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La gestion des risques environnementaux en présence d'incertitudes et de controverses scientifiques. Une interprétation du principe de précaution


  • Morgane Chevé
  • Ronan Congar


In this paper, we will re-examine the problems linked to the management of environmental risks and reassert the distinction made by Knight [1921] between « risk » and « uncertainty ». Taking into account this uncertainty in a formal way is totally justified for the analysis of environmental problems for which scientific certainties are often lacking. Furthermore, this enables us to give an account of a number of major characteristics affecting decision-making in the environmental field that is to say : scientific controversy, disagreements and conflicts between the stakeholders and difficulties in making decisions commensurate with the stakes involved. Last but not least, stating that uncertainty plays an essential part enables us to work out a framework for analysis in which we suggest an economic interpretation of the precautionary principle. Then we can justify the adoption of the maximum of minimum expected utility criterion in order to make decisions complying with the precautionary principle. Classification JEL : D7, D81, K32, Q2.

Suggested Citation

  • Morgane Chevé & Ronan Congar, 2003. "La gestion des risques environnementaux en présence d'incertitudes et de controverses scientifiques. Une interprétation du principe de précaution," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 54(6), pages 1335-1352.
  • Handle: RePEc:cai:recosp:reco_546_1335

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kimball, Miles S, 1990. "Precautionary Saving in the Small and in the Large," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(1), pages 53-73, January.
    2. Dixit, Avinash K, 1989. "Entry and Exit Decisions under Uncertainty," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 620-638, June.
    3. Gollier, Christian & Jullien, Bruno & Treich, Nicolas, 2000. "Scientific progress and irreversibility: an economic interpretation of the 'Precautionary Principle'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 229-253, February.
    4. Ben S. Bernanke, 1983. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Cyclical Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(1), pages 85-106.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tania Bouglet & Thomas Lanzi & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2006. "Incertitude scientifique et décision publique : le recours au Principe de pré-caution," Recherches économiques de Louvain, De Boeck Université, vol. 72(2), pages 109-127.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation


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