DID THE COAL PHASE-OUT REDUCE ONTARIO AIR POLLUTION?
I coauthored a report with Elmira Aliakbari looking at declining air pollution in three large Ontario cities (Hamilton, Toronto and Ottawa). We constructed a statistical model to see how much of the decline could be explained by the phase-out of coal-fired power generation, as opposed to reductions in other domestic and US sources. Our study was published by the Fraser Institute on January 17, 2017:
JANUARY 17, 2017
ONTARIO AIR POLLUTION AND THE COAL PHASE-OUT
Newspaper Columns, Commentary and Other
PRESENTATION TO THE HARVARD ELECTRICITY POLICY GROUP PANEL ON CARBON PRICING
I was invited to participate in a meeting of the HEPG which met in Scottsdale AZ on December 8-9, 2016. My PPT slides are here. The voice-over for slide 6 would be something along the lines of "It might be tempting to think the optimal tax is here but in fact it is [go to slide 7] here." I was one of four panellists in a session on carbon pricing. The others were Gernot Wagner of Harvard, Steven Rose of EPRI and Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Institute. My presentation provided a summary of some core theoretical concepts of optimal emission pricing and the uses and abuses of Social Cost of Carbon numbers. Much of this material was drawn from my Ctax paper for the Calgary School of Public Policy and also from a short course I just finished teaching for Masters and PhD students at Queen's University. I also fitted in brief summaries of my work on empirical ECS and the social cost of carbon, and the temperature-indexed approach to carbon pricing. Chatham House rules forbid specific attribution of comments, but the event confirmed for me the extent to which even PhD-trained economists who work full time on environmental policy seem unaware of what the economic theory of carbon pricing actually says and how little support it gives for most current proposals.
COMMENTS BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS
On September 27, 2016 I made a presentation to a Committee of the Canadian Senate which is looking into the procedures and issues surrounding the approvals of new pipelines in Canada. My written submission is here. Apparently my presentation was quite different in character from what the Committee had mostly heard to that point, because I used data and rational arguments to make my points. I will add a video link when it becomes available.
I have created a page to store links to my op-eds. It's available under the 'more...' heading in the Navigation bar.
HIGH SCHOOL CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE
On May 13 2016 I participated in a debate at the University of Toronto (Scarborough Campus) for Toronto-area high school students on the topic of climate change. The resolution was: "Should we be skeptical about the science suggesting that GHG emissions are the primary cause of global climate change?" I was arguing for the Yes position and my opponent was Dr. Tanzina Mohsin, a climate scientist at the University of Toronto. The debate and the Q&A session went for just over an hour. In the video below, Dr. Mohsin and I each spoke for 15 minutes, then gave a short rebuttal to the other, then presented closing arguments. The audio is not great in places but otherwise the video quality is pretty good. Unfortunately no vote was taken so we don't know if the event changed any minds.
DEMAND SIDE MISMANAGEMENT: HOW CONSERVATION BECAME WASTE
Tom Adams and I published a report through the Fraser Institute looking at energy "efficiency" programs.
The idea of this site is very simple: to present the complete environmental record of every community across Canada. The site currently shows air emissions by source (back to 1985), air contaminant levels (back to 1974) and monthly average high temperatures (back to 1900) for hundreds of places across the country. Water pollution data are coming this summer.
The layout is self-explanatory and it's very easy to use. The data are all from government agencies, but most of it has not hitherto been disseminated in a usable form to the public. All my sources are, or will soon be, linked and the data I use will all be easily-downloadable.
So the next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone who (i) is convinced that Canada does nothing to protect the environment, or (ii) thinks winters around here used to be a lot colder/longer/snowier; or it never used to be this warm/cold in April/October/ etc, or (iii) worries/guffaws about the alleged/obvious ecological disaster all around us, and you wonder what is actually going on, look at yourenvironment.ca and find out.
Journal Articles and Discussion Papers
GLOBAL ENERGY SUBSIDIES: AN ANALYTICAL TAXONOMY
There was a debate earlier this year in the pages of the Financial Times regarding the size and extent of global energy subsidies. It was suggested to me that I send a letter in myself, but upon looking at the issue I found it too large and complex to be reducible to a letter. Different authors and institutions have estimated subsidy magnitudes that vary by orders of magnitude even within countries. Why do the numbers vary so much? The reason is that the definitions being applied vary widely, and some of the definitions make no sense. In this paper:
UPDATE: The paper has been published in the journal Energy Policy:
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE ECONOMICS OF CARBON PRICING
A lot of people are talking about carbon pricing these days, but few people seem to have studied the underlying economics in any depth. The design of market-based instruments is definitely an area where seemingly obscure technicalities have large practical implications. I was invited by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy to write a survey paper on the economics of carbon pricing and the resulting report has been published as
AN EXAMINATION OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AIR QUALITY AND INCOME IN CANADA
Joel Wood and I published a paper that arose from his Ph.D. dissertation research, looking at the relationship over time between air pollution and income in Canadian regional data.
EMPIRICALLY-CONSTRAINED CLIMATE SENSITIVITY AND THE SOCIAL COST OF CARBON
I have just released a working paper with Kevin Dayaratna and David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC which recomputes standard Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) estimates using updated empirical estimates of the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS).
RESPONSE TO BENESTAD ET AL (2015)
Last year, Rasmus Benestad and a list of coauthors published a paper called "Learning from Mistakes in Climate Research." While purporting to be about scientific methodology, the bulk of the paper was a trojan horse-like Supplement that disparages a long list of papers the authors dislike. I first encountered this study in 2012 when I was asked to referee it for Climatic Change. I requested the authors revise the many errors in it, and when they failed to do so, the editors rejected it. I was then asked to review it for another journal, where I again pointed out the same uncorrected errors, and it was rejected. It was also submitted to a handful of other journals where I was not the reviewer, but the editors rejected it based on other referees' comments. Finally the authors (the list of which now includes some new names, even though the content is little changed since 2012) found a willing host in the form of Theoretical and Applied Climatology, which published it last fall.
On September 1 2015 I sent a detailed critique to the editor (Hartmut Grassl) and managing editor (Robert Doe) requesting retraction of the most obviously false statements in the Supplement to the article. I never received even an acknowledgment of receipt of my email, so I have today re-sent it to the journal.
PIPELINE UNCERTAINTY AND THE MARKET VALUE OF CANADIAN ENERGY FIRMS
Elmira Aliakbari and I looked at the question of whether unanticipated events that have bearing on whether pipeline projects get approved affects the market value of Canadian oil and gas firms. The working paper version of our study is here: