Skip to content
Grist home
All donations DOUBLED

Articles by Jason D Scorse

Jason Scorse, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and Chair of the International Environmental Policy Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. His book What Environmentalists Need to Know About Economics is available at Amazon.

All Articles

  • In either an Obama or McCain adminstration, climate legislation will be back-burnered

    Just months ago there was a palpable sense of optimism that no matter who is elected president this November that the U.S. would soon embark on serious climate change legislation. I think recent events have shown that the chances of that happening are slim to none. Let’s start with if McCain is elected. Today the […]

  • The worst job in America

    Many posts on Grist detail the negative environmental impacts of factory farming and the meat and dairy industries overall. Bottom line: There is probably no personal act more effective at benefiting the environment than reducing meat consumption. But a true environmentalist must also take a hard look at the social dimensions of sustainability; again, the […]

  • New data point shows that OPEC’s production hit highest level ever last month

    I’ve written about energy issues a few times and been wrong as often as I’ve been right. One of the reasons predictions about energy prove so difficult is that data on oil production are so poor. But we do have a new data point out today that shows that OPEC’s production hit its highest level […]

  • Uncertainty, the precautionary principle, and GMOs

    Even if we had perfect information on the environmental impacts of industrial chemicals and processes, determining the appropriate levels of regulation would be extremely difficult. In our modern economy, all of us are willing to accept some level of risk, some health and environmental impacts, in order to elevate our material standard of living. In essence, there is no "zero impact" equilibrium, unless we envisage some type of pre-industrial age (and even then it is debatable).

    Determining the appropriate level of regulation is made exponentially more difficult in a world of tremendous uncertainty about the impacts of even the most ubiquitous industrial chemicals. Our current state of knowledge with respect to most chemicals is extremely low; even what we do know is taken mainly from questionable animal research and we know virtually nothing about the synergistic effects of hundreds of chemicals swimming around our bloodstreams and our ecosystems over decades.

    Faced with this great uncertainty, different types of regulatory schemes have developed. The U.S. model puts more of the onus on those who think a chemical or process poses a risk to prove that it does, while in the E.U. the onus is more on the producers to prove that compounds of processes are safe; the E.U. model is based more on the "precautionary principle."

    As Mark Schapiro's excellent work has demonstrated, the E.U. model seems to be paying dividends not only with respect to health and environmental safety, but also economically; as the E.U.'s market share grows, companies around the world are ratcheting up their environmental standards in order to meet stricter E.U. guidelines. In turn, the E.U. now is much more influential in setting world standards than the U.S., which used to be the leader. This is a great development that environmentalists and economists should take not of: high environmental standards can be compatible with increased trade, productivity, and market share.