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Borders and the Environment

 

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Abstract

Despite regular acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of global ecosystems, government policies at the national level focus on environmental problems within their borders. As a result, the level of public and private resources expended on environmental protection in rich and poor countries is dramatically different on both a per capita and an absolute basis. While this outcome is readily explained by the politics of environmental issues, in which voters reward governments for domestic expenditures but are skeptical of expenditures outside the jurisdiction, these differences mean that the total amount of environmental quality purchased across nations is lower than it could be. It means that some nations are purchasing small, expensive increments in environmental quality while large, low-cost increments in other jurisdictions are not purchased. By applying the principles of marginal analysis from economics, this Article demonstrates that this produces less total environmental quality and treats residents of rich and poor countries differently in a morally unacceptable way. The authors propose that governments provide more transparent cost and benefit information to allow public discussion of such differential treatment and to encourage environmental gains wherever most efficiently achievable. 

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