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Environmental Regulation, Cost-Benefit Analysis, and the Discounting of Human Lives

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  • Revesz, Richard L.

Abstract

Lives Probably the most vexing problem raised by the cost-benefit analysis of environmental regulation is how to deal with the fact that the loss of human life generally does not occur contemporaneously with the exposure to certain contaminants. In some cases, the environmental exposure produces a harm with a latency period whereas in others it produces harms to future generations. The article underscores the extent to which the cases of latent harms and harms to future generations are analytically distinct, even though they have generally been treated as two manifestations of the same problem. In the case of latent harms, one needs to make intra-personal, intertemporal comparisons of utility, whereas in the case of harms to future generations what is needed is a metric against which to compare the utilities of individuals living in different generations. Thus, the appropriateness of discounting would be resolved differently in the two contexts.

Suggested Citation

  • Revesz, Richard L., 1999. "Environmental Regulation, Cost-Benefit Analysis, and the Discounting of Human Lives," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt57q8284f, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt57q8284f
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    Cited by:

    1. Revesz, Richard & Stavins, Robert, 2004. "Environmental Law and Policy," Working Paper Series rwp04-023, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    2. David F. Burgess & Richard O. Zerbe, 2013. "Appropriate discounting for benefit–cost analysis," Chapters,in: Principles and Standards for Benefit–Cost Analysis, chapter 7, pages 247-263 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. repec:eee:jhecon:v:57:y:2018:i:c:p:249-262 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Hammitt, James K., 2010. "Economic Evaluation with Hormetic, Hockey-Stick, and Linear Response Functions: An Application to Radon in Drinking Water," TSE Working Papers 10-267, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    5. Alberini, Anna & Ščasný, Milan, 2018. "The benefits of avoiding cancer (or dying from cancer): Evidence from a four- country study," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 249-262.
    6. Thomas DeLeire & Shakeeb Khan & Christopher Timmins, 2013. "Roy Model Sorting And Nonrandom Selection In The Valuation Of A Statistical Life," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 54(1), pages 279-306, February.
    7. repec:eee:transa:v:106:y:2017:i:c:p:333-349 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Marquez, Pablo, 2006. "Cost Benefit Analysis, Value Of A Statistical Life And Culture: Challenges For Risk Regulation," MPRA Paper 2632, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Feb 2007.
    9. Alberini, Anna & Ščasný, Milan, 2013. "Exploring heterogeneity in the value of a statistical life: Cause of death v. risk perceptions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 143-155.
    10. Anna Alberini, 2017. "Measuring the economic value of the effects of chemicals on ecological systems and human health," OECD Environment Working Papers 116, OECD Publishing.
    11. Hofmann, Ekkehard & von Wangenheim, Georg, 2002. "Trade secrets versus Cost Benefit Analysis," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 511-526, December.
    12. Thijs Dekker & Roy Brouwer & Marjan Hofkes & Klaus Moeltner, 2011. "The Effect of Risk Context on the Value of a Statistical Life: a Bayesian Meta-model," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 49(4), pages 597-624, August.
    13. Kuchler, Fred, 2001. "Valuing the Health Benefits of Food Safety: A Proceedings," Miscellaneous Publications 33550, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    14. Pedersen, Line Bjørnskov & Gyrd-Hansen, Dorte & Kjær, Trine, 2011. "The influence of information and private versus public provision on preferences for screening for prostate cancer: A willingness-to-pay study," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 277-289, August.

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