19 terms

The Environment

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Some economists argue that ecological valuation of ecosystem services does not reflect their true value in an economic system. What is their reasoning?
Ecological valuation focuses on the total costs of the loss of an ecosystem service (it might also focus on the total economic benefit from the enhancement of a service) rather than on people's willingness to pay. Many economists argue that true economic value in a market economy is determined by what people are willing to pay, not cost.
How might variations in supply and demand influence the economic values in a market-based system to manage sulfur emissions from power plants?
The government sets a cap on total sulfur emissions and determines target emission levels for individual power plants. Power plants that lower their emissions below their target may sell emission permits to others who do not. If many power plants lower their emissions below targets, the supply of emission permits will increase and their price will decrease. If few
power plants choose to meet emission targets, the supply of permits will be scarce and their
price will be high. This latter situation is a strong incentive for power plants to meet their
targets to claim the higher economic value of permits.
How have the attitudes of individual countries regarding environmental
policies been influenced by their status with respect to development or wealth?
Wealthy countries have emphasized the need for increased conservation of forests and
oceans, although their consumption often creates the economic incentives for continued
exploitation of these resources. In poor countries people experience directly the
consequences of the impoverishment of natural resources but are concerned that
conservation policies of wealthy nations may limit their opportunities for economic growth.
An expanding city seeks to avoid flooding as it paves roads and constructs
buildings. What three steps might they take to manage their storm water in an
environmentally friendly way?
They could (1) incorporate pervious pavement in parking
lots and other paved surfaces, (2) construct bioswales using vegetation rather than concrete
drainage ditches to capture water and allow slow percolation and infiltration into the
groundwater, and (3) create green roofs that capture storm water by supporting plant life.
Why does adding nutrients to aquatic systems encourage the growth of algae?
Explain how increased growth of organisms that produce oxygen can result in oxygenpoor
dead zones that support no aerobic life.
Nutrients are typically in short supply in
natural systems and they limit the growth of living organisms. When they are added to a
system, they encourage uncontrolled growth of producers, including algae. Though algae
release oxygen in photosynthesis, they consume it at night. In addition, the extra organic
matter in the system is decomposed by organisms that use up the excess oxygen, resulting in
anaerobic dead zones.
What is the "no net loss" wetland policy, and what has been its effect?
This
policy requires that if a wetland is destroyed or impaired by a human activity, the landowner
or agency must restore or protect wetlands of equiva- lent area. As a result of this policy,
wetland loss in the United States has been halted and even reversed.
The end-use efficiency of most cars is less than 10%. What does this mean,
and what factors are likely to be contributing to this low number?
This means that of the
total energy available in gasoline, only 10% actually shows up in the motion of the
automobile. Much of the energy is lost in heat and friction.
What is mountaintop-removal mining and why is it a major concern to
environmentalists?
The tops of mountains are removed to expose major coal seams below.
This overburden is then often dumped in stream valleys where it buries streams and
destroys habitat. It can cause flooding of nearby communities and degrade water quality
many miles downstream.
Describe three reasons why continuing to rely heavily on oil-derived fuels
presents serious challenges for future sustainability
(1) Oil spills from extraction
facilities and transportation continue to pose a threat to the environ- ment. (2) Burning of
oil-derived fuels is a major source of pollution. (3) Burn- ing oil-derived fuels is the source of
about 31% of greenhouse gas emissions. (4) Because the world's oil reserves are
concentrated in relatively few places (particularly the Middle East), political conditions that
could constrain oil exploration and production could threaten global oil supply and
international security.
.What are the primary environmental advantages of nuclear power compared
to fossil fuels?
Nuclear energy generates few air pollutants or greenhouse gases. While costs
of development are high, nuclear power plant maintenance is comparatively cost effective.
What are the primary environmental concerns associated with nuclear
power?
Concerns are (1) direct impacts of uranium mining, (2) managing waste heat from
nuclear power plants, (3) release of radioactive pollutants from nuclear facilities due to
accidents and possible core meltdowns, (4) long-term management of spent nuclear fuels.
PV cells and CSP systems are both used to generate electricity. How do they
differ?
Sunlight striking the silicone plates of PV cells activates electrons that, in turn,
generate an electric current. CSP systems use mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a tower or
series of pipes to heat water or another liquid to produce steam. The steam is then used to
spin a turbine and generate electricity.
What factors are likely to limit the growth in the number of hydroelectric
facilities in the future?
Factors include (1) public unhappiness in some countries where
hydropower projects may involve relocation of many people, and (2) environmental
concerns and regulations related to endangered aquatic species.
Is it true that electric automobiles produce no greenhouse gas emissions?
Explain.
No. Greenhouse gases are released as a consequence of the produc- tion of such
vehicles. They are also released in varying amounts depending on the primary energy source
used to generate the electricity to power the car.
Waste managers have been pleased to see total amounts of MSW and per
capita rates of MSW generation decrease in recent years. What factors have
contributed to these happy trends?
Campaigns to encourage reduction in packaging, reuse,
and recycling are having a genuine impact. These include increased education as well as
recycling regulations and economic incentives.
How can a landfill be a source of energy?
Decomposition of organic waste
generates considerable amounts of methane. This can be tapped with gas wells and used as
natural gas.
Describe two strong economic incentives for recycling e-waste.
1) Avoid the
costs associated with environmental and human health impacts of toxic materials associated
with waste. 2) Retrieval of valuable resources such as copper, gold, and platinum.
Why is it unlikely that we will ever be able to eradicate the common cold and
the flu?
These viruses have the capacity to mutate and adapt rapidly, and they are shared
with a variety of alternative hosts.
What factors contributed to the rapid spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone,
Liberia, and Guinea in 2014?
This was the first time that this disease had been introduced
to dense urban populations. Its spread was further facilitated by the poverty and poor
governance associated with recent civil war in each country. Poor sanitation and limited
access to health care made control of the disease especially difficult