Laura Villegas Ortiz

Global Change Fellow Alumna | Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics | North Carolina State University

2015 – 2016 Global Change Fellow

Where are they now?

In my current position with the New Climate Economy, I conduct empirical research and help build evidence to back the economic case for climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, particularly in developing countries. In the future, I would like to “deep dive” into the role of oceans as a major determinant of dynamics in our Earth System and the economy. Along those lines, I’d be interested in studying the role of legislative uncertainty and compliance to international agreements as barriers to enter markets for ecosystem services (e.g., carbon pricing, markets for wetland mitigation credits, and others). Also, I would like to study environmental externalities from the environmental justice angle and answer questions regarding spatial distribution of environmental threats imposed by future climate disaster risks.

Statement of Purpose:

I am a Colombian third year PhD student of Agricultural and Resource Economics at NC State University. Social development and the sustainable administration of natural resources are among my top academic and personal interests and I hope to make them the center of my research and career. In particular, I would like to explore the synergy between agricultural systems and their ecological context in order to formulate feasible and effective policy instruments that promote their continual maintenance and flourishing.

Description of Research:

Ecosystems provide society with a wide range of services—from reliable flows of clean water to productive soil, carbon sequestration and maintenance of genetic diversity. Individuals, companies, and communities rely on these services for raw inputs, production processes, food security and climate resilience, among other benefits.

My research combines the theoretical analysis of certain aspects of human behavior as proposed by the economics discipline with computational tools such as mathematical models and sophisticated statistical techniques to appropriately identify and quantify the economic value to society from environmental goods and services.

A relevant application of this framework is the undergoing reconsideration of current laws dictating the location and management of wild-life reservoirs in the coasts of North and South Carolina. Using lessons from the theory and valuation methodologies used in environmental economics to understand the mechanisms of generation and transmission of value in society can help guiding policy decisions regarding the identification of tradeoffs, funding allocation and how to incentivize human behavior in the context of managing natural resources and in the face of climate change.

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