Syllabus

Intro to Environmental Economics and Policy
Econ 2277.01
Tuesday / Thursday 10:30 Gasson Hall 204

Instructor: Richard Sweeney
Email: sweeneri@bc.edu

Office: Maloney Hall 334
Office hours: Friday 4 pm - 5 pm (on Zoom)

Graduate Assistant: Kevin Choi Email: kevin.choi.2@bc.edu

All assignments will be posted on Canvas. Lectures, slides and readings will be posted on the course website (the link is also posted on Canvas).


Overview

This course provides an introduction to the economics of environmental policy. We begin by developing a framework to determine the socially optimal level of environmental quality. We then review why free markets are unlikely to provide this level, and discuss public policy options to correct these market failures. Throughout the course, these concepts are applied to real world environmental problems such as local air pollution, water policy, conservation and natural resource management. We will spend a considerable amount of time discussing global climate change.

Prerequisites

Principles of Economics (ECON1101) is a prerequisite for this course. I will assume that you remember all important concepts from ECON1101, including supply and demand, consumer and producer surplus, opportunity cost, analysis of firms in competitive markets, etc. Math skills including summation, algebra and graphing will also be necessary. If you are feeling rusty on any of these concepts, please take the time to review them during the first week of classes.

Textbook

This course is part of BC’s Affordable Course Material Initiative. So instead of using an expensive textbook, we will be relying primarily on lecture notes, academic articles, and open access materials.

That said, there is still one (inexpensive) required textbook that will help reinforce the concepts introduced in lecture:

Markets and the Environment (2nd edition), by Nathaniel Keohane and Sheila Olmstead. (Denoted “KO” in the pre-class readings) Ebook is available through BC here

For students seeking additional reference, the following optional textbooks may be helpful:

The Economics of the Environment (1st Edition), by Peter Berck and Gloria Helfand
- On reserve. This text was used in previous courses.

Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (10th Edition), by Tietenberg and Lewis
- One of the most popular undergraduate texts.

Environmental Economics (2nd Edition), by Charles Kolstad
- A more mathematical treatment of the topics covered in this course.

Economics of the Environment: Selected Readings (7th Edition), by Robert Stavins
- Contains many of the assigned readings for the class, as well as many other good articles for people interested in learning more about a particular topic.

Endangered Economies, by Geoffrey Heal (2016), Ebook is available through BC JSTOR here

Required Readings

Readings for each class are linked to in the course calendar. All readings listed are required unless otherwise stated. Exams will include at least one question from the readings.

Most of the readings for the course, along with additional material, can also be accessed via Paperpile. Where material is gated it will be provided directly in Canvas.


Grading

Problem sets – 15 percent

  • There will be 7 problem sets. I will drop your lowest score.
  • All problem sets must be submitted through Canvas. Late problem sets will not be accepted.
  • You are allowed to work in groups, but each person must hand in their own problem set.
  • The problem sets will focus mainly on analytical problems. The exam problems will be similar, and this is your best way to learn these tools.
  • Answers will be made available after the problem sets are due. It is up to you to make sure you understand the solutions, and to come to my office hours if they are unclear.

Reading and participation – 15 percent

  • Students are expected to complete required readings prior to class. The readings and videos for each class are linked in the course calendar.
  • To facilitate discussion and gauge where students might benefit from additional exposition, most classes will have a pre-class response questions due before class. These are posted as assignments on Canvas. Late responses will receive half credit.
  • Participation: While the course will be primarily lecture based, some classes will involve discussion of the readings. Being prepared and engaged on those days will factor in to your final grade.
  • Attendance: In previous years this class had a strict attendance policy. I do not want to impose that this year due to Covid. I expect some students to have to quarantine at some point, and want everyone to stay home if they feel sick. However repeated unexcused absences will reduce your participation grade.

Midterm exams – 35 percent

  • 2 exams: October 4 and November 3
  • 17.5 percent each
  • Makeup exams will not be allowed. If you miss a midterm exam I will increase the weight of the final exam to 52.5 percent.

Final exam – 35 percent

Grade distribution:
My expectation is that the distribution of grades in this class will be similar to other economics electives - i.e. the top 33% of students receive an A or A- and the average for the class will be a B/B+. If necessary, I will curve grades upward at the end of the semester to achieve this distribution. However, if the class does better than expected I will not curve grades downward.


Important policies

Regrade policy: Answer keys for both exams will be provided. Students should go over them carefully. Anyone who feels he or she is entitled to more points than was awarded should type up a clear description of where they were incorrectly penalized and submit this to me, along with their exam, within two weeks of the exams being handed back. At that point, I will regrade the entire exam, and issue an updated exam grade (which could be higher or lower).

Seating policy: To facilitate attendance taking and classroom discussion, students will be required to sit in the same seats every class. Seats will be set on the third class.

Email: I am typically off email by 9 pm. I will try to be more available right before exams, but please plan your questions accordingly.

Academic integrity: Students are advised to carefully review and abide by the university’s policies on academic integrity. Any instances of cheating or plagiarism will be reported to the Dean’s office without exception.