Advanced Topics in Environmental Economics
Instructor: Tietenberg, Tom
Subject area: Economics
Course number: ECON493B
Year taught: 1996
Instructor's email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Instructor's Page: http://www.colby.edu/personal/thtieten/
Course Page: http://www.colby.edu/economics/tietenberg.html
Please note that the copyright for this syllabus is retained by the
This is a senior undergraduate seminar for economics majors. It is limited to 16
students. Most of the students also have a minor in environmental studies. This
course meets once each week for 2 and 1/2 hours with a 15 minute break half way
through the period.
This course is designed as a seminar in which all participants are expected to
contribute to group learning, not merely to absorb material passively. Two
topics (sustainable development and global warming) which lie on the frontier of
environmental economics provide the focus for our inquiry. Both demonstrate the
large contributions that economic analysis can make in understanding the nature
of the problems and in providing guidance on solutions, but they also raise
fundamental questions about the appropriate domain for economic analysis. You
will be exposed to both the emerging insights and the controversies and given
ample opportunities to develop your own perspective.
Each topic will be examined using both discussion and presentation formats. The
early sessions for each topic will follow a discussion format. Having read the
background readings, each participant will be expected to contribute to a
discussion that extracts the major insights in the readings and assess their
validity and import. My role will be to ask leading questions and to probe the
responses. The concluding sessions will involve student oral presentations.
The grades in this course will be based upon: (1) class participation (quality
and consistency of contributions-zeros are assigned for each missed class) ),
20%, (2) papers (content, analytical depth, organization and style), 50% (25%
for sustainable development reports and 25% for global warming report), (3) oral
presentations (organization, content and delivery), 30% (15% each).
Each student will be expected to have set up an email address and to check it
regularly. I will use email to communicate with participants in the intervals
Research Project and Oral Presentation Assignments:
The Internet Project: The first assignment involves creating material
(two case studies) to be put on a new sustainable development home page created
here at Colby for the World Wide Web. Using a prescribed format (I will supply a
template) each student will write two reports on the application of the
principles of sustainable development and conventional economic analysis to one
particular environmental problem (air pollution, fisheries, agriculture, energy,
deforestation, etc.) in two particular geographical and cultural settings.
Having selected two specific case studies (see the bibliography on the General
Server for some evidence on what's out there), the author will review (and write
a short report on) each of these studies. Each report will attempt to condense
down to no more than two pages the major conclusions to be taken away from that
case study. (These are to take the form of Boxed Inserts in a typical Text). The
objective is to make available to a world wide audience, brief but revealing
summaries of the application of economic principles to sustainable development.
(If we pique their interest, they can get the details from the original
article.) Both a hard copy and a computer disk containing the reports should be
handed in. Your disks will be returned. Alternatively the reports can be
forwarded to me as attachments to an email message (using the "Attach
Document" feature of Eudora.) A topic proposal which lists the two case
studies and why you chose them is due in the third week of class.
Proposed Topics Due: Monday, February 18.
Reports Due Date: Wednesday, March 20
Some World Wide Web Sites of Interest
For general information on Environmental and Resource Economics, including
available graduate programs see: http://www.uky.edu/BusinessEconomics/aere.html
International Institute for Sustainable Development: http://iisd1.iisd.ca
Environment, Ecology and Sustainable Development: http://www.clark.net/pub/global/eco.html
United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development: http://www.iisd.ca/linkages/topics/05topice.html
Earthpledge Links: http://earthpledge.org/epf/epflinks.html
Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development: http://csf.colorado.edu/ecolecon/related.html
United Nations Development Program: http://sunsite.unc.edu/ucis/Sustainable.html
United Nations Environment Program: http://www.unep.ch/welcome.html
Sustainable Forests Directory: http://www.together.net~wow/index1.htm
And finally when only humor will do, check out economist jokes at: http://www.etla.fi/pkm/joke.html
Let me know if you find some good sites not on this list.
First Oral Presentation: The first oral presentation (12 minutes) will
involve a summary of the two case studies, the conclusions from each, and any
more general conclusions that can be drawn by comparing the two case studies.
Unlike the two reports, which are designed to be separate studies, this
presentation is designed to integrate them. After a brief summary of the cases,
the presentation should assess the success of these applications. What were the
strengths and weaknesses of the chosen approach? What problems in implementing
these principles were encountered? What more general lessons might we draw from
this experience? This oral report requires original, critical analysis; it is
not a simple description of what the authors said.
Second Project: The second project will involve choosing a topic in the
area of global warming and conducting research on an economic aspect of that
topic. Possible topic areas include: intertemporal optimization, discounting,
assessing the damages, the costs of control, international aspects of finding
cooperative solutions, the choice of policy instruments for achieving some
resolution of the global warming problem, strategies for Research and
Development as implied by the value of information under uncertainty literature,
renewable energy sources, the quest for greater energy efficiency, etc.
Naturally the research topic would have to be much more narrowly focused than
these broad areas. Each student will pick a specific focus within one of the
broad topic areas and summarize what we know about the relevant economic issues
in that area. Each seminar participant will write a 12+ page paper and give an
oral presentation of 15 minutes each on their selected topic. First paper
proposals due at the beginning of class during Session #10. One-page proposals
must contain the focus for the report, and some general background on the study.