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Sustainable Decisionmaking: The State of the Art from an Economics Perspective

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  • Toman, Michael

Abstract

Government, corporate and other decision makers are more and more often being urged to 'act sustainably' and to pursue policy paths toward 'sustainable development.' However, application of these concepts is hampered by serious interdisciplinary disagreements about the interactions of humans with their environment. Moreover, reducing disagreements about sustainability cannot be achieved solely through an improvement in scientific knowledge. These observations lead me to express skepticism about the capacity of any more or less mechanistic rule, economic, scientific or otherwise, to provide definitive and reliable answers about sustainable policies or conduct. However, there are processes and procedures that can help guide decisionmaking. I underscore the need for a methodologically pluralistic approach to addressing sustainability issues, while also underscoring the importance of addressing economic costs and benefits as one critical element of sustainability assessment. Practitioners of cost-benefit analysis are increasingly recognizing the need for embedding their findings in a broader set of information. A pluralistic approach, without mechanistic decision rules, only increases the need to have greater quantity and maturity of political discussion and education about sustainability than seems often to prevail.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-98-39.

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Date of creation: 01 Jun 1998
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-98-39

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  1. Bryan G. Norton & Michael A. Toman, 1997. "Sustainability: Ecological and Economic Perspectives," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 73(4), pages 553-568.
  2. Stern, David I., 1997. "Limits to substitution and irreversibility in production and consumption: A neoclassical interpretation of ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 197-215, June.
  3. Pearce, David W. & Atkinson, Giles D., 1993. "Capital theory and the measurement of sustainable development: an indicator of "weak" sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 103-108, October.
  4. Common, Mick & Perrings, Charles, 1992. "Towards an ecological economics of sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 7-34, July.
  5. Kneese, Allen V. & Schulze, William D., 1985. "Ethics and environmental economics," Handbook of Natural Resource and Energy Economics, in: A. V. Kneese† & J. L. Sweeney (ed.), Handbook of Natural Resource and Energy Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 5, pages 191-220 Elsevier.
  6. Arrow, Kenneth & Bolin, Bert & Costanza, Robert & Dasgupta, Partha & Folke, Carl & Holling, C. S. & Jansson, Bengt-Owe & Levin, Simon & Maler, Karl-Goran & Perrings, Charles & Pimentel, David, 1995. "Economic growth, carrying capacity, and the environment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 91-95, November.
  7. Lutter, Randall & Morrall, John F, III, 1994. "Health-Health Analysis: A New Way to Evaluate Health and Safety Regulation," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 43-66, January.
  8. Horowitz, John K., 1996. "Environmental policy under a non-market discount rate," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 73-78, January.
  9. Munda, Giuseppe, 1996. "Cost-benefit analysis in integrated environmental assessment: some methodological issues," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 157-168, November.
  10. Spash, Clive L. & Hanley, Nick, 1995. "Preferences, information and biodiversity preservation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 191-208, March.
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  13. Woodward, Richard T. & Bishop, Richard C., 1995. "Efficiency, sustainability and global warming," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 101-111, August.
  14. Daly, Herman E., 1990. "Toward some operational principles of sustainable development," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 1-6, April.
  15. Colin F. Camerer & Howard Kunreuther, 1989. "Decision processes for low probability events: Policy implications," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(4), pages 565-592.
  16. Costanza, Robert, 1995. "Economic growth, carrying capacity, and the environment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 89-90, November.
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  18. Bryan Norton, 1992. "Sustainability, human welfare and ecosystem health," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 1(2), pages 97-111, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Basil M. H. Sharp, 2001. "Sustainable Development: Environment and Economic Framework Integration," Treasury Working Paper Series 01/27, New Zealand Treasury.
  2. Moran, Dominic & McVittie, Alistair & Allcroft, David J. & Elston, David A., 2007. "Quantifying public preferences for agri-environmental policy in Scotland: A comparison of methods," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 42-53, June.
  3. Salvador del Saz, 2008. "Medio ambiente y desarrollo: una revisión conceptual," CIRIEC-España, revista de economía pública, social y cooperativa, CIRIEC-España, issue 61, pages 31-49, August.
  4. Michael Toman, 1998. "Research Frontiers in the Economics of Climate Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 11(3), pages 603-621, April.
  5. Strijker, Dirk & Sijtsma, F.J. & Bettels, K., 2000. "Evaluating Nature Conservation: The Case of Meadow Birds in The Netherlands," Agricultural Economics Review, Greek Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 1(2), August.
  6. Toman, Michael, 1998. "SPECIAL SECTION: FORUM ON VALUATION OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: Why not to calculate the value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 57-60, April.

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