IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Justifying precautionary policies: Incommensurability and uncertainty

Listed author(s):
  • Aldred, Jonathan
Registered author(s):

    When decisions are taken in conditions of Keynesian or Knightian uncertainty, and when there is a threat of serious or irreversible environmental damage, the Precautionary Principle is often recommended to guide decision-making. However, the Precautionary Principle has been widely criticised. In response to these criticisms, a qualitative version of the Precautionary Principle is developed which draws its normative content from a blend of formal decision theory and political philosophy. It is argued that precautionary action can be justified by some flexible combination of uncertainty and incommensurability. The ‘greater’ the uncertainty, the ‘less’ incommensurability is required to justify precautionary action, and vice versa. Throughout the paper, the arguments are explored using the example of climate change decision problems.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800913003169
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 96 (2013)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 132-140

    as
    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:96:y:2013:i:c:p:132-140
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2013.10.006
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as
    in new window


    1. Marcello Basili & Carlo Zappia, 2009. "Shackle And Modern Decision Theory," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(2), pages 245-282, 05.
    2. I. Gilboa & A. W. Postlewaite & D. Schmeidler., 2009. "Probability and Uncertainty in Economic Modeling," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 10.
    3. Quiggin, John, 2008. "Uncertainty and Climate Change Policy," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 203-210, September.
    4. Jonathan Aldred, 2012. "Climate change uncertainty, irreversibility and the precautionary principle," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(5), pages 1051-1072.
    5. Michael C. Farmer & Alan Randall, 1998. "The Rationality of a Safe Minimum Standard," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 74(3), pages 287-302.
    6. Kelsey, David, 1994. "Maxmin Expected Utility and Weight of Evidence," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(3), pages 425-444, July.
    7. Bromley, Daniel W., 1990. "The ideology of efficiency: Searching for a theory of policy analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 86-107, July.
    8. Jürgen Eichberger & David Kelsey & Burkhard C. Schipper, 2009. "Ambiguity and social interaction," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(2), pages 355-379, April.
    9. Per Sandin & Martin Peterson & Sven Ove Hansson & Christina Rudén & André Juthe, 2002. "Five charges against the precautionary principle," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(4), pages 287-299, October.
    10. Gollier, Christian & Treich, Nicolas, 2003. "Decision-Making under Scientific Uncertainty: The Economics of the Precautionary Principle," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 77-103, August.
    11. Shaw, W. Douglass & Woodward, Richard T., 2008. "Why environmental and resource economists should care about non-expected utility models," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 66-89, January.
    12. Feduzi, Alberto, 2010. "On Keynes's conception of the weight of evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 338-351, November.
    13. Simon Dietz, 2009. "High impact, low probability? An empirical analysis of risk in the economics of climate change," GRI Working Papers 9, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    14. Kelsey, David, 1993. "Choice under Partial Uncertainty," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(2), pages 297-308, May.
    15. 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.
    16. Ghirardato, Paolo & Maccheroni, Fabio & Marinacci, Massimo, 2004. "Differentiating ambiguity and ambiguity attitude," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 118(2), pages 133-173, October.
    17. Richard T. Woodward & Richard C. Bishop, 1997. "How to Decide When Experts Disagree: Uncertainty-Based Choice Rules in Environmental Policy," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 73(4), pages 492-507.
    18. Gilboa, Itzhak & Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Maxmin expected utility with non-unique prior," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 141-153, April.
    19. Enriqueta Aragones & Itzhak Gilboa & Andrew Postlewaite & David Schmeidler, 2005. "Fact-Free Learning," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1355-1368, December.
    20. Partha Dasgupta, 2008. "Discounting climate change," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 141-169, December.
    21. Martin L. Weitzman, 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 1-19, February.
    22. Wilfred Beckerman & Cameron Hepburn, 2007. "Ethics of the Discount Rate in the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 8(1), pages 187-210, January.
    23. Jonathan Aldred, 2006. "Incommensurability and Monetary Valuation," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 82(2), pages 141-161.
    24. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309-309.
    25. Al-Najjar, Nabil I. & Weinstein, Jonathan, 2009. "Rejoinder: The “Ambiguity Aversion Literature: A Critical Assessment”," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(03), pages 357-369, November.
    26. Basili, Marcello & Chateauneuf, Alain & Fontini, Fulvio, 2008. "Precautionary principle as a rule of choice with optimism on windfall gains and pessimism on catastrophic losses," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 485-491, October.
    27. Peter Klibanoff & Massimo Marinacci & Sujoy Mukerji, 2005. "A Smooth Model of Decision Making under Ambiguity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(6), pages 1849-1892, November.
    28. David Dequech, 2011. "Uncertainty: A Typology and Refinements of Existing Concepts," Journal of Economic Issues, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 45(3), pages 621-640, September.
    29. Simon Dietz & David Maddison, 2009. "New Frontiers in the Economics of Climate Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 43(3), pages 295-306, July.
    30. H. Spencer Banzhaf, 2009. "Objective or Multi-Objective? Two Historically Competing Visions for Benefit-Cost Analysis," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 85(1), pages 3-23.
    31. Gilboa, Itzhak & Postlewaite, Andrew & Schmeidler, David, 2009. "Is It Always Rational To Satisfy Savage'S Axioms?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(03), pages 285-296, November.
    32. Marcello Basili & Carlo Zappia, 2010. "Ambiguity and uncertainty in Ellsberg and Shackle," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(3), pages 449-474.
    33. Runde, Jochen, 1990. "Keynesian Uncertainty and the Weight of Arguments," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(02), pages 275-292, October.
    34. Al-Najjar, Nabil I. & Weinstein, Jonathan, 2009. "The Ambiguity Aversion Literature: A Critical Assessment," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(03), pages 249-284, November.
    35. Martin L. Weitzman, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 703-724, September.
    36. Loomes, Graham, 2006. "(How) Can we value health, safety and the environment?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 713-736, December.
    37. Nehring, Klaus, 2009. "Coping Rationally With Ambiguity: Robustness Versus Ambiguity-Aversion," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(03), pages 303-334, November.
    38. Geoffrey Heal & Bengt Kriström, 2002. "Uncertainty and Climate Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 22(1), pages 3-39, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:96:y:2013:i:c:p:132-140. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.