Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Essays in Environmental & Resource Economics
by Biardeau, Léopold Temoana Marc, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2020, 99; 28090611
Abstract (Summary)

At its core, environmental & resource economics seeks to identify and correct market failures, i.e. situations in which markets fail to allocate resources in a way that maximizes society’s economic welfare. Some of the greatest issues of our time such as water and air pollution, the over-exploitation of natural resources, or climate change all result from market failures. While market failures can take many forms, they are often associated with time-inconsistent preferences, negative externalities, or the difficulty to provide and manage common goods. In this dissertation, I investigate three key issues relative to each of these types of market failure.

In the first chapter, coauthored with Solomon Hsiang and Sébastien Annan-Phan, we propose that the probability that individuals focus attention on a moment a fixed temporal distance from their present moment is stable. We call Kernel of Attention to Time (KAT) the resulting probability distribution across moments in relative time, which directs human attention across the past, present, and future. We then analyze how populations across the world query Google Search for information related to specific moments in time and provide the first evidence of a coherent KAT for most humans on Earth. We discover consistent structure to the distribution of attention across time, regardless of populations’ language or country, with the present strongly dominating all other moments and capturing roughly 25% of time-related attention on average. Attention to the past and future decays rapidly with increasing temporal distance, much faster than exponentially.

Despite consistency in the form of the KAT around the world, we find regional patterns in attention to the past, present, and future. Furthermore, it appears that over the last decade, attention to the present has been increasing at the expense of attention to the past. Together, these findings suggest that human populations exhibit strong common patterns of thought with respect to time, but some non-biological factors that vary across space and over time can alter these patterns.

While the KAT does not capture time-related economic tradeoffs directly (e.g. foregoing present consumption to increase future consumption), the structure of its future-oriented portion could enable better understanding of the origin of time-based preferences and provide new insights on time-inconsistent behavior.

In the second chapter, coauthored with Lucas Davis, Paul Gertler and Catherine Wolfram, we develop new measures of global air conditioning potential using temperature data from more than 14,000 monitoring stations around the world. We combine this information with disaggregated global population estimates to calculate cooling degree days (CDDs) and other measures of air conditioning potential by region, country, and city. Overall, the evidence points to enormous potential growth in air conditioning, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries. India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Brazil, Bangladesh, and the Philippines all have greater air conditioning potential than the United States, a country where a staggering 400 terawatt hours of electricity are currently used annually for air conditioning. We find, moreover, that a significant portion of total global air conditioning potential comes from the earth’s largest cities. Mumbai, for example, has by itself the air conditioning potential of 25% of the entire United States. Our estimates imply that, were global air conditioning usage to reach U.S. levels, total electricity consumption worldwide for air conditioning could reach 20,000 terawatt hours annually, which roughly corresponds to the current net global electricity consumption. If unmitigated by improvements in air conditioner energy-efficiency or updated power network infrastructures, this rise in overall electricity demand could generate two negative externalities. First, it could lead to blackouts around the globe, especially in low and middle income countries. What is more, most electricity worldwide continues to rely on fossil fuels. Consequently, growing air conditioner adoption could lead to hundreds of millions of tons of increased carbon dioxide emissions, further aggravating climate change.

In the third and last chapter, coauthored with David Zilberman, we rely on satellite-based data tracking vessel fishing hours to investigate the extent to which Very Large Marine Protected Areas (VLMPAs), – Marine Protected Areas spanning at least 100,000 sq. km , – prohibiting all types of fishing have been successful at deterring fishing effort. These VLMPAs have been created in an attempt to protect and replenish fish stocks, 34.5% of which have fallen below biologically sustainable levels, partly as a result of overfishing. Indeed, most fisheries have traditionally been open access resources, leading individually-acting fishers to collectively extract more than the efficient level and threatening the viability of the resource over time, a situation known as the tragedy of the commons.

In spite of their large size which may constitute a challenge for enforcement, we find that VLMPAs have on average been able to deter fishing effort. However, a case-by-case analysis reveals varying levels of success, with the most successful VLMPA managed by the Republic of Kiribati and the worst performing one managed by the United States.

To better understand the nature of illegal fishing effort in these VLMPAs, we focus on the characteristics of the vessels infringing the fishing bans in these VLMPAs and find that most of the infractions can be traced back to a few industrialized countries.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Auffhammer, Maximilian, Hsiang, Solomon
Commitee: Davis, Lucas W., Rausser, Gordon
School: University of California, Berkeley
Department: Agricultural & Resource Economics
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 82/5(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Environmental economics, Economics, Sustainability, Climate Change, Remote sensing, Alternative Energy
Keywords: Air-conditioning, Marine protected areas, Temporal attention, India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan , Brazil, Bangladesh, Philippines , United States, Carbon dioxide emissions
Publication Number: 28090611
ISBN: 9798691237409
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