Environmental and Natural Resource Economics
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Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

A Contemporary Approach

Jonathan M. Harris, Brian Roach

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eBook - ePub

Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

A Contemporary Approach

Jonathan M. Harris, Brian Roach

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About This Book

Environmental issues are of fundamental importance, and a broad approach to understanding the relationship between the human economy and the natural world is essential. In a rapidly changing policy and scientific context, this new edition of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics reflects an updated perspective on modern environmental topics.

Now in its fifth edition, this textbook includes enhanced and updated material on energy, climate change, greening the economy, population, agriculture, forests and water—reflecting the greater urgency required to solve the big environmental problems in these areas. It introduces students to both standard environmental economics and the broader perspective of ecological economics, balancing analytical techniques of environmental economics topics with a global perspective on current ecological issues such as population growth, global climate change and "green" national income accounting.

Harris and Roach's premise is that a pluralistic approach is essential to understand the complex nexus between the economy and the environment. This perspective, combined with its emphasis on real-world policies, is particularly appealing to both instructors and students. This is the ideal text for undergraduate classes on environmental, natural resource and ecological economics, and postgraduate courses on environmental and economic policy.

To access Student and Instructor resources, please visit: sites.tufts.edu/gdae/environmental-and-natural-resource-economics/.

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Chapter 1

Changing Perspectives on the Environment

1.1 Overview of Environmental Issues

Over the past five decades, we have become increasingly aware of environmental problems at the local, national, and global levels. During this period, many natural resource and environmental issues have grown in scope and urgency, especially those related to global issues such as climate change, forest loss, and species extinction.
Attention to environmental issues has a long history, but in the modern period perceptions of an environmental crisis began in the 1960s. In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was created in the United States to respond to what was at that time a relatively new public concern with air and water pollution. In 1972, the first international conference on the environment, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, met in Stockholm. Since then, growing worldwide attention has been devoted to environmental issues. (See Box 1.1 for more important events in modern environmental history.)
In 1992 the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to focus on major global issues, including depletion of the earth’s protective ozone layer, destruction of tropical and old-growth forests and wetlands, species extinction, and the steady buildup of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse” gases causing global warming and climate change. Twenty years later, at the United Nations Rio + 20 Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, countries of the world reaffirmed their commitment to integrating environment and development but acknowledged limited progress toward these goals.1 At that time, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report Global Environmental Outlook 5 found that “burgeoning populations and growing economies are pushing ecosystems to destabilizing limits.”2 UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlook 6, published in 2019, similarly concluded that:
Human population dynamics or trends, particularly population pressure, and economic development have been acknowledged for many decades as the primary drivers of environmental change … The increasing scale, global reach and speed of change in those drivers of environmental change pose urgent challenges for managing environmental and climate change problems.3
With the exception of ozone depletion, an area in which major reductions in emissions have been achieved by international agreement, the UNEP reports offer evidence that the global environmental problems identified at UNCED in 1992 in the areas of atmosphere, land, water, biodiversity, chemicals, and wastes have continued or worsened. Other UNEP Global Environmental Outlook reports have identified nitrogen pollution in freshwater and oceans, exposure to toxic chemicals and hazardous wastes, forest and freshwater ecosystem damage, water contamination and declining groundwater supplies, urban air pollution and wastes, and overexploitation of major ocean fisheries as major global issues.
Climate change has emerged as perhaps the greatest environmental threat of our time. The 2014 Fifth Assessment Report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that:
continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.4
In December 2015, a United Nations conference held in Paris resulted in a 195-country agreement to limit and eventually reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Also in 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals including combating climate change and environmental degradation.
Underlying all these problems is global population growth, which adds more than 70 million people a year. World population, which surpassed 7.8 billion in 2020, is expected to grow to around 9.7 billion by 2050, with almost all of the growth occurring in developing nations.5
Scientists, policy makers, and the general public have begun to grapple with questions such as: What will the future look like? Can we respond to these multiple threats adequately and in time to prevent irreversible damage to the planetary systems that support life? One of the most important components of the problem, which rarely receives sufficient attention, is the economic analysis of environmental issues.
Some may argue that environmental issues transcend economics and should be judged in different terms from the money values used in economic analysis. Indeed, this assertion holds some truth. We find, however, that environmental protection policies are often measured—and sometimes rejected—in terms of their economic costs. For example, it is extremely difficult to preserve open land that has high commercial development value. Either large sums must be raised to purchase the land, or strong political opposition to “locking up” land must be overcome. Environmental protection organizations face a continuing battle with ever-increasing economic development pressures.
Often, public policy issues are framed in terms of a conflict between development and the environment. An example is the recent debate over “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, to obtain natural gas. Producing natural gas can be profitable and increase energy supplies, but there are social and environmental costs to communities. Similarly, opponents of international agreements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions argue that the economic costs of such measures are too high. Supporters of increased oil production clash with advocates of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. In developing countries, the tension between the development demands and environmental protection can be even greater.
Does economic development necessarily result in a high environmental price? Although all economic development must affect the ...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Environmental and Natural Resource Economics
APA 6 Citation
Harris, J., & Roach, B. (2021). Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (5th ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/2998220/environmental-and-natural-resource-economics-a-contemporary-approach-pdf (Original work published 2021)
Chicago Citation
Harris, Jonathan, and Brian Roach. (2021) 2021. Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. 5th ed. Taylor and Francis. https://www.perlego.com/book/2998220/environmental-and-natural-resource-economics-a-contemporary-approach-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Harris, J. and Roach, B. (2021) Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. 5th edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/2998220/environmental-and-natural-resource-economics-a-contemporary-approach-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Harris, Jonathan, and Brian Roach. Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. 5th ed. Taylor and Francis, 2021. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.