Author Archives: emilykawano

Econ-Atrocity: Greenhouse Injustice

By James Boyce, Professor of Economics, UMass-Amherst

In a state-of-the-art forecast on the impacts of global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported this month that low-income countries in Africa and Asia will suffer the greatest harm from the build-up of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. The distribution of the long-term costs of fossil fuel consumption is therefore a mirror image of distribution of its short-term benefits: while the transitory pleasures of rapacious fossil fuel consumption are concentrated among the world’s affluent classes, the brunt of the long-term costs will fall on people who have never ridden in an automobile, much less owned one.
The IPCC projects that average surface temperatures will rise by 2.5 to 10 degrees Farenheit in this century, following a one-degree rise in the 20th century. Even if the costs of climate change were distributed equally across humankind, the poorest would suffer the most because they are starting from an abysmally low base. But ironically, many of the worst-hit places will be precisely where they live, notably by virtue of worsening droughts in Africa and increased flooding and cyclones in low-lying regions of tropical Asia. For both reasons, the IPCC report concludes,: The effects climate change are expected to be greatest in developing countries in terms of loss of life and relative effects on investment and the economy.’

Meanwhile, international negotiations aiming to reach a treaty on steps to combat global warming remain stymied by the U.S. insistence that developing countries agree to do more to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases.

Sources:

IPCC,: Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability: Summary for Policymakers,’ approved by IPCC Working Group II in Geneva, 13-16 February 2001.

‘Global Warming’s Big Losers: Poor Countries and Island Nations,’ The International Herald Tribune, 19 February 2001, p. 4. (www.iht.com/articles/11061.html)

Web resources:

For the IPCC report, go to: www.ipcc.ch.

For more on greenhouse injustice, see the excellent website of India’s Centre for Science and the Environment: www.cseindia.org/html/cmp/cmp33.htm.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a Global Warming links page at www.epa.gov/ebtpages/airairpoglobalwarming.html.

Econ-Atrocities are a periodic publication of the Center for Popular Economics. They are the work of their authors and reflect their author’s opinions and analyses. CPE does not necessarily endorse any particular idea expressed in these articles.

Econ-Atrocity: Beach Bummer

Heading for the beach this summer? Take your water-quality-testing kit. A new report from the National Resources Defense Council shows a 50% increase in pollution-related beach closings and advisories from 1997 to 1999. The report explains that few states have comprehensively monitored water quality in the past. Those that have begun doing so, like California, are often finding unacceptably high bacteria counts.

Four states qualified as “beach bums” because of limited or zero monitoring and public notification efforts: Louisiana, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.

For more information, including ratings for beaches you might know and love, check out the National Resources Defense Council web site at www.nrdc.org.

Sources:

Barbara Whitaker, “U.S. Beach Closings Soar With Focus on Pollution,” New York Times, 8/4/000

National Resources Defense Council, “Testing the Waters, 2000.”

Econ-Atrocity: Death and Taxes

The House of Representatives decided to follow George W. Bush’s advice and vote to abolish the estate tax, thus making life easier and more fun for the wealthiest 2% of the population”“the only segment of the population to which this tax applies.

The cost to the rest of us: about $30 billion a year. That’s far more than the federal government spends on cash welfare programs (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) every year.

Even Jane Bryant Quinn, the Newsweek columnist who is best known for her investment advice, editorialized against the cut. She systematically rebuts claims that estate taxes are breaking up family farms or destroying small business. As she puts it: “If the estate tax isn’t fair, I don’t know what is.” (Newsweek, July 31, 2000).

For more technical details, and some good arguments in FAVOR of the estate tax, check out what Citizens for Tax Justice have to say, at http://ctj.org/html/estbob.htm

Here’s an excerpt:

“The parent who leaves his son enormous wealth,” wrote steel magnate Andrew Carnegie a century ago, “generally deadens the talents and energies of the son, and leads him to lead a less useful and less worthy life than he otherwise would.” You’d think that Republicans, if anyone, would sympathize with Carnegie’s point. After all, if giving a single mother $10,000 a year in welfare stifles her incentive to work, just think how much worse it must be for someone who gets a windfall of 100 or 1,000 times that much.

Econ-Atrocities are a periodic publication of the Center for Popular Economics. They are the work of their authors and reflect their author’s opinions and analyses. CPE does not necessarily endorse any particular idea expressed in these articles.

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