Ostrom’s lessons for the next era of environmental policy

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Photo by Thomas Richter on Unsplash

Next week President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Biden and his team plan to take bold action to address climate change and other environmental challenges. Those plans include stricter limits on pollution, federal incentives for clean energy, and higher fuel economy standards. He’s also discussed a commitment to preserving 30 percent of America’s land and water by 2030. For reference, about 12 percent of land in the U.S. is currently protected as state and national parks, wilderness areas, permanent conservation easements, and other protected areas.

Another ambitious goal from the Biden campaign is a commitment to 100 percent clean energy and net-zero emissions by 2050. That’s a big promise. The Energy Information Administration provides data on electricity generation by source. In 2019 the U.S. produced over 62 percent of its total electricity from fossil fuels (mostly from natural gas and coal). About 20 percent came from nuclear and 18 percent from renewables, including wind, hydropower, solar, and biomass. Shifting the entire economy to renewable energy and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 will be a huge undertaking. And how we move in that direction matters a great deal. …


Policymakers should stop trying to force them to

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Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash

The battle over how gig economy workers should be classified continues to rage on in California. Last month California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that exempts more workers from the requirements of AB5 — a controversial law that went into effect at the beginning of this year that makes it more difficult for companies to classify workers as independent contractors. And next month, voters will decide whether to approve Proposition 22, which would override AB-5 by categorizing app-based drivers as independent contractors.

AB5 created a 3-part test for determining whether a worker should be classified as an independent contractor or an employee. In effect, it made it much more difficult to legally classify workers as independent contractors and impacted wide swaths of the California economy. After concerns that workers who had traditionally worked with many different clients would not be able to perform their work at all, policymakers acted to exempt a long list of occupations (including youth sports coaching, interpreting services, consulting, photography, videography, appraisers, home inspectors, landscape architects, competition judges, underwriters, auditors, and risk management) from AB5’s requirements. …


Incentives + education for low-water landscaping

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Coauthored by Harrison Naftel

Air conditioning units and sprinklers are still humming across most of the U.S. as the dog days of summer start to wind down. For the driest areas in America, sweltering days with soaring temperatures mean high rates of water use. And the future will likely bring even more demand for water. Western states like Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah continue to see high rates of population growth, and many predict that increasing demand will place pressure on already scarce water supplies.

One of the biggest culprits in terms of water use is the beloved American yard. Our lawns in the U.S. take up millions of acres of land, and keeping this vast area green makes up 30 to 60 percent of freshwater use in urban areas. In especially dry cities across the Southwest like Las Vegas, landscape irrigation makes up 60–90 percent of a household’s total water use. As development continues to expand across the West, more new homes are being built in some of America’s driest places. This expansion in housing also means an expansion of lawns that will all need to be watered to stay green all summer long. …


What can we learn from the first stimulus checks?

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Ellie Willard coauthored this article

August recess is set to begin this week for the House and next week for the Senate, and lawmakers are still negotiating on an aid package meant to help businesses, states, and individuals cope with the economic effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While they may disagree about the specifics of unemployment benefits and aid to states, policymakers seem to have reached agreement on an additional round of direct payments to Americans.

The CARES Act provided the first round of direct payments to 150 million Americans, with the goal of providing “emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.” Unlike previous federal aid meant to combat financial crises, the CARES Act was not designed to kickstart the economy. Instead, financial assistance was meant to keep the United States in a “medically induced coma.” The idea was to help individuals and families cover their basic expenses while much of the economy was shut down to help slow the spread of COVID-19. …


And it may be a long-term trend

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Co-authored with Olivia Hansen

More people have been working from home over the past few months than ever before in modern history. In the wake of COVID-19, government restrictions and company policies alike have been put in place to encourage social distancing by requiring workers to clock in from their home office or spare bedroom. Of course, not everyone can work remotely (not to mention the many Americans who are currently out of work). But for the percentage that can work remotely, the large-scale shift towards remote work seems to have staying power. …


Screens are winning, and that’s not a bad thing

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Photo by Tina Witherspoon on Unsplash

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the country are working from home at unprecedented levels. Although remote work has been on the rise for some time now, up until the pandemic, the trend was relatively slow. Gallup found that from 2012 to 2016, the percentage of workers who did at least part of their work from home increased from 39 to 43 percent. But even in 2017, the U.S. Census found that only 5.2 percent of Americans worked entirely from home.

COVID-19 changed all of that as states enacted stay-at-home orders, and companies moved to telework to help slow the spread of the virus. A new report by Upwork’s Chief Economist Adam Ozimek finds that nearly 50 percent of America’s overall workforce is now working remotely and that 62 percent of hiring managers plan to keep more of their workforce remote going forward. …


What kind of aid works best?

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On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new estimates for the number of Americans who are now jobless. The news isn’t good. Unemployment in America has now reached rates not seen since the Great Depression, with 14.5 percent of workers unemployed. These high levels of unemployment have largely been driven by the response to COVID-19. States across the country have ordered non-essential businesses to close in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. And although some states have begun to reopen, the reopening of America is going to be gradual.


Will direct payments help keep Americans afloat?

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Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash

Since the World Health Organization first declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic on March 11, the virus has spread quickly through the U.S. According to the CDC, there have now been over one million confirmed cases in the United States and over 60,000 deaths, with both numbers increasing every day. To slow the spread of the virus, virtually every institution has responded in unprecedented ways. Schools and universities have moved to online learning. Corporations have asked employees to work from home. And federal, state, and local governments have developed guidelines and mandates that have shuttered businesses across the country.

As businesses shut down and customers stay home, the economy has taken a nosedive. More directly than 30 million Americans applied for unemployment from mid-March to the end of April. In response to record-setting unemployment claims, federal and state governments have crafted rapid policy responses to help workers who find themselves out of a job. …


COVID-19 and the American worker

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Photo by Djurdjica Boskovic on Unsplash

Coauthored by CGO student research fellow Ellie McDonald.

Today marks my 24th day of working from home due to COVID-19. Whether they like it or not, more and more employees like me are being pushed into remote work due to the public health crisis currently sweeping the globe. In early February, Time Magazine dubbed the current shift “the World’s Largest Work-From-Home Experiment.” The article focused on how businesses across Asia were doing their best to adapt to life with COVID-19. …


UBI would let people decide for themselves

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Photo by Marisa Howenstine on Unsplash

Last week Senator Bernie Sanders announced his plan to roll out a federally-funded universal program for childcare and early education if he is elected president. Sanders stated, “Childcare must be guaranteed for every child regardless of their parents’ income, just like K-12 education.” The plan would come with a price tag of $1.5 trillion that would be raised through tax hikes on wealthy Americans. Other candidates like Senator Elizabeth Warren have made similar proposals to create federal programs for daycare and early childhood education.

Childcare is expensive and can create a real financial strain for many families. According to Care.com’s annual cost of care survey, more than 70 percent of families report spending over 10 percent of their income on childcare. Many respondents (especially moms) reported making career changes, like scaling back their hours or leaving the workforce altogether to save on childcare expenses. …

About

Megan Jenkins

Research director @cgousu.

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