Research Seminar: Quantifying the Social Benefits and Costs of Reducing Phosphorus Loading Under Climate Change

In this video, Jesse Gourevitch, recent PhD graduate from the University of Vermont Rubenstein School and current postdoctoral research fellow with the Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at University of California-Davis, presented his PhD research. Excess phosphorus loading to Lake Champlain has led to increasing frequency and severity of harmful algal blooms, negatively impacting economic activity and human health in the surrounding region. While interventions to improve water quality can create large societal benefits, these investments are costly and the value of benefits is often unknown.

Jesse quantified the social benefits and costs of improving water quality in Lake Champlain's Missisquoi Bay under a range of phosphorus reduction and climate change scenarios between 2016 and 2050. He found that under the most aggressive phosphorus reduction scenario, the total benefits of improved water quality are $55 to $60 million between 2016 and 2050. Over this 35-year time horizon, the combined benefits do not outweigh the costs under any scenario. If the time horizon is extended to 2100 or beyond, however, the benefits may exceed the costs if the applied discount rate is less than 3%. Despite uncertainty in these estimates, the study provides a tractable framework for disentangling the complex relationships between water quality and human well-being, and illuminates the value of reductions in phosphorus loading to society.

This seminar is part of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Research Seminar Series; it took place on October 27, 2021.