Will Blog for Experience: Emily

I'm a student blogger for Experience.com and if my blog gets the most readers out of these 5 blogs I will be going to Washington, D.C. for a job shadow at the Department of Energy, courtesy of CBCampus. Experience is a career site specifically for college students & alumni. They provide extraordinary job opportunities, real-world insights, and a network of inspirational role-models to help students explore and launch careers they love. Keep reading my blog if you want me to lead this challenge!

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Market for Climate Change

After wearing flip-flops to breakfast yesterday morning (in central Maine, in December) I thought it might be a good time to post a discussion related to climate change. As many of you are probably aware, Al Gore released a documentary this summer entitled “An Inconvenient Truth” which focused on the frightening reality of climate change. The film faced considerable backlash but I think it made some important points and thus I would recommend everyone see it.

It seems most people understand the negative relationship between disproportionate carbon dioxide (C02)/greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and our environment. Simply put, the increase in the atmospheric concentration of C02 is responsible for rising temperatures and is the result of excessive amounts of C02 emission. Oil-refining, power plants and auto emissions are the biggest contributors to the excess C02 in the atmosphere.

Since the 1970’s, average temperatures in the Artic have risen five degrees resulting in a three percent reduction of the polar ice caps. This is just one example of global warming taking place in the world today. Scientists estimate that severe warming effects (such as higher sea levels, hurricanes, droughts, and infectious disease) will occur after the atmospheric concentration hits 550ppm. With the current concentration around 370ppm and estimates that this number will double if we continue on a “business-as-usual” path, a response to global warming seems essential.

A highly publicized response to climate change is the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol calls for a fixed decrease in the amount of C02 by specified deadlines. There is a considerable amount of controversy surrounding the Kyoto Protocol so I will make no attempt to present each opposing argument. However, there is a popular argument in the U.S. that opposes the Protocol on the following grounds: harnessing pollution in the U.S. would also mean harnessing economic growth.

The undeniable relationship between energy consumption and economic growth is a major issue and has spurred the advent of “Free Market Environmentalism.” Our market is not designed (nor guided at the moment) to respond to environmental issues, but free market environmentalism proposes that we manipulate the market to account for environmental implications. The Kyoto Protocol incorporates a type of free market environmentalism known as Emissions Trading. Participatory nations can meet their targets by reducing actual emissions or by purchasing “rights to pollute” in the form of emissions credits. Emissions trading assigns a numerical value to polluting and thus creates a market for the social cost of pollution. In effect, the seller of the credit is rewarded for reducing emissions below their mandatory target, whereas the buyer is fined for over-polluting.

This is one of many ways we can reasonably reduce emissions while still adhering to the principles of our financial system. Adjusting the market to account for the negative externalities associated with any form of production is an important point (and one which I will take up again when I discuss alternative energy and the importance of our role as consumers and voters).

A few ways you can reduce your C02 emissions include*:

Unplugging un-used electronics to save 1,000 lbs of carbon dioxide annually…electronic devices that are plugged-in use energy even when they are turned off.

Supporting the renewable energy market by buying renewable energy certificates and green tags.

Buying a Hybrid Car (or carpooling when you can): The average driver could save 16,000 lbs. of CO2 per year by driving a hybrid.

Planting a Tree to offset 2,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year.

* Figures taken from www.stopglobalwarming.org


  • At 9:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Keep up the good work. An interesting study to follow your thoughts is consideration of the Chicago Climate Exchange and the potential to use the markets to generate more trees plantings. Widely increasing the number of trees in our urban and suburban environments would help reduce the burden of carbon output. Let's sequester that carbon!

  • At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Another interesting post and timely. An article in the NY Times today talks about the need for all developing nations such as China and India to engage in controlling carbon emissions inorder to impact global warming. Keep the discussion going.


  • At 8:32 AM, Blogger Emily said…

    To follow-up with "Laurie's anonymous post," I've copied the URL to the very relevant NY Times article below:

    The Cost of an Overheated Planet
    December 12, 2006
    By: Steve Lohr

    URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/12/business/worldbusiness/12warm.html?ex=157680000&en=021c0d4719b82872&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

  • At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Of course we need to make environmentalism (or, really at this point, responsible sanity) ecnomically viable. But depending on market forces alone (especially the use of selling emissions rights) is just too little, far, far too late.
    Check this out: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2499663,00.html

    The article says that experts are predicting that the North Pole will be "ice-free" in only THIRTY years, by 2040. This is serious, and it's scary. We need to take far more drastic measures than depending on market forces if we want California, New Orleans, or Hawaii to be land masses above the sea rather than below it. The first thing we have to do is eliminate the incredibly stupid and harmful sugar tariffs that keep American sugar prices at an inflated height and shuts out any outside sugar markets. Sugar is important because we could, like Brazil has done, create efficient and clean ethanol quite easily from sugar. Every single ounce of gas pumped in Brazil is a gasoline-ethanol mixture, and is helping not only to cut emissions in Brazil but also to strengthen its own sugar market. We need to be doing the same, among many, many other things we need to be doing.

    --Ali Frick

  • At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Emily. I am going to purchase a hybrid car. All thanks to your blog. Next, I think you should talk about the benefits of taking only one freshwater shower a week. I know that I did my part last spring with water conservation. Oh, I guess thats not oil. But still, your blog is further strengthening my love for mother earth.

  • At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Drausin said…

    Emissions trading is certainly a great way for companies to support clean energy, but since no one (that I know of) is forcing them to adhere to any kind of standards, why would companies even bother (other than their moral obligation)? Companies that do buy emissions credits are still producing the same amount of carbon dioxide. Wouldn't it be better for them to put that money into infrastructure renovations to decrease their emissions. It seems that emissions trading for big producers is just a way for them to delay the inevitable (or, what I hope is the inevitable) changes that they need to make and pay lipservice to clean energy.

  • At 7:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very well reasoned and expressed comment. Hard to argue with Emily's conclusions. Let's hope the new Congress will be more effective in slowing down our bad energy habits!

  • At 7:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I like that you were wearing flip flops in december and then everything else you said.

  • At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Emily, this is a really cool website!


  • At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sorry I haven't read your blog until now! Fbook (and every other website that lends itself to procrastination) is obviously blocked at work. I am very impressed with this endeavor, although I think we both know you would wear flip flops to the dining hall with or without global warming. Keep up the good work, you are making a Colby econ alum proud!
    Love, Amy

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