The research group applies formal economic analysis to the study of Hawaii's key environmental issues, such as pollution control, water allocation and pricing, and control of invasive species
UHERO’s Project Environment applies formal economic analysis to the study of Hawaii’s priority environmental challenges, including energy policy, climate change adaptation, coastal and watershed management, water allocation and pricing, and policy design for the control of invasive species.
Led by Dr. Kimberly Burnett and Dr. Makena Coffman, this research group undertakes research that articulates interactions between Hawaii’s natural environment, use of energy and greenhouse gas emissions, and the state economy. Specific applications in natural resource management include allocating scarce water resources, financing watershed conservation, evaluating the benefits of coastal management programs, estimating the value of environmental resource conservation, designing policies for control of Miconia calvescens and the Brown Treesnake, and constructing methods for measuring sustainable development. Within energy policy, UHERO has a long collaborative relationship with HNEI and has provided economic and regulatory analysis within the State of Hawaii Biofuels Master Plan as well as developed a simulation model of Hawaii’s electric sector and overall economy. The models are used for scenario analysis; for example, in assessing cost-effective greenhouse gas emissions abatement policy mechanisms and ways to achieve Hawaii’s clean energy goals. Project Environment is funded primarily through competitive extramural state and federal grants, and is currently working on projects valued at approximately $500,000.
The ongoing invasion by non-indigenous species - animals, insects, noxious weeds, and diseases - is a major threat to Hawaii's environment and economy. Negative effects include extirpation of native flora and fauna, crop losses for the local agricultural sector, spread of disease, and general discomfort for residents (e.g. noise pollution). Our research in this area includes predicting economic drivers for biological invasions, estimating the cost of rodent control in Hawai‘i , designing management tools for the control of Miconia calvescens and the Brown Treesnake, and evaluating policies to reduce the risk of introducing new strains of Puccinia psidii to Hawai‘i .
In Hawai‘i, anthropogenic decisions such as extracting groundwater or investing in watershed conservation projects can have profound impacts on a variety of natural resources, due to complex ecological interlinkages. Projects on this topic include examining the effects of groundwater management on nearshore marine water quality and biota, developing a systems approach to long-run water management planning, and managing nutrient loads to coastal waters.
ENERGY AND GREENHOUSE GAS SOLUTIONS
In 2007, UHERO launched the Energy and Greenhouse Gas Solutions research program (EGGS). The program serves as a resource for those interested in issues of energy and greenhouse gas emissions reduction in Hawaii and beyond. EGGS takes a transdisciplinary approach to research by bringing together economists, planners, engineers and system modeling experts to address urgent issues of energy and climate change mitigation.
EGGS Core Goals
- Engage in rigorous analysis that contributes to a global community of scholars.
- Develop and maintain data and models on Hawaii’s energy, economy, and resulting greenhouse gas emissions.
- Develop solution-oriented analyses for decision-makers and energy-related stakeholders.
- Design interactive education and outreach programs for a variety of audiences.
- Showcase Hawai‘i-based energy policy solutions that may benefit other jurisdictions, including other States, the U.S., and island areas.
Principles of sustainable development - environmental-economic interlinkages, dynamic efficiency, and intergenerational equity - are applied to a variety of policy-relevant questions related to sustainability. Our current research involves developing a set of indicators for measuring the sustainability of coastal tourism in Hawai‘i and providing an overview of the economic importance of natural resources and ecosystem services in Hawai‘i.
Ecosystems generate flows of goods and services that benefit society. However in many cases, those valuable goods and services are not priced by a market, which begs the question of how to estimate those values, especially given their importance in environmental policy decisions. Our research in this area ranges from the development of methodological guidelines for valuing the environmental benefits generated by the Coastal Zone Management Program in Hawai‘i to estimating the recreational value of surfing.
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
Plantation agriculture was the backbone of Hawaii's economy during the 20th century but has declined significantly over the past 60 years, creating opportunities for transition and diversification. Understanding various sectors of the Hawaii's economy, such as agriculture, can help the State make important decisions about future investments. A recent UHERO project involves the identification of important agricultural land on Kaua'i.