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Environmental Issues and Protection
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  • Externalities: Pigouvian taxes
    Print section Print Rubric:  Arthur Pigou thought that taxes could solve a common market failure. The fourth brief in our series on big economic ideas Print Headline:  The lives of others Print Fly Title:  Externalities UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  How Trump has a feeble grasp of what it means to be president Fly Title:  Externalities Main image:  20170819_BBD001_0.jpg LOUD conversation in a train carriage that makes concentration impossible for fellow-passengers. A farmer spraying weedkiller that destroys his neighbour’s crop. Motorists whose idling cars spew fumes into the air, polluting the atmosphere for everyone. Such behaviour might be considered thoughtless, anti-social or even immoral. For economists these spillovers are a problem to be solved. Markets are supposed to organise activity in a way that leaves everyone better off. But the ...

  • Letters: Letters to the editor
    Print section Print Headline:  Letters to the editor UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The death of the internal combustion engine Fly Title:  Letters Main image:  20170812_LTP001_0.jpg Brexit’s new frontier You described vividly the hurdles that the traffic of people and goods would face if a hard border were to be established between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland as a consequence of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (“The border that isn’t—yet”, July 15th). Yet this does not need to be so. Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which lays down the rules to be respected by member countries when they establish customs unions or free-trade areas in order that other countries are not discriminated against, contains a little-used provision on “frontier traffic”. It allows members of the World Trade Organisation to deviate from these constraints in respect of “advantages accorded to adjacent countries in order to facilitate frontier traffic”. There ...

  • Dam bluster: How climate change might affect the Nile
    Print section Print Rubric:  The countries in the Nile basin will suffer if they do not learn to co-operate Print Headline:  Flood and famine Print Fly Title:  Climate change and the Nile UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  How to avoid nuclear war with North Korea Fly Title:  Dam bluster Location:  CAIRO TO THE untrained eye, the satellite photos of north-west Ethiopia on July 10th may have seemed benign. They showed a relatively small pool of water next to an enormous building site on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile river. But the project under construction is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is more than halfway complete. And the water is why it is so controversial. Since Ethiopia announced its plan to build the dam, it has inspired threats of sabotage from Egypt, which sits downstream and relies on the Nile for electricity, ...

  • Can’t stand the heat: Climate change might prevent airlines from flying full planes
    Main image:  THIS summer America has experienced some of the most intense heatwaves in decades. In parts of southern Arizona the mercury has climbed to a sweltering 48°C. That has had an impact on the state’s infrastructure. Last month, a single day’s heatwave grounded dozens of planes. As global temperatures climb higher, such incidents are likely to increase.Climate change could have a dramatic impact on aviation across the world, according to a recently released paper by a team from Columbia University and Logistics Management Institute, a consulting firm. The researchers predict that as early as the middle of the century, some 30% of flights departing during the most blistering parts of the day will not be able to take off at their maximum weight because the hotter, less dense air will not provide enough lift.Of the 19 airports examined, Dubai and LaGuardia in New York are expected to see some of the worst effects. During the harshest hours, some of their aeroplanes could be grounded at their full weight around half the time, according to the paper. On average, airlines may have to cut as much as 4% of passengers or cargo to get their flights into the air at the hottest parts of the day. If carriers are forced to fly emptier planes, expect customers to pick up the tab through higher prices.The ...

  • Paris-on-sea: California pushes on with plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
    Print section Print Rubric:  The Golden State pushes on with plans to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions Print Headline:  Paris-on-sea Print Fly Title:  California UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Britain faces up to Brexit Fly Title:  Paris-on-sea Location:  LOS ANGELES Main image:  LA’s trading floor LA’s trading floor VOTING to extend California’s cap-and-trade programme an extra decade to 2030 was a tough decision for Devon Mathis, a Republican assemblyman who represents a large swathe of the state’s fertile Central Valley. Though once embraced by Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, cap-and-trade schemes have come to be seen by Republicans as exemplifying government overreach. On the other hand, agricultural business owners in Mr Mathis’s district flooded him with ...

  • Free exchange: Climate change and inequality
    Print section Print Rubric:  The unequal effects of climate change mean its costs are understated Print Headline:  It’s not the heat, it’s the cupidity Print Fly Title:  Free exchange UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liu Xiaobo’s death holds a message for China Fly Title:  Free exchange Main image:  20170715_FND000_0.jpg ON JULY 12, the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica disgorged a chunk of ice the size of Delaware, a small state on America’s east coast. America’s government seems unfazed by the possibility that such shifts might one day threaten Delaware itself. Its climate defiance grows not only from the power of its fossil-fuel industry and the scepticism of the Republican party, but also from a sense of insulation from the costs of global warming. This confidence is misplaced. New research indicates not only that climate change will impose heavy ...

  • At what cost?: Can the world thrive on 100% renewable energy?
    Print section Print Rubric:  A transition away from fossil fuels is necessary, but it will not be painless Print Headline:  At what cost? Print Fly Title:  100% renewable energy UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liu Xiaobo’s death holds a message for China Fly Title:  At what cost? Main image:  20170715_FND001_0.jpg A WIDELY read cover story on the impact of global warming in this week’s New York magazine starts ominously: “It is, I promise, worse than you think.” It goes on to predict temperatures in New York hotter than present-day Bahrain, unprecedented droughts wherever today’s food is produced, the release of diseases like bubonic plague hitherto trapped under Siberian ice, and permanent economic collapse. In the face of such apocalyptic predictions, can the world take solace from those who argue that it can move, relatively quickly and painlessly, ...

  • A green red herring: Better to target zero emissions than 100% renewable energy
    Print section Print Rubric:  The goal should be to curb global warming, not to achieve 100% renewable energy Print Headline:  A green red herring Print Fly Title:  Renewable-energy targets UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liu Xiaobo’s death holds a message for China Fly Title:  A green red herring Main image:  20170715_ldp503.jpg NOT that long ago, the world wondered whether clean energy could survive without lavish government support. Now the question is how far it can spread. The number of electric vehicles, which breached 1m in 2015, last year reached 2m; countries like France and firms like Volvo are looking ahead to the demise of the internal combustion engine. In electricity generation, too, momentum is with the greens. In June the Chinese province of Qinghai ran for seven consecutive days on renewable energy alone; in the first half of this year ...

  • Heated debate in Hamburg: As America quits, Europe tries to lead on climate change
    Print section Print Rubric:  As America stands down on global warming, Europe stands up Print Headline:  Without America, for now Print Fly Title:  Cutting CO2 emissions UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why Germany’s current-account surplus is bad for the world economy Fly Title:  Heated debate in Hamburg CAN Europe carry the Paris agreement on climate change forward now that America has left? That was one of the big questions as leaders of the world’s largest economies gathered for the G20 meeting in Hamburg on July 7th and 8th. Donald Trump’s promise that America will pull out has weakened the deal. Many fear that other countries’ future pledges to cut greenhouse-gas emissions will be less ambitious without the world’s second-largest polluter (after China) doing its share. Yet America’s departure has galvanised China, which promotes itself as a champion of the deal—and Europe, which thinks itself in the vanguard of ...

  • The Economist explains: How fracking leads to babies
    Main image:  THE typical family in America is changing. Couples are increasingly reluctant to seal their relationships with the stamp of marriage, or to tie the knot before having children. In 1960 fewer than a tenth of births were to unmarried women, whereas these days around two fifths of children are born out of wedlock. Economists wonder whether the changing economic fortunes of men might be driving these decisions, but struggle to disentangle the different factors at work. Recently, though, new evidence has emerged on the topic. Did, for example, the fracking boom affect family formation? It seems plausible that someone might be reluctant to marry a person with poor or worsening economic prospects. And babies are expensive; to an economist, the idea that people might be more likely to have one when they get richer is a natural one. There is some historical evidence to support both hypotheses. In response to the Appalachian coal boom of the 1970s and 1980s, marriage rates went up, as did the share of babies born to married couples. More recently, a study by David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson, three economists, found that people exposed to import competition from China over the 1990s and 2000s took a hit to their “marriage-market value”. The negative shock seemed to turn people off ...