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PPM-123HM: Environment Policy and Sustainability

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Normed Course Outlines

PPM-123HM: Environmental Policy and Sustainability

Description: This 3-topic half-module provides an introduction to and overview of environmental policy. In this half-module students will examine the policy process, behavior of interest groups and political parties, and analyze the actions of key policymakers. This course will also expose students to significant environmental issues such as pollution control, climate change, conservation and biodiversity.

Learning Outcomes: On successful completion of this half module, students will be familiar with the concepts enumerated below and be able to understand and describe:

  • How environmental Issues and related policy problems are defined
  • Environmental risks and hazards
  • Regulatory choices and the environment

Concepts to be learned: Carbon Dioxide; Ecology; Climate Change; Global Warming Potential (GWP); Greenhouse Effect; California Effect; Environmentalism; Kyoto Protocol; Race to the Bottom

Normed Topics in this Normed Course Outline

Like other normed topics on the Atlas, each of these has a topic description, links to core concepts relevant to the topic, learning outcomes, a reading list drawn from available course syllabi, and a series of assessment questions.

Course Syllabi Sources for this Normed Course Outline: UCLA (Luskin): PUB POL 252; Carleton: PADM-5618; Harvard (Kennedy): API-164; NYU (Wagner): PADM-GP .472 & PADM-GP2236; Maryland: PUAF-741

Recommended Readings:

Week 1:  Defining Envrionmental Issues and Policy Problems

Botkin and Keller. 2014. Environmental Science: Earth as a living planet, 9th ed. Wiley. Chapters 1, 3-4.

Lovelock, James, E. Hands up for the Gaia hypothesis. Nature, Vol 344, 8 March 1990. 

Ostrom, Elinor et al. 1999. “Revisiting the Commons: Local Lessons, Global Challenges,” Science 284: 278-282.

Polasky, Stephen. "What’s nature done for you lately: measuring the value of ecosystem services." Choices 23, no. 2 (2008): 42-46.

Stavins, Robert N. 2011. "The Problem of the Commons: Still Unsettled after 100 Years." American Economic Review, 101(1): 81-108

Tietenberg, T. (2009). Environmental & natural resource economics. Boston: Pearson Addison Wesley. Chapters 1-2.

Week 2: Environmental Risks and Hazards

Duerksen, Chris, Don Elliott and Paul Anthony. Addressing Community Wildfire Risk: A Review and Assessment of Regulatory and Planning Tools Institutional Obstacles to Success in Implementing a Statewide Community-Based Fire Planning Mandate. California Journal of Politics & Policy, Volume 3, Issue 1 2011. []

Ferris, Elizabeth, Micheal M. Cernea, and Daniel Petz. On the Front Line of Climate Change and Displacement: Learning from and with Pacific Island Countries. Brokings Institution, 2011.

Harmeling, S. and David Eckstein. “Global Climate Risk Index 2013: Who suffers most from extreme weather events? Weather-related loss events in 2011 and 1992 to 2011.” (2012).

Malik, Arun. "How Should We Tackle the Forest Fire Problem?." Issues of the Day: 100 Commentaries on Climate, Energy, the Environment, Transportation, and Public Health Policy (2010): 134.

Pielke, R.A., Jr., 2007. The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Chapters 7-8.

Roger M. Cooke, Carolyn Kousky. Are Catastrophes Insurable? Resources, Summer 2009 (172). 

Slovic, P. 1987. “Perception of Risk,” Science 236: 280-285. Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation

Tietenberg, T. (2009). Environmental & natural resource economics. Boston: Pearson Addison Wesley. Chapters 3-5.

Viscusi, W. Kip, “How to Value a Life,” Journal of Economics and Finance, Vol. 32, Issue 4, 2008. Pages 311-323.

Week 3: Regulatory Choices and the Environment

Bell, Ruth Greenspan. 2002. “Are Market-Based Instruments the Right First Choice for Countries in Transition?” Resources 146.

Burtraw, Dallas, Rich Sweeney, and Margaret Walls, “The Incidence of U.S. Climate Policy: Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit,” Resources for the Future Discussion Paper RFF DP 08-28, 2008.

Carson, Richard T. "The environmental Kuznets curve: seeking empirical regularity and theoretical structure." Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 4, no. 1 (2010): 3-23.

Cohen, Boyd and Monika Winn, Market imperfections, opportunity and sustainable entrepreneurship, Journal of Business Venturing 22 (2007) 29–49.

Cooper, Richard C., “The Case for Charges on Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” The Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements, Discussion Paper 08-10, October 2008.

Harrington, Winston and Richard D. Morgenstern. 2004. “Economic Incentives versus Command and Control,” Resources 152.

Krupnick, Alan J., et al. Toward a New National Energy Policy: Assessing the Options. Resources for the Future and the National Energy Policy Institute, 2010.

Portney, Paul R. 2003. “Market-Based Approaches to Environmental Policy: A ‘Refresher’ Course,” Resources 151.

Taylor, Margaret R., Edward S. Rubin, and David A. Hounshell. Regulation as the Mother of Innovation: The Case of SO2 Control, Law & Policy, Vol. 27, No. 2, April 2005

Williams, Roberton. “Overcoming Distributional Obstacles to Market-Based Environmental Policies.” RFF Weekly Policy Commentary. December 4, 2009.

Sample Assessment Questions:

1a) Define the following terms: Carbon Dioxide; Ecology. 1b) What is market failure? Why is this an important concept to understand in the field of environmental policy? 1c) Carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs are sometimes referred to as “market based policy instruments” for responding to climate change. What is meant by this claim? 1d) What are externalities? Provide one example, real or hypothetical, of a policy action that is intended to correct a market failure by internalizing externalities. 1e) Write a one page response agreeing or disagreeing with the following statement: “Essentially, the field of environmental policy is about managing important trade-offs between environmental protection and economic growth.”

2a) Define the following terms: Climate Change; Global Warming Potential (GWP); Greenhouse Effect. 2b) What are some of the unique challenges global environmental risks, such as climate change, present to policymakers that do not exist in the case of local environmental problems/issues? 2c) What is a catastrophic environmental risk? Provide an example. What are some potential sources of bias (political, cognitive, etc) that may prevent the formulation of maximally rational policy responses to low-probability catastrophic risks? 2d) In one page or less, respond to the following statement: “The objective of environmental policy should be to reduce all environmental risks as close to zero as possible.”

3a) Define the following terms: California Effect; Environmentalism; Kyoto Protocol; Race to the Bottom 3b) In one page, describe the key objectives of environmental regulation. 3c) Explain, in one page and with an example, why it is sometimes difficult to measure the impact of an environmental regulation and to assess the success of that regulation in achieving its objective(s). 3d) What is meant by the term “market-based” environmental regulation? What are some of the possible advantages and disadvantages of this approach to environmental policymaking?

Page Created by: James Ban on 14 July 2015; updated by Ian Clark on 15 July 2015.


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© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance