Meant to keep malaria out, mosquito nets are used to haul fish in
Surprisingly, central planning sometimes leads to unintended consequences.
Many of these insecticide-treated nets are dragged through the same lakes and rivers people drink from, raising concerns about toxins. One of the most common insecticides used by the mosquito net industry is permethrin, which the United States Environmental Protection Agency says is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” when consumed orally. The E.P.A. also says permethrin is “highly toxic” to fish.
How technology could end illegal fishing (via the Economist explains)
Why electric cars aren’t always greener
Solid article from the Economist on the importance of taking into account both the car you replace (particularly relevant since a lot of the environmentally conscious people considering buying electric cars probably already have fairly green vehicles) and the energy source.
One interesting fact about the argument that one might simply be switching from tailpipe emissions to coal plant emissions: while I don’t know much about how the two compare regarding the impact on climate change, my intuition is that the direct impact on human health is probably not the same. This is because the populations surrounding the dirtiest coal plants are naturally shrinking. From a study in Regional Science and Urban Economics:
pollution levels are higher in counties with coal fired plants, and that the population is moving away from regions such as the Midwest where the dirtiest coal fired power plants are located. Population growth is taking place in the South and West. Especially in the Western region, the power plants are newer and cleaner and less likely to be coal fired.
Climate change: A cooling consensus
We have not been awash in arguments for adaptation precisely because the consensus pertained to now-troubled estimates of climate sensitivity. The moralising stridency of so many arguments for cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and global emissions treaties was founded on the idea that there is a consensus about how much warming there would be if carbon emissions continue on trend. The rather heated debates we have had about the likely economic and social damage of carbon emissions have been based on that idea that there is something like a scientific consensus about the range of warming we can expect. If that consensus is now falling apart, as it seems it may be, that is, for good or ill, a very big deal.
Mark Lynas, environmentalist who opposed GMOs, admits he was wrong
If you fear genetically modified food, you may have Mark Lynas to thank. By his own reckoning, British environmentalist helped spur the anti-GMO movement in the mid-‘90s, arguing as recently at 2008 that big corporations’ selfish greed would threaten the health of both people and the Earth. Thanks to the efforts of Lynas and people like him, governments around the world—especially in Western Europe, Asia, and Africa—have hobbled GM research, and NGOs like Greenpeace have spurned donations of genetically modified foods.
But Lynas has changed his mind—and he’s not being quiet about it. On Thursday at the Oxford Farming Conference, Lynas delivered a blunt address: He got GMOs wrong.
The creative destruction of climate economics
That’s starting to change. Over the last few years, economists have modeled ways to accelerate the innovation of zero carbon power sources. The boldest of these entries to date comes from one of the discipline’s rising stars, MIT’s Daron Acemoglu, along with Philippe Aghion, Leonardo Bursztyn and David Hemous, in a paper published last February in American Economic Review. The paper argues that conventional climate models have overstated the importance of carbon pricing and understated the importance of public investment to encourage technological innovation.
Worth noting: Ted Nordhaus, one of the authors, is the nephew of William Nordhaus, an extremely influential pro-carbon tax economist.
The environmental case against plastic bag bans
In the end, communities need to sincerely weigh these various environmental costs. Unfortunately, few do any analysis because the political symbolism of banning the bags is powerful. It is often easier to ignore the science that indicates such bans may actually harm the environment than make an honest effort to weigh these difficult issues.
The silent war between biofuels and the poor
John Vidal’s stunning piece on Guatemalan farmers reminds us of a sad truth: when we talk about “green fuel”, sometimes we forget the cost. Not that ethanol is all that green anyway.
But the unprecedented worldwide rush for land to grow food or fuel crops for the international market is now hitting some of the poorest communities hard, and leaving them at risk of violence and landlessness. Guatemala is now one of the world centres for growing biofuel crops.
The 2008 decision by EU countries to obtain 10% of all transport fuels from biofuels by 2020 has proved to be the catalyst for many evictions, says Oxfam. To meet the EU target, the total land area required to grow industrial biofuels in developing countries has been estimated as 17.5m hectares (43.2m acres), more than half the size of Italy.
Obama’s ‘clean energy’ strategy is money wasted – The Washington Post
Charles Lane gives a great summary of a recent paper from Brookings’s Adele Morris and Charles Schultze. I thought the most interesting argument was a point refuting energy competitiveness (citing, of all people, Paul Krugman):
Having China or someone else develop clean-energy technology might be to U.S. advantage; let them pay the inevitable start-up costs; then we can adapt the discoveries to our own needs.