Three essays in environmental economics and environmental human rights

Date of Completion

January 2012


Economics, Environmental|Economics, General|Economics, Agricultural|Political Science, General|Sociology, Environmental Justice




Recognizing that economics and human rights each have their own methodologies, merits, and flaws, and further realizing that it would take countless dissertations and lifetimes to link the totality of both disciplines, my dissertation offers a bridge between two related subfields of each: environmental and resource economics and environmental human rights (EHR). To bridge the gap, I rely on the following unifying theme: the political economy and management of the natural environment, with a specific focus on government efforts to mitigate environmental damage or harm. I consider both statutory and constitutional government efforts and rely on a broad definition of environmental harm inclusive of traditional aspects (e.g., air and water pollution) and non-traditional aspects (e.g., EHR violations). In my first essay, I calibrate a limited information discrete choice model on original national survey data to demonstrate the effects of preference-directed regulation (PDR) on individual preferences for policies to reduce the number of products manufactured in environmentally harmful ways. Counterfactual simulations augment the probability an individual is informed about the behavioral effects of each environmental policy, thereby illustrating the implications of PDR for support of national environmental policies. In my second essay, I compile data from 198 national constitutions to: (1) characterize constitutional EHR; and (2) create a simple linear index of the legal strength of each provision based on the theory and language used to define and describe EHR. Surprisingly, I find that 125 national constitutions include EHR provisions and, based on the numerical index created from 7 keyword categories, each provision is of varying legal strength. In my third essay, the human right to water is embedded in a nonrenewable resource model with a backstop technology and interpreted as a minimum consumption requirement the government is obligated to fulfill in the event that an individual cannot do so independently. This obligation manifests itself through a fiscal policy the government imposes on two types of individuals - poor and rich. A novel human rights welfare standard is developed and compared against traditional social welfare measures to demonstrate cases where the standard is fulfilled, surpassed, or violated. ^