The purpose of this study is to question the world’s dependence on coal power by exploring the avenues through which coal production (extraction, transportation, and combustion) impact the health, climate, and economic wellbeing of communities. It uses South Africa as a case study because South Africa has a high percentage of coal in its energy mix and extracts large amounts of coal. This research finds that coal production in South Africa worsens the health of South African communities and accelerates climate change, threatening the food and water supplies of millions of people within and outside of the country. This analysis does not find conclusive evidence that coal production contributes to widespread economic growth in South Africa. It also reveals that potential gains from economic growth on communities are offset by health and climate damages.
Drawing from ecofeminist perspectives, this paper assesses the saliency of women not as victims of environmental degradation, but rather as potent agents of change. Situated within the context of increasing environmental damage and looming irreversible climate change, this study examines whether, and to what degree, women’s political empowerment impacts environmental sustainability. With particular emphasis on women’s status, ordinary least squares regressions models were used to investigate predictors of ecological footprint, environmental well-being and environmental performance cross-nationally. The results demonstrate that while affluence, measured in GDP per capita, is a strong predictor in every case, women’s political empowerment leads to better environmental outcomes only in environmental policy performance. This suggests that women’s political empowerment may be yet another modernisation factor which affects national environmental policies and outcomes, but cannot reduce the overall environmental impact beyond national borders. This study concludes by stating that despite of promising results, women’s status may still suffer from globalisation and other mediating world-system processes.
Global climate change is quite possibly the most serious challenge that faces us today. Consumers and businesses alike are thinking more seriously about their environmental impact and what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint. One industry uniquely tied to the environment and concerned with its well-being is the ski industry and one way to achieve this reduction is through carbon offsets. Using data collected through a contingent valuation study regarding consumer behavior, this thesis analyzes the factors that affect consumers' willingness to pay (WTP) for carbon offsets in the ski industry. The study finds that age, gender, and climate knowledge are highly influential on WTP, and that the use of tax credits as an incentive provides the greatest increase in consumer WTP.
Alpine treeline is a valuable indicator of climate change because of its sensitivity to temperature. On Pikes Peak (Southern Rocky Mountains, Colorado), tree density and elevation in the forest-tundra ecotone has increased in the last century, corresponding with a 2°C increase in regional growing-season temperature. The purpose of this study was to provide a detailed analysis of the process of treeline advancement. Spatial clustering within age classes and elevational bands was used to identify harsh environments and track the upper climatic boundary of tree establishment. Overall, clustering (Ripley’s K, p < 0.01, based on boot-strapping) was more prominent at lower elevations and for older cohorts, indicating the upward migration of the climatic boundary. However, the climatic boundary may be advancing more quickly than treeline as the moving edge changed from a clustered to a randomly dispersed distribution over time: from 1868-1940 the moving edge was clearly clustered, from 1941-1976 it showed mixed results, and from 1977-2010 it displayed a random spatial pattern. Treeline advancement also demonstrated a reach-and-fill pattern, with sudden advancement of treeline, followed by a few decades of infill at lower elevations. The reach-and-fill pattern repeated three times in the last 120 years, with exponential increases in tree density, especially in the last 40 years. The recent explosion of growth and the quickly advancing climatic boundary match temporally with a shift from an abrupt to a diffuse edge typology. To my knowledge, this is the first study that examines in detail the process of changing treeline typology of an advancing treeline.
Climate change presents an existential threat to humanity and to ecosystems across the globe. Our planet is warming and natural equilibriums are shifting. If governments, corporations and individuals fail to act we will continue to see increases in the frequency and intensity of droughts and precipitation, extreme temperatures and sea level rise (IPCC, 2018). Greenhouse gas emissions contribute heavily to the negative effects of climate change and is one area in which human activity can make a difference. Several countries have successfully priced carbon in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Colorado, as a politically and demographically diverse state has a unique ability to act on the climate crisis. We also have the responsibility to act due to our vast natural resources. This paper uses the existing literature on climate change mitigation and economic theory such as the internalization of externalities and social marginal cost to design a carbon tax for the state of Colorado. It uses survey data from 415 Coloradans about their opinions on climate change and carbon taxation policy proposals. Results of the survey show that a majority of respondents believe climate change is an urgent problem facing Colorado and that the state should take action. 56.97 percent of respondents support a carbon tax starting at 10 dollars per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions and increasing by two dollars annually. Results also show that the majority of respondents would be more likely to support the carbon tax if revenue was reinvested in sustainable programs and if the tax significantly reduced emissions. This paper uses these results along with the theory and global examples to inform a policy proposal for a carbon tax in Colorado.
Treelines can serve as model ecotones in their response to climate change. However, the role of tree architecture at treelines is poorly understood. This paper examines tree architectures at a fast-migrating diffuse treeline in a bowl on the western slope of Pikes Peak (Colorado). Investigating the spatial distribution of the allometric types, the relationship between the growth rate and height for each architecture type, and the impacts of the changing climate on the architectural spatial distribution. The study site was divided into an Upper Zone (UZ) and Lower Zone (LZ). We found multiple distinct architectures within this diffuse treeline. Unexpectedly, tree architectures did not follow a spatial distribution pattern of clustering or avoiding with like and or different architectures. Krummholz and Cone architectures were found growing in close proximity to one another, signifying that the upper climatic boundary at this site has advanced up in elevation. These multiple architectures are able to represent current and past climatic conditions. Advancement is occurring at such rapid rates that tree established architectures are not able to release from their path dependency. To my knowledge, this is the first study that examines multiple tree architectural types within a treeline and how they are distributed in space.
An empirical climate model (ECM) takes a statistics-based approach in modelling the global Earth temperature as dependent on various forcings, such as the levels of greenhouse gases and solar radiation. Our web application visualizes such a model. Specifically, through an interactive interface, the application enables users to directly explore how four forcings can account for the variation and change in Earth’s mean global temperature record. The application is intended to be used in educational settings. For instance, it will be part of an online curriculum developed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS). It is live at https://ecm.coloradocollege.edu/.
As the world enters a low carbon economy, companies must begin recognizing carbon emissions as a risk to doing business. This paper develops several regression models that test the effects of carbon emissions on company performance, whether or not carbon-intensive industries have been hurt, and the ability of the carbon to revenue ratio to capture a firm's risk exposure from carbon emissions. Carbon emissions data comes from the Carbon Disclosure Project and company performance data comes from Mergent Online. The paper concludes that carbon emissions are a liability to company performance, but carbon intensive industries have not been adversely affected. The carbon to revenue ratio does have a negative impact on company performance and may be used by companies as a measure of carbon efficiency.
The United Nations negotiations on climate change have focused their attention on a set of policies for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+). This paper explores the potential of REDD+ to reduce CO2 emissions and protect tropical biodiversity. The study uses ArcGIS to model forest areas under threat of deforestation in 59 tropical developing countries. A constrained linear optimization model, implemented with linear optimization software, is used to construct a Conservation Possibilities Frontier (CPF). The CPF shows the potential of REDD+ to achieve emission reductions and species conservation under limited budgets. I use linear optimization to construct marginal abatement cost curves under various policy scenarios and estimate the costs of generating biodiversity co-benefits from REDD+. An international mechanism mainly designed to reduce emissions at least cost will provide low conservation benefits. Incorporating provisions for biodiversity co-benefits in the REDD+ framework can protect a high number of rare and threatened forest species at a relatively low cost.
With the growing concern about climate change, integrated impact assessment models (IAMs) have been developed to assess climate mitigation policies. Previous attempts to endogenize technology into regional climate policy models have assumed learning-by-doing or include a single energy sector. This study corrects for the previous limitations in a regional model of the United States and the rest of the world. A backstop technology and knowledge spillovers are added to the model to improve the model’s capacity to simulate a real policy. Each specification is then simulated under no policy (business as usual), an optimal policy, and restrictions of emissions back to 1995 levels. Since the United States has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, it is particularly important to evaluate climate policies specific to the United States, like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This study also aims to evaluate the effectiveness the RGGI by modeling permit-funded R&D in the energy sector.
Climate change is a feedback loop of inequality – both a cause and effect on a global scale. The impacts of which such as rising sea levels, increased incidents of natural disasters, and altered weather patterns disproportionately impact developing countries and vulnerable populations. Climate change is fundamentally caused by consumption – resource-intense lifestyles in rich Western countries. Higher education embraced its role as a leader in the response to climate change through sustainability declarations, such as the Climate Commitment and its carbon neutrality goal. But with a history of failed sustainability declarations, how do we know the Climate Commitment is effective and reduces energy consumption behavior? Using data from 119 higher education institutions in the US, this study builds on behavioral economic energy modelling to predict the likelihood an institution signs onto the Climate Commitment, and how energy usage per capita changes afterward. While the study finds that energy consumption decreases on Climate Commitment campuses between the baseline and performance years, the widespread distribution warrants further investigation into the matter.