Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Global Warming & Sustainability

J.S. at Environmental Economics applies a concept of sustainability suggested by Robert Solow to the policy choices presented by global warming. Here is his conclusion:

In summary, even through a sustainability lens it is ambiguous whether we must act now to do whatever we can to avert global warming. Given the massive cuts in carbon emissions (in the realm of 70%) that many think would be required to prevent any further warming, one doesn’t have to be a pessimist to believe that given current trends the probably of this happening is extremely low, and therefore, as I have mentioned previously, mitigation strategies may be preferable.

In the end, global warming presents us with very tough choices based on a huge range of scenarios that are highly uncertain. People in the future may look back at us one day and condemn us for our inaction, or they may be grateful that we didn’t spend so much on the problem, depending on how it plays out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Own the Tiger, Save the Tiger

The tiger faces extinction and Barun Mitra explains a classic insight from economics that private property offers incentives to save the tiger:
"But like forests, animals are renewable resources. If you think of tigers as products, it becomes clear that demand provides opportunity, rather than posing a threat. For instance, there are perhaps 1.5 billion head of cattle and buffalo and 2 billion goats and sheep in the world today. These are among the most exploited of animals, yet they are not in danger of dying out; there is incentive, in these instances, for humans to conserve.

So it can be for the tiger. In pragmatic terms, this is an extremely valuable animal. Given the growing popularity of traditional Chinese medicines, which make use of everything from tiger claws (to treat insomnia) to tiger fat (leprosy and rheumatism), and the prices this kind of harvesting can bring (as much as $20 for claws, and $20,000 for a skin), the tiger can in effect pay for its own survival. A single farmed specimen might fetch as much as $40,000; the retail value of all the tiger products might be three to five times that amount.

Yet for the last 30 or so years, the tiger has been priced at zero, while millions of dollars have been spent to protect it and prohibit trade that might in fact help save the species. Despite the growing environmental bureaucracy and budgets, and despite the proliferation of conservationists and conferences, the tiger is as close to extinction as it has been since Project Tiger, a conservation project backed in part by the World Wildlife Fund, was launched in 1972 and adopted by the government of India a year later."
Priced at zero, there is little incentive for people to save the tiger. Property and reliance on the market would change these circumstances.