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Some alternative approaches to persistent environmental problems and the measurement of inequality

Turk, Zachary (2021) Some alternative approaches to persistent environmental problems and the measurement of inequality. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004311


Throughout this thesis, I assume consumption is an unstoppable economic force that limits policy intervention even when the level of consumption is destructive to the environment. A result is that traditional policy interventions – caps, trading schemes, and many taxes and subsidies directly on polluting outcomes are too costly to implement in terms of political, social, or measured economic costs. However, I also assume that a limited regulator still seeks to reduce the environmental fallout. I then study some policy options that fit within the consumer’s limited expectations of regulatory reach. Deciding to use limited policy interventions is not intended to replace other efforts. I explore part of what could be a joint effort and emphasise perhaps short-term, stopgap responses to opposition. This is proposed because not all environmental problems can wait for justice or the environmental Kuznets curve to turn in their favour. Once we are free from trying to devise ways to implement first-best environmental policies, various alternatives emerge. First, I explore environmental regulation when some pollutant is necessary. Necessity restricts policy to determining where it must occur, and the analysis becomes one of whether clustering or dispersion of an activity leads to less total damages. A revision to current regulatory approaches results. I then discuss improving recycling, a necessity to transition to a circular economy model. I find there is an optimal division of effort between producers and recyclers and propose an incentive structure to improve product design for recyclability. I then review how U.S. coal power plants use technology to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions. The objective is to derive lessons for the next great energy transition. Finally, I include a foray into economic growth, inequality, and their measurement in two chapters on the premise that there is a link between the fate of the environment and ours.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Zachary M. Turk
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Groom, Ben and Fouquet, Roger

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