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 send us your feedback. Here are some questions we’re asking and addressing with our research chops this week:
As the western United States shapes up to have another dry—and wildfire-prone—summer, what options are available for preserving the environment and keeping people safe from fires?
Based on a collaboration between the state’s leading fire experts and managers, California Governor Gavin Newsom launched a Strategic Plan for forest management and wildfire mitigation last week. The plan sets a target of expanding controlled burns to 400,000 acres annually by 2025, as the state braces for what could be another intense fire season. In part, the California Fire Department will use agreements with land managers and landowners to implement controlled burns under predetermined conditions. In tandem with this plan, California has reversed its ban on the Native American practice of cultural burning and is asking tribes to bring back the practice. In a recent blog post, RFF Senior Advisor Ann M. Bartuska and RFF Fellow Matthew Wibbenmeyer note that managed fires can supplement controlled burns as viable options for forest management and fire mitigation. “Where risks to life, property, and natural resources are low, wildfires can be approached opportunistically to accomplish fuel reduction at relatively low cost,” they say.
How can the United States access high-quality water at the least cost to society?
Earlier this week, the US Environmental Protection Agency ruled to not impose limits on perchlorate, a chemical compound found in rocket fuel, ammunition, and explosives such as fireworks. High concentrations have been found in at least 26 states and is linked to developmental brian damage in fetuses and children. An article in the latest issue of Resources magazine explores the policy options for maintaining water quality at the least cost to society. Originally published in 1970, the classic article by Allen V. Kneese (introduced by RFF University Fellow Catherine L. Kling) explains why water management strategies used by the government at the time were not as efficient as strategies proposed by economists. Kneese describes that the lack of requirements on nonpoint sources of pollution increased pollutants in drinking water, despite point source pollution declining through targeted government regulations. “This unhappy state of affairs cannot be remedied unless we put a price on waste discharge to watercourses and on the use of other common property resources,” says Kneese.
Are fisheries using best practices when putting seafood on the global market?
Illegal fishing is more common than previously thought, accounting for one-fourth of the total value of seafood from fisheries globally. Unauthorized fishing constitutes the most common fisheries-related offense; other crimes and human rights violations round out the top three. Ample evidence indicates that seafood mislabeling is another major problem in the seafood trade, with DNA of unexpected marine species such as endangered sharks appearing in seafood, pet food, and cosmetics. On a recent Resources Radio podcast episode, Kailin Kroetz, an assistant professor at Arizona State University and university fellow at RFF, takes a closer empirical look at seafood mislabeling in the United States. She explains that the volume of seafood in global trade makes it hard to trace product supply chains, leading to high rates of mislabeling. “If you eat a large quantity (or if we as a country consume a large quantity), then even if that mislabeling rate is low, the quantity of mislabeled product could be high,” says Kroetz.
In an op-ed published in Barron’s, RFF President and CEO Richard G. Newell describes how today’s energy crisis and the global climate crisis share a common solution: a transition from fossil fuels toward a diverse portfolio of clean energy sources. “Each country and region will need to identify and incentivize the balance of energy transition options that make sense for itself, given its location, resource endowment, and technological capabilities,” Newell explains.
RFF has been publishing a series of explainers that break down the methods of quantifying the value of satellite data. This project is part of VALUABLES, a collaboration between RFF and NASA that aims to measure how satellite information benefits people and the environment. The most recent explainer is the second installment of the 200-level series, which builds on the impact assessment framework detailed in the previous 100-level series, with real-world examples.
In an event hosted by RFF on March 22, legal experts Jonathan Wiener, an RFF university fellow and professor at the Duke University School of Law, and Lisa Heinzerling, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, discussed the role of the US court system in determining the future of environmental policy and regulation. As Heinzerling put it, “Justices may have their own views about climate change and the science behind it, but there’s not even a question in these cases because the court is operating at such a high level of generality and legal principles.” The full video recording is available now.
On April 7, RFF hosted a panel discussion about the long-term projections for energy markets and the global energy system based on comprehensive current data, recent international climate action, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The event accompanied the release of RFF’s 2022 Global Energy Outlook, an annual report that compares future energy markets; climate trajectories; and policy options at global, regional, and national levels. Watch the recording of the event.
In a new Resources Radio podcast episode, International Carbon Action Partnership Head of Secretariat Stefano De Clara discusses the role of emissions trading systems in meeting increasingly ambitious emissions reduction policies. De Clara describes the latest updates on global emissions trading systems; their role in the carbon market as a whole; and specific examples from China, the European Union, and California.
A recent journal article by RFF Fellow Yanjun (Penny) Liao and RFF University Fellow Carolyn Kousky estimates how municipal budgets are impacted by wildfires. The article uses California municipal financial data from 1990 to 2015, combined with data on historical wildfires in the state. Although the overall impact of wildfires on municipal budgets is detrimental and substantial, the authors say that “municipalities are surprisingly insulated from the costs of wildfires”—particularly when compared to state and federal impacts.
This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the third installment of the Sixth Assessment Report, which reiterates the dire trajectory of climate change and the drastic measures required to keep its effects at more manageable levels. RFF researchers and studies are cited extensively in this new report, with more than 40 references to RFF research. Among the authors of the Sixth Assessment Report are Massimo Tavoni and Elena Verdolini, scholars at the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment.
This graph from RFF’s 2022 Global Energy Outlook report depicts dynamic oil prices in the United States in the context of important global concerns: COVID-19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and releases of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). It’s unclear how events in Ukraine will affect energy markets in the long term, but with major oil companies pulling their investments in Russian oil and natural gas projects and European nations aiming to reduce their dependence on Russian energy, more change is likely to come.