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Sustainable Decisionmaking: The State of the Art from an Economics Perspective

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  • Toman, Michael

Abstract

Government, corporate and other decision makers are more and more often being urged to 'act sustainably' and to pursue policy paths toward 'sustainable development.' However, application of these concepts is hampered by serious interdisciplinary disagreements about the interactions of humans with their environment. Moreover, reducing disagreements about sustainability cannot be achieved solely through an improvement in scientific knowledge. These observations lead me to express skepticism about the capacity of any more or less mechanistic rule, economic, scientific or otherwise, to provide definitive and reliable answers about sustainable policies or conduct. However, there are processes and procedures that can help guide decisionmaking. I underscore the need for a methodologically pluralistic approach to addressing sustainability issues, while also underscoring the importance of addressing economic costs and benefits as one critical element of sustainability assessment. Practitioners of cost-benefit analysis are increasingly recognizing the need for embedding their findings in a broader set of information. A pluralistic approach, without mechanistic decision rules, only increases the need to have greater quantity and maturity of political discussion and education about sustainability than seems often to prevail.

Suggested Citation

  • Toman, Michael, 1998. "Sustainable Decisionmaking: The State of the Art from an Economics Perspective," Discussion Papers dp-98-39, Resources For the Future.
  • Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-98-39
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    Cited by:

    1. Salvador del Saz, 2008. "Medio ambiente y desarrollo: una revisión conceptual," CIRIEC-España, revista de economía pública, social y cooperativa, CIRIEC-España, issue 61, pages 31-49, August.
    2. Moran, Dominic & McVittie, Alistair & Allcroft, David J. & Elston, David A., 2007. "Quantifying public preferences for agri-environmental policy in Scotland: A comparison of methods," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 42-53, June.
    3. Michael Toman, 1998. "Research Frontiers in the Economics of Climate Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 11(3), pages 603-621, April.
    4. Strijker, Dirk & Sijtsma, F.J. & Bettels, K., 2000. "Evaluating Nature Conservation: The Case of Meadow Birds in The Netherlands," Agricultural Economics Review, Greek Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 1(2), August.
    5. Basil M. H. Sharp, 2001. "Sustainable Development: Environment and Economic Framework Integration," Treasury Working Paper Series 01/27, New Zealand Treasury.
    6. Toman, Michael, 1998. "SPECIAL SECTION: FORUM ON VALUATION OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: Why not to calculate the value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 57-60, April.

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