Maria Damon

Maria Damon
Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies

Maria Damon holds her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at San Diego.  Her research focuses on environmental policy design, and how understanding decision-making can lead to more effective policies.  In contexts ranging from climate change to marine pollution control to fisheries management, Damon's work analyzes human and firm behavior and uses these insights to inform the design of environmental policy instruments.  Her research also investigates ways that household behavior is affected by the impacts of climate change, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and what these impacts imply for the design of economic safety net policies.  Damon also has conducted research on the relationships between health and the environment in developing countries.  In addition to her Ph.D. in Economics, Damon completed an NSF-sponsored Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) joint doctoral program on marine biodiversity and conservation with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  She is a research associate with the Environment for Development Initiative, a capacity-building program in environmental economics focused on research, policy advice, and teaching in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, and China.  Damon also served a one-year appointment as the Staff Economist for Environmental Policy at the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and has worked as a research analyst at The World Bank.

Semester Course
Spring 2012 PADM-GP.2252.001 Environmental Policy, Sustainable Development and the Economics of Climate Change (Cape Town, South Africa)

Poverty, natural resource management, and environmental degradation are inextricably linked, and this course explores ways that economic analysis can help identify underlying problems and formulate effective policy responses. We focus on the challenges that global climate change present to the developing world, and how policies can be designed to help mitigate these challenges. Major topics include: the relationship between economic growth and the environment; social/environmental institutions and common property resource management; behavioral and experimental approaches to climate research; choosing appropriate policy instruments for environmental protection; relationships between human health and the environment and how understanding these relationships can help inform policy design. Particular emphasis will be placed on the intersection of these issues in sub-Saharan Africa, with exposure to field research in communities near Cape Town, South Africa.


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Summer 2010 PADM-GP.2472.001 Environmental Economics

This course develops economics tools for environmental policy analysis and management. Economics can offer unique perspectives on incentives to deplete and/or protect environmental resources, and can provide insights on valuing environmental resources and incorporating these values into policy design.

We explore ways that economics can be used to define, analyze, and resolve environmental problems, emphasizing the optimal role for public policy. The economic perspective is placed within a broader management perspective and ways in which these can be integrated are discussed. Broad concepts considered include: valuing social benefits provided by the environment; evaluating the social costs and benefits of alternate environmental policies; determining the optimal level of pollution control and choosing policies to achieve it; and managing natural resources, both renewable (e.g. forests, fisheries, and water) and nonrenewable resources (e.g. oil and minerals).


Download Syllabus
Spring 2010 PADM-GP.2472.001 Environmental Economics

This course develops economics tools for environmental policy analysis and management. Economics can offer unique perspectives on incentives to deplete and/or protect environmental resources, and can provide insights on valuing environmental resources and incorporating these values into policy design.

We explore ways that economics can be used to define, analyze, and resolve environmental problems, emphasizing the optimal role for public policy. The economic perspective is placed within a broader management perspective and ways in which these can be integrated are discussed. Broad concepts considered include: valuing social benefits provided by the environment; evaluating the social costs and benefits of alternate environmental policies; determining the optimal level of pollution control and choosing policies to achieve it; and managing natural resources, both renewable (e.g. forests, fisheries, and water) and nonrenewable resources (e.g. oil and minerals).


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Date Publication/Paper
2013

Maria Damon, Kristina Mohlin, and Thomas Sterner 2013. Putting a Price on the Welfare of Our Children and Grandchildren In "The Globalization of Cost-Benefit Analysis in Environmental Policy", edited by Michael A. Livermore, and Richard L. Revesz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
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Abstract

Discount rates have a profound effect on estimates for costs and benefits that accrue over time or in the future. Given that minute differences in discount rates can result in enormous differences in future values, discounting implicates moral as well as technical issues. This chapter reviews some of the main issues that discounting presents and discusses some important recent debates over time-varying discount rates and the importance of relative prices when examining effects of public policy in the far future. The authors also collect and discuss the discount rates currently used by decision makers around the world, and explain how differences in level of development should and should not affect the discount rates used by analysts.

2012

Maria Damon and Joshua Graff Zivin 2012. Environmental Policies and Political Realities: Fisheries Management and Job Creation in Pacific Island Countries and Territories Journal of Environment and Development
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Abstract

Effective environmental policymaking requires an understanding of how environmental goals interact with other political goals. This article analyzes development strategies in the PICT’s, where policymakers aim to leverage tuna resources into sustainable economic development and job creation. The authors develop a model that analyzes costs and benefits of different development strategies, with a focus on job creation and local socioeconomic factors that drive optimal policy mixes across PICTs. The analysis demonstrates that investment in fisheries management can effectively encourage economic development and create employment opportunities, and compare this strategy to others such as selling access permits and investing in processing capacity. While many benefits of fisheries management are widely recognized, its ability to create high-quality employment opportunities is often overlooked. For many PICTs, this may represent the lowest cost strategy for jobs creation and, coupled with selling fishery access to foreign vessels, can form a strong basis for economic development plans.

Maria Damon and Thomas Sterner 2012. Policy Instruments for Sustainable Development at Rio +20 Journal of Environment and Development, June 2012
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Abstract

Twenty years ago, governments gathered for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The “Rio Declaration” laid out several principles of sustainable development, including the central role of policy instruments. In this article, we take stock of where we stand today in implementing sound and effective environmental policy instruments throughout the world, particularly in developing and transitional economies. We argue that, as our experience with market-based environmental policies has deepened over the past two decades, so has the ability to adapt instruments to complicated and heterogeneous contexts—but we are only just beginning, and the need to be further along is dire. One key factor may be that economists have not yet meaningfully accounted for the importance of political feasibility, which often hinges on risks to competitiveness and employment, or on the distribution of costs rather than on considerations of pure efficiency alone.

Maria Damon, Gunnar Köhlin, Thomas Sterner, and Martine Visser 2012. Capacity Building to Deal With Climate Challenges Today and in the Future Journal of Environment and Development, March 2012
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Abstract

Climate change represents a serious threat to the economic growth potential in low income countries. Instead of investing in growth, they may be drawn into strife and conflict. Climate change and the global politics to deal with it, could however also present a number of interesting opportunities for developing countries. Such opportunities may arise in sustainable forestry, new forms of solar, wind or bioenergy and related industries, agriculture or in the programs for abatement and mitigation that are likely to be created. It is an important priority for low-income countries to develop local knowledge and understanding concerning climate change in order to better prepare for both the costs and challenges posed by climate change, as well as to defend their national interests and participate in international negotiations. Creating academic capacity is however a long and painstaking process. We discuss a number of existing initiatives but conclude that more is needed, particularly at the higher level of PhD studies.

2011

Maria Damon and Thomas Sterner 2011. Green Growth in the Post-Copenhagen Climate Energy Policy 39(11)
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Abstract

Global climate change stands out from most environmental problems because it will span generations and force us to think in new ways about intergenerational fairness. It involves the delicate problem of complex coordination between countries on a truly global scale. As long as fossil fuels are too cheap, climate change policy will engage all major economies. The costs are high enough to make efficiency a priority, which means striving toward a single market for carbon—plus tackling the thorny issues of fairness.

Hopes for a grand deal were mercilessly shattered at Copenhagen in December 2009 and in other recent UNFCCC meetings, with the result that “green growth” is promoted as an alternative path. Indeed, green growth is clearly the goal, but it is no magic bullet. The world economy will require clear and rather tough policy instruments for growth to be green—and it is naïve to think otherwise. Growth, green or not, will boost demand for energy and coal is normally the cheapest source. The magnitude of the challenge is greater if we also consider the problems related to nuclear (fission) energy and, in some instances, to bioenergy (such as its competition for land that may be essential for the poor). This paper discusses some necessary ingredients for a long-term global climate strategy. As we wait for the final (and maybe elusive) worldwide treaty, we must find a policy that makes sense and is not only compatible with, but facilitates the development of such a treaty.

2010

Maria Damon, Phillip S. Levin, and Jameal F. Samhouri 2010. Developing Meaningful Marine Ecosystem Indicators in the Face of a Changing Climate Stanford Journal of Law, Science, and Policy, March 2010
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Abstract

Evidence that the earth’s climate is changing is overwhelming, and because climate affects temperature, patterns of circulation and chemistry of the ocean, marine ecosystems are changing as well. Effectively reducing climate-related threats requires management responses that move beyond disjointed efforts and that integrate diverse management actions with the goal of increasing adaptive capacity. The development of robust indicators—quantitative measurements that provide insight into the state of natural and socio-economic systems—is a necessary step toward these goals because indicators provide information that allows management strategies to be evaluated and refined. In this paper, we outline an approach to indicator selection that melds social and natural science. Our approach acknowledges that the value of specific indicators to policy makers and resource managers can diverge from the scientific value of these indicators. In addition, it is grounded in rigorous scientific analyses that meet widely accepted guidelines for ecosystem indicators. Our approach also recognizes that a suite of indicators is needed, and we argue that the optimal portfolio of indicators is one that ensures appropriate scientific information is captured while also maximizing the value of the indicators for policy makers. We contend that integrating natural and social science is crucial as we begin to recognize the potential consequences of climate change on marine ecosystems and seek ways to adapt existing management strategies to alternative futures.

2009

Maria Damon, Richard T. Carson, Leigh T. Johnson, and Jamie A. Miller 2009. Conceptual Issues in Designing a Policy to Phase Out Metal-Based Antifouling Paints on Recreational Boats Journal of Environmental Management 90(8), June 2009
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Abstract

In marine areas throughout the world where recreational boats are densely located, concentrations of copper in the water are being found to be in excess of government standards, due to the hull coatings used on these boats. Copper-based hull coatings are intended to be antifouling in that they retard the growth of algae, barnacles and tubeworms; but alternatives exist that can eliminate the harm that copper contamination does to marine organisms. A variety of policy options are available to mandate or provide economic incentives to switch to these less harmful alternatives. This paper puts forth a conceptual framework for thinking about how to design and evaluate alternative policies to transition to nontoxic boat hulls, drawing from the authors' experience designing a policy for use in San Diego Bay. Many of the issues raised are broadly applicable to environmental problems where the solution involves a large-scale replacement of durable consumer goods.

In the Press

01/16/2012
UCT and NY students talk sustainability
University of Cape Town