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Ecological Interaction as a Source of Economic Irreversibility

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  • James R. Kahn
  • Robert V. O’Neill

Abstract

Irreversibility can be either physical or economic in origin. For example, the extinction of a species is physically irreversible. On the other hand, contamination of lake-bottom sediments by mercury is not physically irreversible (the mercury and/or sediments can be physically removed), but the cost is so high that it can be said to be economically irreversible. This paper argues that economic irreversibility associated with environmental change is much more common than typically discussed in the economics literature. The source of the problem is the inherent complexity of ecological relationships. The paper discusses the origin and policy importance of these indirect irreversibilities.

Suggested Citation

  • James R. Kahn & Robert V. O’Neill, 1999. "Ecological Interaction as a Source of Economic Irreversibility," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 391-402, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:66:2:y:1999:p:391-402
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    Cited by:

    1. Castro e Silva, Manuela & Teixeira, Aurora A.C., 2011. "A bibliometric account of the evolution of EE in the last two decades: Is ecological economics (becoming) a post-normal science?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(5), pages 849-862, March.
    2. Uehara, Takuro, 2013. "Ecological threshold and ecological economic threshold: Implications from an ecological economic model with adaptation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 374-384.
    3. Barkley Rosser, J. Jr., 2001. "Complex ecologic-economic dynamics and environmental policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 23-37, April.
    4. James Randall Kahn & Carlos Edwar Freitas & Miguel Petrere, 2014. "False Shades of Green: The Case of Brazilian Amazonian Hydropower," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(9), pages 1-20, September.
    5. J. Barkley Rosser, Jr, 2011. "Post Keynesian Perspectives And Complex Ecologic–Economic Dynamics," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(1), pages 96-121, February.
    6. Limburg, Karin E. & O'Neill, Robert V. & Costanza, Robert & Farber, Stephen, 2002. "Complex systems and valuation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 409-420, June.
    7. Batabyal, Amitrajeet A. & Kahn, James R. & O'Neill, Robert V., 2003. "On the scarcity value of ecosystem services," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 334-352, September.
    8. Farmer, Amy & Kahn, James R. & McDonald, Judith A. & O'Neill, Robert, 2001. "Rethinking the optimal level of environmental quality: justifications for strict environmental policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 461-473, March.

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