provided by nature have inherent economic value. Ecologists, other scientists, and many in the environmental advocacy community have more recently come to focus on the connection between natural systems and economic value. The broadening interest in the economic value of nature over the last two decades led to the emergence of the interrelated and now commonly used terms ecosystem services and natural capital. To inform Canadian policy, this article in a special issue of the journal Canadian Public Policy discusses some of the efforts that have been enacted elsewhere, with particular emphasis on those in the United States, and why some have been more successful than others.

The Paris Agreement and Beyond: International Climate Change Policy Post 2020

The Paris Agreement sets forth an innovative and potentially effective policy architecture, a great deal remains to be done to formulate required rules and guidelines and to specify more precise means of implementation. Governments, other stakeholders, and researchers also need to think about constraints on the effectiveness of the agreement—and identify organizations and processes that could complement it and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process more broadly. In July 2016, the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements hosted a research workshop at the Harvard Kennedy School, the purpose of which was to identify options for elaborating and implementing the Paris Agreement—and to identify policies and institutions that might complement or supplement the Paris-Agreement regime. Participants, which included Nicholas Institute researchers Brian Murray and Billy Pizer, subsequently prepared the briefs that are included in this volume, based largely on their presentations at the workshop, addressing opportunities for—and challenges to—elaborating, implementing, and complementing the Paris Agreement. 

North American Climate Policy Forum: Exploring Cooperation between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, June 22–23, 2016—Post-Conference Discussion and Summary Report

Canada, the United States, and Mexico have begun to recognize opportunities for harmonization on climate change policy as a way to decrease costs and increase the efficiency of actions to address climate change and to help all three countries achieve their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals pledged under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Some work is needed to understand how increased coordination on climate change policies in North America could address concerns such as competitiveness, emissions leakage, and policy consistency in the region. To begin the conversation on the potential for and impacts of climate policy harmonization in North America, The University of Ottawa’s Sustainable Prosperity (now Smart Prosperity Institute) and Duke University organized the first annual North American Climate Policy Forum, June 23-24, 2016. Using insights from the forum, this report describes how existing regulatory approaches to climate change as well as recently announced joint emissions reduction targets lay the groundwork for climate policy harmonization. It also describes four issue areas that present potential opportunities and challenges for climate policy harmonization and concludes with opportunities for future research.

Benefits, Costs, and Distributional Impacts of a Groundwater Trading Program in the Diamond Valley, Nevada

In Nevada’s Diamond Valley, unsustainable groundwater pumping has decreased the aquifer’s water level, raising irrigators’ pumping costs and threatening the viability of existing wells and springs. Continued extraction in excess of natural recharge will trigger a legally required curtailment of water rights in the valley, which was recently declared a critical management area (CMA). The extent of rights curtailment is not mandated, but it could be as high as 64%, the amount required to reach the estimated natural recharge rate. The default policy for curtailment of water rights will occur according to the principle of prior appropriation, whereby rights are revoked in reverse order of their date of issuance. Rights granted most recently will be canceled first, and the revocation will proceed in order of increasing seniority until the government’s desired level of total water extraction is reached. Nevada law requires this intervention to occur within 10 years of the CMA declaration. This report analyzes the economic outcomes of sudden and alternative curtailment policies, using a hydro-economic model tailored to conditions in the region.