Jul 25, 2011

Article Reply (Amy Minsky)

Article: Cuts to gut environment watchdog (July 21, 2011)

Dear Editor,
I am glad somebody is looking more closely at how the government is not only ignoring the environmental causes, they are trying to shut it down. Possibly because it does not lie within their short term goals.
Regarding the decision to reduce the funding to those two environmental agency that evaluates potentially harmful policies and projects before they get the green light. It is worth mentioning that even though the 11 million dollars received by the programs in 2007 seems like a lot of money, in reality the amount of funding is such a small fraction (less than 0.001% of the total federal budget which was 200,000 Million in 2007 alone).
Regarding your mention of the BP oil spill and the Nuclear disaster earlier this year in Japan, I think that the  governments do not realise that spending 11 million per year now will potentially save them billions of dollars which are the cost in case any man-induced disaster (god forbid) strikes Canada.
I think the main problem is the fallacy of Silent Evidence. It is hard to gauge how well the programs are doing unless you shut them down because assuming they are perfectly effective, there will be NO natural disasters. Perhaps the environmental programs have already helped us avoid a few disasters, that is very likely but it is extremely hard to measure. Another situation is that they reduced the danger of disasters to a fraction of what it was before, the reduced probabilty of a natural diaster is very valuable to any economy but nevertheless its impossible to gauge it properly.

One way I can think of to go the silent evidence issue is to find a developed country similar to Canada in many ways except that hypothetical country lacks environmental agencies. Using that method we might be able to approximate using Hedonic Regression how effective the environmental programs are in terms of problems faced by countries that do not have them (for example higher lung cancer rates from pollution, water contamination due to the absence of environmental assessments) and that will be translated into monetary terms (loss of hours due to disease, reductions in quality of life) and if the obtained value is higher (probably will be) than the cost of running the programs then they should be maintained.

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