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Optimal management of an ecosystem with an unknown threshold

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  • Brozovic, Nicholas
  • Schlenker, Wolfram

Abstract

We consider an ecosystem with two distinct equations of motion that are separated by a threshold value of the state variable. We find that increasing uncertainty (both uncertainty embedded in the natural system and uncertainty of the decisionmaker about the location of the threshold) can lead to nonmonotonic changes in precaution: a reduction in uncertainty can first increase and then decrease optimal precautionary activity. This nonmonotonicity can help to explain why regulators often give conflicting arguments about optimal abatement policies in the face of uncertainty. For example, some regulators argue for an immediate reduction in pollutant loading until uncertainty about the underlying process is reduced while others call for no costly reductions in pollutant loading until the same uncertainty is reduced. These statements can be consistent even if both sides agree on both economic objectives and the system dynamics, but have different priors on the uncertainty involved.

Suggested Citation

  • Brozovic, Nicholas & Schlenker, Wolfram, 2011. "Optimal management of an ecosystem with an unknown threshold," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(4), pages 627-640, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:4:p:627-640
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ren, Bijie & Polasky, Stephen, 2014. "The optimal management of renewable resources under the risk of potential regime shift," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 195-212.
    2. de Zeeuw, Aart & Zemel, Amos, 2012. "Regime shifts and uncertainty in pollution control," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 939-950.
    3. de Frutos Cachorro, Julia & Erdlenbruch, Katrin & Tidball, Mabel, 2014. "Optimal adaptation strategies to face shocks on groundwater resources," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 134-153.
    4. Crépin, Anne-Sophie & Biggs, Reinette & Polasky, Stephen & Troell, Max & de Zeeuw, Aart, 2012. "Regime shifts and management," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 15-22.
    5. Jérémy Laurent-Lucchetti & Justin Leroux & Bernard Sinclair-Desgagné, 2011. "Splitting an Uncertain (Natural) Capital," Cahiers de recherche 1105, CIRPEE.
    6. Lemoine, Derek M. & Traeger, Christian P., 2011. "Tipping points and ambiguity in the economics of climate change," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt9nd591ww, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
    7. Michele Baggio, 2016. "Optimal Fishery Management with Regime Shifts: An Assessment of Harvesting Strategies," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 64(3), pages 465-492, July.
    8. repec:kap:enreec:v:68:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10640-016-0026-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Tsur, Yacov & Zemel, Amos, 2012. "Dynamic and stochastic analysis of environmental and natural resources," Discussion Papers 120017, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Department of Agricultural Economics and Management.
    10. Nkuiya, Bruno & Costello, Christopher, 2016. "Pollution control under a possible future shift in environmental preferences," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 132(PB), pages 193-205.
    11. Marc Chesney & Pierre Lasserre & Bruno Troja, 2016. "Mitigating Global Warming: A Real Option Approach," CIRANO Working Papers 2016s-34, CIRANO.
    12. repec:eee:resene:v:48:y:2017:i:c:p:42-54 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Zemel, Amos, 2012. "Precaution under mixed uncertainty: Implications for environmental management," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 188-197.
    14. Derek Lemoine & Christian Traeger, 2014. "Watch Your Step: Optimal Policy in a Tipping Climate," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 137-166, February.
    15. Charles Sims & David Finnoff, 2016. "Opposing Irreversibilities and Tipping Point Uncertainty," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(4), pages 985-1022.
    16. Diekert, Florian K., 2017. "Threatening thresholds? The effect of disastrous regime shifts on the non-cooperative use of environmental goods and services," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 30-49.
    17. Thomas S. Lontzek & Daiju Narita & Ole Wilms, 2016. "Stochastic Integrated Assessment of Ecosystem Tipping Risk," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 65(3), pages 573-598, November.
    18. Rolf Groeneveld & Michael Springborn & Christopher Costello, 2014. "Repeated Experimentation to Learn About a Flow-Pollutant Threshold," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 58(4), pages 627-647, August.

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