Friday, July 8, 2016

Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change

What we eat greatly influences our personal health and the environment we all share. Recent analyses have highlighted the likely dual health and environmental benefits of reducing the fraction of animal-sourced foods in our diets. Here, we couple for the first time, to our knowledge, a region-specific global health model based on dietary and weight-related risk factors with emissions accounting and economic valuation modules to quantify the linked health and environmental consequences of dietary changes. We find that the impacts of dietary changes toward less meat and more plant-based diets vary greatly among regions. The largest absolute environmental and health benefits result from diet shifts in developing countries whereas Western high-income and middle-income countries gain most in per capita terms. Transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce global mortality by 6–10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29–70% compared with a reference scenario in 2050. We find that the monetized value of the improvements in health would be comparable with, or exceed, the value of the environmental benefits although the exact valuation method used considerably affects the estimated amounts. Overall, we estimate the economic benefits of improving diets to be 1–31 trillion US dollars, which is equivalent to 0.4–13% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2050. However, significant changes in the global food system would be necessary for regional diets to match the dietary patterns studied here.
File:Cow female black white.jpg 

A Benefit-Cost Analysis of the Middle Fork Greenway Trail

The Town of Boone, NC Greenway Trail is a 3.84 mile long paved trail with additional unpaved sections that attract many types of users including walkers, joggers, and cyclists. The proposed Middle Fork New River extension would add 6.5 miles to the total paved mileage. In order to estimate recreation benefits of the extension we use revealed and stated preference data to estimate the change in value of current visits and change in visits with the additional mileage. The total opportunity cost of the project includes land acquisition, construction, operation and maintenance costs. Considering only recreation benefits the Middle Fork Greenway Trail passes a benefit-cost test. The net present value is estimated to be $2.78 million. This conclusion does not change after considering a number of partial sensitivity analyses.
The baseline consumer surplus per visit is equal to $11 with a 95% confidence interval of $9 to $12 (Table 3). The consumer surplus per visit with the Middle Fork Greenway is equal to $17 with a 95% confidence interval of $12 to $21. The change in consumer surplus with the Middle Fork Greenway is $6 with a 95% confidence interval of $3 to $9. These consumer surplus estimates are significantly lower than those estimated by Siderelis, Moore and Lee (2000) and similar to those found by Betz, Bergstrom and Bowker (2003).
Based on the car counts we estimate a range of 9 to 11 cars in Greenway parking lots, on average, each hour. We assume that this visitation rate exists between 8 and 12 hours per day and for between 2 and 4 parking lots.... The average party size is assumed to range from one to three (2.78 is the survey average). The product of cars per hour, hours per day, parking lots and party size generates a wide range of 144 to 1584 trail users per day. Assuming a range of days visited during the year of 90 to 180, our estimate of the range of annual user days 12,960 to 285,120. Assuming a normal distribution with the range covering 97% of the distribution, the midpoint of 149,040 visits, is our best estimate of the annual average number of visits.1 The standard deviation of the distribution is 44,820 (this is equal to the range divided by 6). These visits are valued by the change in consumer surplus of $6 per visit.

Cash for Carbon: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Payments for Ecosystem Services to Reduce Deforestation

This paper evaluates a Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) program in western Uganda that offered forest-owning households cash payments if they conserved their forest. The program was implemented as a randomized trial in 121 villages, 60 of which received the program for two years. The PES program reduced deforestation and forest degradation: Tree cover, measured using high-resolution satellite imagery, declined by 2% to 5% in treatment villages compared to 7% to 10% in control villages during the study period. We find no evidence of shifting of tree-cutting to nearby land. We then use the estimated effect size and the "social cost of carbon" to value the delayed carbon dioxide emissions, and compare this benefit to the program's cost. 
Addressing deforestation in developing countries is, thus, a key pillar of international climate policy. REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is a United Nations mechanism through which developing countries are rewarded financially for preservation of forestland; annually, about $500 million dollars flow to developing countries (Silva-Ch´avez, Schaap, and Breitfeller, 2015). The Paris Agreement negotiated in 2015 bolstered the role of REDD+ in climate policy (United Nations FCCC, 2015).
Over the two-year pilot program from 2011 to 2013, for each hectare of forest they owned, enrollees received 70,000 Ugandan shillings (UGX), or $28 in 2012 US dollars, per year if they complied with the contract. The implementing NGO employed forest monitors who conducted spot checks of enrollees’ land to check for recent tree-clearing. The program also offered additional payments in exchange for planting tree seedlings.
File:Kibale, Uganda.jpg
We estimate that for each $0.25 in payments, or $0.57 in total program costs, a ton of CO2 emissions due to deforestation was delayed. We then calculate the externality benefit of the delayed emissions, using a “social cost of carbon” (SCC) of $39 (in 2012 US dollars) per ton (Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon, 2013). The SCC is the benefit of permanently averting CO2 emissions, while this 2-year program’s benefit was to delay deforestation and emissions. To quantify the delay, we need to make assumptions about deforestation after the program ends, which we do not observe in our data. Our base case scenario assumes PFOs deforest at a 50% higher rate than usual after the program ends, converging to the control group after four years. The social benefit of the delayed CO2 emissions is then $1.11 per ton, or roughly 2 times the $0.57 program cost.

We repeat the calculation for a range of assumptions. At one extreme, if PFOs catch up on their backlog of avoided deforestation the moment the program ends, the benefitcost ratio falls to 0.7. At the other extreme, if PFOs pause their deforestation during the intervention and then resume deforesting at their typical rate, not an accelerated rate, after the program ends, then the benefit cost-ratio rises to 12.3. This last scenario, which represents a permanent delay in deforestation, is the most relevant one for extrapolating to a permanent or longer-duration program.
On average, revenue from timber products in the previous year is 110,000 UGX or $44....per PFO who enrolled, the average payment was $113 ($36 ÷ 31.9%)... in the treatment group, total revenue from timber products is lower by 2.89 million UGX ($116), or 23 log points, and there is a 4 percentage point (27%) lower likelihood of receiving any revenue from timber in the past year.
Monitoring costs were $88 per program enrollee, or $28 per eligible PFO. We assume an additional cost per eligible PFO of $30 for marketing of the program and overall program management. We further assume a 10%
transaction fee for PES payments. Combining these assumptions, the administrative costs amount to $0.41 per averted ton of CO2
...our best guess of the total program costs at scale-up—incentive payments plus administrative costs—is $0.57 per averted ton of CO2

by Seema Jayachandran, Joost de Laat, Eric F. Lambin, Charlotte Y. Stanton
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
NBER Working Paper No. 22378; Issued in June 2016

via/hat tip Chris Mooney

Thursday, July 7, 2016

World's first eHighway opens in Sweden

On June 22, 2016 the world's first eHighway opened in Sweden.... For the next two years, a Siemens catenary system for trucks will be tested on a two-kilometer stretch of the E16 highway north of Stockholm. The trial will use two diesel hybrid vehicles manufactured by Scania and adapted, in collaboration with Siemens, to operate under the catenary system. "The Siemens eHighway is twice as efficient as conventional internal combustion engines. The Siemens innovation supplies trucks with power from an overhead contact line. This means that not only is energy consumption cut by half, but local air pollution is reduced too," says Roland Edel, Chief Engineer at the Siemens Mobility Division.
Transport accounts for more than one third of Sweden's CO2 emissions, with almost half of that coming from freight transport. As part of its climate protection strategy, Sweden has committed to having a fossil fuel independent transport sector by 2030....

The core of the system is an intelligent pantograph combined with a hybrid drive system. A sensor system enables the pantograph to connect to and disconnect from the overhead line at speeds of up to 90 km per hour. Trucks equipped with the system draw power from the overhead catenary wires as they drive, enabling them to travel efficiently and with zero local emissions. Thanks to the hybrid system, operation outside of the contact line is also possible, thus maintaining the flexibility of conventional trucks. The eHighway technology features an open configuration. As a result, battery or natural gas solutions, for example, can be implemented as an alternative to the diesel hybrid drive system used in Sweden. This allows the system to be adapted flexibly .

Siemens is currently developing another eHighway demonstration project in California. This project is being undertaken in collaboration with vehicle manufacturer Volvo on behalf of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). Tests will be conducted throughout 2017 to see how different truck configurations interact with the eHighway infrastructure in the vicinity of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

More information, press photos and footage material are available at
ith today’s technology, driving a semi-truck 500 miles (804 kilometers) would require a 23-ton lithium-ion battery, half the weight of the truck itself. Fuel cells would need a massive, $2 million hydrogen fuel tank to go the distance. Embedding wireless charging coils in roadbed would be expensive and inefficient.
But an invention first deployed in 1870 to power trains and streetcars might be the perfect fit: catenary, overhead electrical wires commonly found around the world. The German engineering company Siemens, presenting at an electric vehicle conference in Montreal this month, argues it can power unlimited-distance electric trucks with intermittent overhead wires that provide enough energy for fast-moving, long-haul highway journeys.
With on-board batteries added to the trucks, the company estimates all of Germany’s roads could be can be outfitted for long-distance electric hauling with just 4,000 km of wire. Trucks would be able to recharge on highways and operate on battery power while on rural and urban streets. The system would cost a fraction the price of alternatives like hydrogen fuel cells, and deliver as much as €200 billion ($227 billion) in net savings over 30 years compared with other approaches, reports IDTechEx, which attended the presentation.
The technology is ready to go. New advances in catenary systems allow hybrid vehicles to switch seamlessly between overhead charging and battery power at high-speeds. For now, the trucks are diesel hybrids, but extensive overhead wires and efficient batteries would permit the vehicles to eliminate internal combustions engines entirely.

June 22, 2016 
by Michael Coren

Estimation of climate change damage functions for 140 regions in the GTAP9 database

Climate change damage (or, more correctly, impact) functions relate variations in temperature (or other climate variables) to economic impacts in various dimensions, and are at the basis of quantitative modeling exercises for the assessment of climate change policies. This document provides a summary of results from a series of meta-analyses aimed at estimating parameters for six specific damage functions, referring to: sea level rise, agricultural productivity, heat effects on labor productivity, human health, tourism flows, and households' energy demand. All parameters of the damage functions are estimated for each of the 140 countries and regions in the Global Trade Analysis Project 9 data set. To illustrate the salient characteristics of the estimates, the change in real gross domestic product is approximated for the different effects, in all regions, corresponding to an increase in average temperature of +3°C. After considering the overall impact, the paper highlights which factor is the most significant one in each country, and elaborates on the distributional consequences of climate change.

Tables 7-1 and 7-2 present our estimates, corresponding to an increase in average temperature of +3°C4 for the five categories above and their total algebraic sum. We highlight with a green background color the positive net variations in GDP, with a yellow background moderate reductions (from -1% to -5%) and with a red background the large reductions (below -5%). In addition, we identify, for each country, which among the three types of impact is the one which contributes the most to the overall effect on GDP.5 A quick inspection of Tables 7-1 and 7-2 reveals a number of thought-provoking facts. Only a few countries (Mongolia, Canada, and central-northern European countries, including Russia) are expected to get moderate gains from a +3°C increase in temperature, and these gains are typically due to an increase in tourists' arrivals (and diminished outgoing domestic tourists). Many countries (whose estimates are highlighted in red) are expected to suffer from dramatic reductions in GDP. The most negatively affected countries are Togo in Africa (-18.29%) and Cambodia in South-East Asia (-18.25%), where again Tourism is the most important factor. In addition to tourism income, variations in agricultural and labor productivity are also very relevant in many countries. Sea level rise, on the other hand, never appears as the primary factor, because of its limited incidence on total land and the relative small share of land income on GDP. Remarkably, Tourism is (possibly with Heat) the least studied effect of climate change, maybe because it causes a redistribution of income and wealth, but it has negligible consequences at the global level.
by Roberto Roson and Martin Sartori
The World Bank 
Policy Research Working Paper WPS7728; June 23 2016