“Due to poorly defined property rights, externalities both in their positive and negative forms exist everywhere around us. This creates a high level of inefficiency as many of those costs and benefits are accounted for in the marginal costs and benefits of market prices. In order to reach high levels of allocative efficiency, those externalities must be internalized. A system is considered optimal and efficient only when it reaches Pareto optimality.
The most common approach of addressing those externalities is through a centralized system, that assigns property rights and enforces sanctions. This approach is very costly and inefficient in that it has very high transactional costs and poses many political and ethical questions about valuation of damage/benefit, individual choice, and political economics of enforcement of the law.
Another approach is the bargaining between involved parties in a decentralized system. This can only be possible when transactional costs are low enough to allow defining, enforcing, and trading property rights without the help of a central authority. Currently issues of information asymmetry associated with a decentralized system, and a need for a central authority to enforce the rights and execute sanctions make this very difficult to implement in the real world.”
“While some companies are taking the lead in developing their own ways of factoring environmental impacts into financial decision-making, public policies that put a price on environmental impacts would help all companies account for environmental externalities. These policies include those that put a price on greenhouse gas emissions or water use, as well as policies that create demand for more efficient products like vehicle fuel efficiency standards or building codes.
While the impact of policies like this will vary across businesses, some companies are already benefiting. Environmental regulations, high energy prices, and a price on carbon in Europe, for example, have helped Siemens grow its portfolio of environmental products, including things like wind turbines, highly efficient combined cycle power plants, and efficient trains. Siemens has not only helped its customers reduce 332 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions—equivalent to about 40 percent of Germany’s annual emissions—but it generated $44.6 billion in revenue from its environmental product portfolio in fiscal year 2012.”
“What Are Externalities? There are varying definitions of externalities, but probably the most common definition is that externalities are beneficial or harmful effects of one's action on others that were not taken into account in the decision to act. For example, one of the common examples used is industrial emissions of gases into the atmosphere. It is said that the factory owner(s) or manager(s) would not take into account the harmful effect of the emitted gases on other members of the society. Consequently, the factories would produce more industrial output than they would have produced had they taken into consideration the negative effects of their actions on others. This would be a negative externality.
However, there are also positive externalities, where one unintentionally produces benefits to others. A frequently used example is education. In this case, too little of the beneficial activity (education) is being performed if left to individuals' voluntary transactions. As a result, both in the cases of negative and positive externalities, "inefficiencies" arise. It is claimed that the total social welfare could be increased by adjusting the amount of the externality-creating activities to their socially optimal levels.”
“Hello! I'm Katie. I'm an environmental engineer and a software designer.
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I'm the founder of creative technology company Hello World Labs in San Francisco.”
“Sumac KawsayBuen Vivir ("good living") rooted in the cosmovisión (or worldview) of the Quechua peoples of the Andes, sumak kawsay – or buen vivir, to give it its Spanish name – describes a way of doing things that is community-centric, ecologically-balanced and culturally-sensitive. The concept is related to tradition of legal and political scholarship advocating legal standing for the natural environment. The rights approach is a break away from traditional environmental regulatory systems, which regard nature as property.
Since 2000 animals, plants and other organisms have their rights to dignity recognised by the Constitution in Switzerland (art. 120), but the implications of this disposition are still not very clear. With the enactment of its 2008 Constitution, Ecuador became the first country in the world to codify the Rights of Nature and to inform a more clarified content to those rights. Articles 10 and 71–74 of the Ecuadorian Constitution recognize the inalienable rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish, gives people the authority to petition on the behalf of ecosystems, and requires the government to remedy violations of these rights.”
“What are the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels caused by traffic 1km from your house? How do the levels small particulate matter (PM2.5) in your area compare to those in other cities? OpenAQ is a real-time, interactive air quality monitoring website that enables visitors to find out about air quality monitoring and levels in their local area. OpenAQ’s mission is to provide the data to influence policy, and to enable the public to access information on air pollution through open data and open-source tools.
OpenAQ has collected a wealth of data: over 324 million air quality measurements from over ten thousand locations in 68 countries, as well as aggregated data from 114 government level and research-grade sources. Visitors to the website can locate the air quality monitoring sites closest to them, view the NO2, PM2.5 and PM10 levels from those local monitors, and use the data to create graphs, heatmaps, spreadsheets and other tools for analysis. Users can also directly compare air quality in two locations.”
“…A team of scientists in China proposed an intriguing way to track unfamiliar drones through crowdsensing. Their approach leverages participants’ smartphones to detect the Wi-Fi signals of drones.
Their system, which the researchers call CEDAR (for Cost-Effective Crowdsensing System for Detecting and LocAlizing Drones), can detect drones within 350 meters and with an average accuracy of 87 percent when no preliminary MAC addresses or SSIDs are listed in the database, suggesting that this approach is fairly effective.
As for the crowdsensing aspect of CEDAR, Shi acknowledges that participants will have to yield some of their privacy rights to assist with drone detection.
“In our system, users need to upload their positions for both detection and localization process,” Shi explains. “In this way, they do have a privacy breach. We treat users’ privacy concerns as a kind of cost, and compensate them by providing rewards.”
Thus the researchers proposed an auction-like scenario, where participants can decide the threshold price at which they are willing to share their location, and then bid against other people nearby for the opportunity.”
“Ever since 2014, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) relaxed the limit from 50 to 25 cm, that resolution has been fine enough to satisfy most customers. Investors can predict oil supply from the shadows cast inside oil storage tanks. Farmers can monitor flooding to protect their crops. Human rights organizations have tracked the flows of refugees from Myanmar and Syria.
Some of the most radical developments in Earth observation involve not traditional photography but rather radar sensing and hyperspectral images, which capture electromagnetic wavelengths outside the visible spectrum. Clouds can hide the ground in visible light, but satellites can penetrate them using synthetic aperture radar, which emits a signal that bounces off the sensed object and back to the satellite. It can determine the height of an object down to a millimeter.
Meanwhile, farmers can use hyperspectral sensing to tell where a crop is in its growth cycle, and geologists can use it to detect the texture of rock that might be favorable to excavation.”
“Carbon Tracker today announced a new project, funded by a $1.7 million grant from Google.org, which will use satellite imagery to quantify carbon emissions from all large power plants worldwide and make this information available to the public. Carbon Tracker, in collaboration with WattTime and the WRI, were chosen through the Google AI Impact Challenge to use the data to hold polluting plants accountable to environmental standards and to enable advanced new emissions reduction technologies.
The project will work by leveraging the growing global satellite network to observe power plants from space. AI technology will use the latest image processing algorithms to detect signs of power plant emissions. For maximum accuracy, the project will combine data from a variety of different sensors operating at different wavelengths. AI algorithms will cross-validate multiple indicators of power plant emissions, from thermal infrared, indicating heat near smoke stacks and cooling water intake, to visual spectrum recognition that a power plant is emitting smoke.”
“Finding destroyed villages in Darfur (Amnesty International), mapping the encroachment of palm oil plantations(Greenpeace) or schools in remote areas (Unicef), identifying civilian presence in conflict zones (UNHCR), predicting the risk of floods (National Geographic) — are all important efforts by non-governmental organizations (NGO) that rely on a common tool: satellite imagery.
When combined with the latest image-processing techniques from artificial intelligence (AI), satellite images can help experts monitor human rights and the environment, providing NGOs with the capacity to improve countless lives and contribute to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
This is feasible. The algorithms are there. The satellites are there.
Low-resolution imagery is cheap or sometimes free, and it is frequently updated, but it lacks the detailed information needed to identify some patterns indicative of climate change or human rights violations. Yet the staggering cost of high-resolution satellite imagery is a significant barrier for NGOs.
This is what super-resolution technology can help overcome.”
“When researchers collect audio recordings of birds, they are usually listening for the animals’ calls. But conservation biologist Marc Travers is interested in the noise produced when a bird collides with a power line. It sounds, he says, ‘very much like the laser sound from Star Wars’.”
With some 600 hours of audio collected — a full 25 days’ worth — counting the laser blasts manually was impractical. So, Travers sent the audio files (as well as metadata, such as times and locations) to Conservation Metrics, a firm in Santa Cruz, California, that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to assist wildlife monitoring. The company’s software was able to detect the collisions automatically and, over the next several years, Travers’ team increased its data harvest to about 75,000 hours per field season.
Results suggested that bird deaths as a result of the animals striking power lines numbered in the high hundreds or low thousands, much higher than expected. “We know that immediate and large-scale action is required,” Travers says.”
“More than a dozen governments and companies have or are planning to launch satellites that measure concentrations of heat-trapping gases such as methane, which is blamed for about one quarter of man-made global warming. They are looking to track nations, industries, companies and even individual facilities to identify some of the biggest contributors to climate change.
“Space-based technologies are allowing us for the first time to quickly and cheaply measure greenhouse gases,” said Mark Brownstein, a senior vice president at Environmental Defense Fund, which plans to launch its MethaneSAT in 2021. “Oftentimes both government and industry are not fully aware of the magnitude of the opportunity to cut emissions. With that data, they can take action.
Regulators are taking note. California is partnering with Planet Labs Inc. on a satellite to help it “pinpoint individual methane plumes” from oil and gas facilities, as well as other sources such as landfills, dairies and waste water plants, Stanley Young, a spokesman for the state’s Air Resources Board, said in an email. Researchers have suggested that methane is underestimated in most inventories, he said.”