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Three Essays in Environmental Economics


My dissertation is comprised of three separate essays in the field of environmental economics. The first chapter experimentally models the climate change social dilemma and evaluates how heterogeneous environmental impacts and unequal endowments affect the propensity to avoid catastrophic climate change. Introducing a punishment mechanism to alleviate the collective bargaining problem, I identify the external factors and intrinsic preferences that impede cooperation. Inequality and delayed contributions negatively affect successful provision, while higher levels of collective-risk increase the probability of threshold attainment. A consensual punishment mechanism incentivizes cooperation in low-risk and heterogeneous groups, overcoming the collective action problem.

The second chapter investigates the efficacy of military and legal efforts to thwart environmental domestic terrorism. While passive legislative interventions increase the cost of illegal action and proactive policies thwart terrorism with preemptive strikes, the efficacy of counterterrorism efforts has been questioned. Using quarterly data from 1980 to 2014, I analyze the effect of counterterrorism policy on radical environmental direct action (REDA) modes of attack and the severity of illegal actions. Combining vector autoregression and intervention analysis under a rational choice framework, I find that while legislative policies have decreased the economic severity of attacks, incidents have more than doubled. Proactive interventions reduce domestic terrorism, but by a smaller magnitude than the increase from passive legislation. Substituting between modes of attack and ideological targets, policies have tripled the use of explosives while REDA attacks against people have increased more than sixfold in the long run.

In the final chapter, I explore the role of payments for ecosystem services (PES) and their impact on conservation efforts to avoid deforestation in developing nations. Targeting counterfactual-based studies to identify additionality gains and minimize leakage impacts, I perform a meta-analysis to evaluate how PES program design and market factors impact avoided deforestation. Program design variables include contract length, payment differentiation, and participation targeting. Environmental variables proxy for opportunity costs by controlling for alternative land use prices and socioeconomic conditions. As each dimension has a varying impact on avoided deforestation, these results aim to influence future market-based interventions.

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