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Uncertainty and ambiguity in environmental economics: conceptual issues

Geoffrey Heal

No 278, GRI Working Papers from Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

Abstract: Uncertainty is ubiquitous in Environmental Economics. This is inevitable: we study the interactions between socioeconomic systems and biogeochemical systems, and in general neither of these is fully understood. Climate change is a good example: the scientific community understands some aspects of the behaviour of the climate system well, but others poorly. We are certainly no better off, and often worse off, when it comes to our understanding of economic systems. And we are particularly weak at the interactions between the two. Biodiversity loss is another important problem for which our lack of knowledge is striking. We are in the midst of a mass extinction comparable to those of prehistory, yet we have little formal understanding of why biodiversity matters to us or how to model the economic consequences of its loss. In this paper, the authors' treatment of uncertainty in environmental applications is motivated by two leading examples: climate change and biodiversity loss. They argue that in these cases uncertainty is sufficiently far-reaching that standard decision-making tools such as expected utility theory may no longer capture important aspects of our uncertainty preferences. Richer models of decision-making, which allow us to express lack of confidence in our information, may be more desirable.

Date: 2017-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cta, nep-env and nep-upt
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (2)

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