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The Plain Bad Economics of Today’s Energy Prices

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, recently launched the latest book in a series on what good fiscal policy should look like in a world of environmental externalities.

The message was clear: Ministers of finance and economics should design their tax systems skillfully so as to tax bad things, like pollution and congestion, rather than good things like work and profit. Not to do so is plain, bad economics.

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The Price Is Wrong: New Report Calls for Fossil Fuel Prices that Reflect Environmental Costs

A new report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Getting Energy Prices Right: From Principle to Practice, argues that the costs of coal, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel fail to account for these fuels’ environmental and social impacts—such as greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and traffic deaths.

Setting prices that reflect these side effects—through taxes, licensing, or cap-and-trade systems—could reduce deaths from fossil fuel-related air pollution by 63 percent, decrease global carbon dioxide emissions by 23 percent, and generate revenues totaling about 2.6 percent of global GDP.

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7 Charts Explain Changing U.S. Power Sector Emissions

Where do U.S. power sector emissions come from? And how have they changed over time?

Today, WRI released an update of its U.S. state GHG emissions data via CAIT 2.0, our climate data explorer. These and other data provide valuable context in light of the EPA's newly proposed emissions standards for U.S. power plants.

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Tar Sands Threaten World’s Largest Boreal Forest

According to data from Global Forest Watch, an online mapping platform that tracks tree cover loss and gain in near-real time, industrial development and forest fires in Canada’s tar sands region has cleared or degraded 775,500 hectares (almost two million acres) of boreal forest since the year 2000. That’s an area more than six times the size of New York City. If the tar sands extraction boom continues, as many predict, we can expect forest loss to increase.

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What Will it Take to End the “Resource Curses?”

The “resource curse" describes the paradox where countries rich in oil, gas, and minerals remain largely impoverished. Better transparency—both in how governments spend extractive revenues and how natural resource decisions are made—could help tackle this problem. While some new initiatives are making progress on this front, more needs to be done to ensure that drilling and mining doesn’t come at the expense of communities and the land, water, and wildlife they rely on.

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Weaving the Net

Climate Change, Complex Crises and Household Resilience

Complex crises produce impacts that cascade across space and time in unpredictable ways, and create severe hardship among vulnerable groups in developing countries. This paper uses the food crisis of 2008 as a basis for...

Water Risks on the Rise for Three Global Energy Production Hot Spots

Energy and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, supported by data and analysis from WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, surveyed water risks among the world’s top energy-producing regions. They found that three energy sectors face particularly high water risks: shale gas in the United States, coal production and coal-fired power in China, and crude oil in the Middle East.

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IMF Experts and Others Envision a World without Energy Subsidies

The world continues to see the “costs” of fossil fuel use in the form of climate change impacts like heat waves, floods, and extreme weather. While these costs are often overlooked in traditional economic modeling, a new book from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) quantifies them.

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World’s Carbon Budget to Be Spent in Three Decades

EDITOR'S NOTE 11/18/13: After this blog post was published, the IPCC updated its Summary for Policymakers. The figures in this blog post have been updated to reflect new information.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) has delivered an overwhelming consensus that climate change impacts are accelerating, fueled by human-caused emissions. We may have just about 30 years left until the world’s carbon budget is spent if we want a likely chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees C. Breaching this limit would put the world at increased risk of forest fires, coral bleaching, higher sea level rise, and other dangerous impacts.

When Will Our Carbon Budget Run Out?

The international community has adopted a goal for global warming not to rise above 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures. Scientists have devoted considerable effort to understanding what magnitude of emissions reductions are necessary to limit warming to this level, as the world faces increasingly dangerous climate change impacts with every degree of warming (see Box 1).

IPCC AR5 summarizes the scientific literature and estimates that cumulative carbon dioxide emissions related to human activities need to be limited to 1 trillion tonnes C (1000 PgC) since the beginning of the industrial revolution if we are to have a likely chance of limiting warming to 2°C. This is “our carbon budget” – the same concept as a checking account. When we’ve spent it all, there’s no more money (and the planet’s overdraft fees will be much more significant than a bank’s small charges for bounced checks).[^1]

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