Twice a month, we’re compiling the most relevant news stories from diverse sources online, connecting the latest environmental and energy economics research to global current events, real-time public discourse, and policy decisions. Keep reading, and feel free to send us your feedback.
Here are some questions we’re asking and addressing with our research chops this week:
What does the road ahead look like for replacing heavy-duty diesel and gas vehicles with electric alternatives?
California has approved a state ban on sales of new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that run on diesel fuel. The rule comes into effect in 2036 for buses and big rig trucks. The cost of heavy-duty electric vehicles, which are expected to replace diesel models, may be the major challenge for truck manufacturers and owners of big rig fleets in the transition from diesel to electric. High battery prices, limited competition, and low economies of scale all contribute to the high cost of electric trucks, says Beia Spiller, a fellow at Resources for the Future (RFF) and the director of RFF’s Transportation Program. Spiller discusses the causes and implications of these high costs in a new Common Resources blog post. “High prices are problematic if we want to achieve widespread electrification of the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sector, because larger trucks already are the hardest to electrify,” says Spiller.
How can policymakers bolster both the economic health and climate resilience of coastal economies?
Sea levels are rising in the southeastern United States at a rate that’s three times faster than the global average, according to a new study. The area with the fastest sea level rise spans the western rim of the Gulf of Mexico to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. Communities along this stretch of the coast are more likely to experience flooding and storm damages. Jobs in coastal communities may suffer as a result, though coordinating both economic development policies and climate resilience policies may mitigate the risks. In a new blog post, RFF scholars Sophie Pesek, Yanjun (Penny) Liao, and Margaret Walls examine the potential discrepancies between business incentives and climate resilience in coastal communities, offering suggestions for how policymakers can align all these related policies to help coastal communities prepare for and adapt to sea level rise. “Although supporting economic growth in vulnerable communities is essential, so is ensuring that those jobs will be there to stay—even as sea levels rise,” they say.
Can we do anything productive with obsolete railroad lines and infrastructure?
The city of Stillwater, Oklahoma, recently received $1.2 million to convert abandoned railroad lines into a multi-use trail. Dayton, Ohio, received a similar grant early last month: $1.5 million to replace an unused rail line with a bike path on the east side of the city. Such rehabilitation projects, colloquially known as rails to trails, are underway across the United States and stem from grassroots efforts in the 1970s to repurpose the defunct sections of the sprawling US railroad network. Peter Harnik, a cofounder of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, discusses the thinking behind these rehabilitation projects on a recent episode of the Resources Radio podcast. “We think railroads are the most efficient way of moving people and goods, so we’re in favor of trains,” says Harnik. “But if it’s going to be abandoned, let’s save the corridor and make it into a trail.”
The European Union has come a step closer to enacting its landmark Fit for 55 climate package. The European Parliament approved a carbon border tax, a revised emissions trading market, and a new fund to support vulnerable households. These policies aim to help the European Union reach its goal of reducing emissions by 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. In the latest installment of In Focus, Resources for the Future University Fellow Åsa Löfgren shares her thoughts on how coordinating climate policy in the European Union can help decarbonize the industrial sector.
Research on the outcomes of European environmental policy tends to focus on firm-level effects and early stages of the policy roll-out. In an upcoming webinar hosted by the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE), speakers will spotlight the effects of the EU Emissions Trading System on local economic performance. EIEE scholars Ireri Hernandez Carballo and Cristina Cattaneo will discuss how the EU Emissions Trading System has affected employment and productivity in European provinces. RSVP for the webinar here.
Educators often grapple with the question of how to discuss climate change with students. In a recent episode of the Resources Radio podcast, Carol O’Donnell discusses a climate education guide that’s being developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center, where O’Donnell is executive director, to help educators talk about the subject with K–12 students. “We apply what we know developmentally about different age ranges, but we also ask questions that would allow students of any age to respond,” says O’Donnell.
Policies that aim to reduce the amount of fossil fuels on the market (so-called supply-side interventions) have received increased attention. But questions have been raised about the effectiveness of such policies, given concerns about the potential for market leakage (i.e., when reduced supply from one source is at least partially offset by an increase in supply from other sources). In a new working paper, RFF Fellow Brian C. Prest and coauthors examine these concerns and conclude that such policies are more effective than some might assume. “Our results imply that supply-side interventions are highly likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on net,” they say.
Data source: ClimateReanalyzer.org. Chart design by Rahul Mukherjee and Simran Parwani at Axios. Note: The line labeled “Average” represents the average surface temperature of the ocean from 1982 to 2011.
The seas are on a hot streak: The surface temperature of the world’s oceans has been hotter since mid-March than the highest recorded surface temperature in any year since 1981. Higher ocean temperatures are thought to increase the frequency and intensity of hurricanes; higher temperatures also contribute to sea level rise as warming water expands.