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Reducing Fugitive Methane Emissions from the North American Oil and Gas Sector: A Proposed Science-Policy Framework

Reducing Fugitive Methane Emissions from the North American Oil and Gas Sector: A Proposed Science-Policy Framework

Authors: Kate Konschnik and Sarah Marie Jordaan

Atmospheric methane concentrations continue to increase globally, despite a pledge in 2016 from the leaders of the United States, Canada, and Mexico to reduce methane emissions from each country’s oil and gas sector. Additionally, the trilateral methane pledge faces more challenges as the Trump Administration seeks to reverse federal methane research and control efforts. Efforts to measure and control fugitive methane emissions do not presently proceed within a coherent framework that integrates science and policy. A new article in the journal Climate Policy suggests that collectively or individually, the countries, individual agencies, or private stakeholders could use the proposed North American Methane Reduction framework to direct research, enhance monitoring and evaluate mitigation efforts, and improve the chances that continental methane reduction targets will be achieved.

Water Stress from High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Potentially Threatens Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Arkansas, United States

Water Stress from High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Potentially Threatens Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Arkansas, United States

Authors: Sally Entrekin , Anne Trainor, James Saiers, Lauren Patterson, Kelly Maloney, Joseph Fargione, Joseph Kiesecker, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Katherine Konschnik, Hannah Wiseman, Jean-Philippe Nicot, and Joseph N. Ryan

Demand for high-volume, short duration water withdrawals could create water stress to aquatic organisms in the Fayetteville Shale streams of Arkansas sourced for hydraulic fracturing fluids this article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology suggests. Authors estimate potential water stress using permitted water withdrawal volumes and actual water withdrawals compared to monthly median, low, and high streamflows. Findings indicate that freshwater usage for hydraulic fracturing could potentially affect aquatic organisms in 7-51 percent of the catchments depending on the month. If 100 percent of wastewater was recycled, the potential impact drops. Authors suggest that improved monitoring and access to water withdrawal and streamflow data are needed to ensure protection of streams not only as sources of drinking water, but aquatic habitats.

Implications of Sustainable Development Considerations for Comparability across Nationally Determined Contributions

Implications of Sustainable Development Considerations for Comparability across Nationally Determined Contributions

Authors: Gokul Iyer, Katherine Calvin, Leon Clarke, James Edmonds, Nathan Hulman, Corinne Hartin, Haewon McJeon, Joseph Aldy, and William Pizer

An important component of the Paris Agreement is the assessment of comparability across nationally determined contributions. Links between mitigation and other societal priorities, including but not limited to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, raises the question of how such links might influence comparability assessments. Using a global integrated assessment model, this analysis in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests that accounting for interactions between mitigation and other Sustainable Development Goals would alter comparability assessments. The analysis provides a foundation for assessing how comparability across nationally determined contributions could be better understood in the larger context of sustainability.

China's New National Carbon Market

China's New National Carbon Market

Authors: William A. Pizer and Xiliang Zhang

On December 19, 2017, China announced the official start of its national emissions trading system (ETS) construction program. When fully implemented, this program could more than double the volume of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions covered by either tax or tradable permit policy. Many of program’s design features reflect those of China’s pilot programs but widely differ from those of emissions trading programs in the United States and Europe. For that reason, the workings of Chinese national carbon market are both intriguing and unfamiliar to those experienced with western markets. This paper explains the design of China’s new carbon market, contrasts it with western markets, and highlights possible implications. It also presents research questions raised by the design.

Understanding the Interaction between Regional Electricity Markets and State Policies

Understanding the Interaction between Regional Electricity Markets and State Policies

Author(s): Sarah K. Adair and Franz T. Litz

Regional electricity markets—operated by regional transmission organizations (RTOs)—span multiple states and bring significant benefits to the electricity grid. States policies—such as renewable or clean energy portfolio standards or procurement mandates—have always helped shape market outcomes, but increasingly they are aimed at addressing perceived market shortcomings. Recent state policy actions to support new or existing resources in RTO markets have renewed attention to issues of RTO market design, including how RTO markets and state policies interact. Those actions, a rapidly changing electricity sector, and low electricity and capacity prices have heightened the urgency of calls for changes in market designs to address perceived inequities, such as market designs that fail to value certain environmental or reliability attributes. This primer is aimed at policy makers and stakeholders who seek an understanding of regional electricity markets and the effect of state policies on those markets as well as an understanding of recent market design proposals that are designed to address the RTO-state policies interaction. 

Bridge Collaborative Practitioner’s Guide: Principles and Guidance for Cross-sector Action Planning and Evidence Evaluation

Bridge Collaborative Practitioner’s Guide: Principles and Guidance for Cross-sector Action Planning and Evidence Evaluation

Lead Authors: Heather Tallis, Katharine Kreis, Lydia Olander, Claudia Ringler

The health, development, and environment sectors increasingly realize that they cannot achieve their respective goals by acting in isolation. Yet, as they pivot to act collectively, they face challenges in finding and interpreting evidence on sectoral interrelationships, and thus in developing effective evidence-based responses. Each sector already uses some form of evidence-based research, design, and action planning, but methods vary, and ideas about the strength of evidence differ, creating stumbling blocks in the way of cross-sector impact. A new initiative, called the Bridge Collaborative, sets out to spark cross-sector problem solving by developing common approaches that the three sectors could agree to and use. The collaborative has focused on two linked areas of practice that could unlock cross sector collaboration: results chains and evaluation of supporting evidence. This document captures a set of principles identified and used by the collaborative, along with detailed guidance for creating comparable results chains across sectors and evaluating evidence from multiple disciplines in common terms. 

A Call to Action for Health, Environment, and Development Leaders

A Call to Action for Health, Environment, and Development Leaders

Lead Authors: Heather Tallis, Barbara J. Merz, Cindy Huang, Katharine Kreis, Lydia Olander, Claudia Ringler

Ongoing economic, technological, and demographic shifts are altering the nature of today’s major, global issues and challenging us to rethink our past and current approaches to solving them. As our planet becomes more populated and prosperous, the demand for finite resources—such as water, energy, and food—are increasing rapidly. These trends escalate the urgency to find new ways of addressing persistent and growing challenges. But current research and policy systems inhibit integrated approaches to problem solving. Too often, the health, environment, and development sectors work independently setting narrowly defined objectives and failing to consider consequences outside of their own sector. A Call to Action for Health, Environment, and Development Leaders and a companion paper Bridge Collaborative Practitioner’s Guide: Principles and Guidance for Cross-sector Action Planning and Evidence Evaluation are aimed at increasing cross-sectoral focused on shared evidence.

Modeling Energy Efficiency as a Supply Resource

Modeling Energy Efficiency as a Supply Resource

Author(s): Etan Gumerman and Tibor Vegh

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. 

Resolving the Inherent Uncertainty of Carbon Taxes

Resolving the Inherent Uncertainty of Carbon Taxes

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

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

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

Author(s): Jonas J. Monast, Brian C. Murray, and Jonathan B. Wiener

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. 

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