December 9th USGCRP Seminar on "The Economics of Climate Chnage Impacts and Mitigation: The Importance of Values and Assumptions"

Tony Socci tsocci at
Tue Dec 3 15:42:37 EST 1996

                U.S. Global Change Research Program Second Monday Seminar Series 

   The Economics of Climate Change Impacts and Mitigation: 
                                   The Importance of Values and Assumptions 

What is the basis of cost/benefit analyses of projected climate change 
impacts and mitigation options?  What are the values and assumptions that 
have gone into these analyses?  How significantly do cost/benefit analyses 
change in instances where one makes different assumptions and value 

                                                      Public Invited 

                               Monday, December 9, 1996, 3:15-4:45 PM 
                   Rayburn House Office Bldg., Room B369, Washington, DC 
                                                 Reception Following 


The Honorable Mark Chupka, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of 
Policy and International Affairs, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, DC 


Dr. Richard B. Norgaard, Professor of Energy and Resources, University of 
California, Berkeley, CA 

Dr. Robert Costanza, Director, University of Maryland Institute for 
Ecological Economics, College Park, MD 


As we move from a world that was relatively empty of humans and their 
influences on the environment to one that is relatively full, interactions 
between the ecological life support system and the economic subsystem 
become increasingly important. Of particular importance is the integration 
of the three broad goals of ecological sustainability, social fairness, and 
allocative efficiency.  The potential for global change to damage 
irreversibly the ecological life support system and reduce the well-being 
of our descendants is a key concern in this context. 

To address the complex set of issues that arise, improved methods are 
needed for: the valuation of natural capital, national income and welfare 
accounting, integrated modeling and assessment, dealing with uncertainty, 
and the intertemporal allocation of resources.  To address these issues, 
and their implications for global change in an integrated way requires 
moving beyond the standard approaches in both ecology and economics (while 
not discarding the best elements of each).  "Ecological economics," is 
helping to develop a new "habit of mind" that can provide the basis for 
understanding and managing the planet in a sustainable way. 

Within this broad framework, a number of important issues are being 
considered.  These include: 1) the advantages and disadvantages of an early 
response to predicted climate change; 2) the value of reducing the 
uncertainties surrounding the environmental processes, ecological impacts, 
and economic consequences of climate change; 3) the mix of mitigation and 
adaptation that may ultimately prove the best strategy; and 4) the 
augmented benefits of mitigation that result from the environmental gains 
that can be captured through decreased greenhouse gas emissions and 
increased protection of forests and other biomass sources. 

Findings from approaches based on ecological economics generally suggest 
the need for earlier action than do economic studies that do not consider 
ecological perspectives.  These findings are based on studies that focus on 
system limits, thresholds, and dynamic complexities.  When considering 
ecological connections, the Index of Social and Economic Welfare (also 
called the Genuine Progress Indicator) suggests, for example, that the 
increases in GDP per capita over the past quarter century are largely 
illusory. Economic models that do not fully include consideration of the 
complexity of our environment then tend to extrapolate these illusory gains 
for future generations and improperly weight these against the real 
benefits of investing in climate change mitigation.  Analyzing the societal 
impacts of climate change also highlights the importance of considering 
equity along with efficiency in reaching an appropriate solution. What is 
efficient for this generation is not necessarily equitable for the next and 
doing what is efficient for the industrialized countries may have major 
adverse impacts on poor countries and on global stability in the longer 
run.  Ecological economics also allows for a coupling of climate change to 
related issues such as biodiversity loss and the local and regional 
problems of environmental quality. 

Improving understanding of and capabilities for considering environmental 
complexity in association with economic efficiency is thus an essential 
research task needed to support policy development. 


Dr. Richard B. Norgaard is Professor of Energy and Resources, University of 
California at Berkeley.  He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the 
University of Chicago in 1971, assisted in the creation of the Energy and 
Resources Group as a Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at 
Berkeley, and joined the core faculty of the Energy and Resources Group in 
1987.  Dr. Norgaard has contributed to the economic theory of 
intergenerational equity and the economics of energy development, climate 
change, and biodiversity loss. He also writes on how environmental 
complexity has modified our understanding of how science works.  He has 
over one hundred publications including a book that provides an 
epistemological explanation of our environmental crisis and explores how a 
coevolutionary understanding of process can be used to envision a more 
sustainable future ("Development Betrayed: The End of Progress and a 
Coevolutionary Revisioning of the Future", Routledge, London and New York, 

Dr. Norgaard helped found and is currently President-elect of the 
International Society for Ecological Economics.  He is a member of the U.S. 
Committee of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment 
(SCOPE) hosted in the U.S. by the National Research Council.  He 
participated in the founding and serves as chairman of the board of 
Redefining Progress, an NGO based in San Francisco engaged in research and 
public education on greening the system of national accounts and on 
resource and environmental taxation. 

Dr. Robert Costanza is director of the University of Maryland Institute for 
Ecological Economics, and a professor in the Center for Environmental and 
Estuarine Studies at Solomons, MD, and in the Zoology Department at College 
Park, MD.  His academic research has focused on the interface between 
ecological and economic systems, particularly at larger temporal and 
spatial scales.  This includes landscape level spatial simulation modeling, 
analysis of energy flows through economic and ecological systems, valuation 
of ecosystem services and natural capital, and analysis of dysfunctional 
incentive systems and ways to correct them.  He is the author or co-author 
of over 200 scientific papers and 11 books. 

Dr. Costanza is co-founder and president of the International Society for 
Ecological Economics (ISEE) and chief editor of the society's journal: 
"Ecological Economics."  He serves on the editorial board of five other 
international academic journals.  He is also vice president of the newly 
formed International Society for Ecosystem Health. In 1982 he was selected 
as a Kellogg National Fellow; in 1992 he was awarded the Society for 
Conservation Biology Distinguished Achievement Award; and in 1993 he was 
selected as a Pew Scholar in Conservation and the Environment. He has 
served on the EPA National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and 
Technology (NACEPT); the National Research Council's Board on Sustainable 
Development, Committee on Global Change Research; the National Research 
Council's Board on Global Change; and the U.S. National Committee for the 
Man and the Biosphere Program. 

Dr. Costanza received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1979 in 
systems ecology with a minor in economics.  He also has a masters degree in 
Architecture and Urban and Regional  Planning, also from the University of 
Florida.  Before coming to Maryland in 1988, he was on the faculty at the 
Coastal Ecology Institute and the Department of Marine Sciences at 
Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

                   The Next Seminar is scheduled for Monday, January 13, 1997 

                 Planned Topic: Food, Agriculture, and Climate Change: 
                                          The International and U.S. Outlook 

For more information please contact: 

Anthony D. Socci, Ph.D., U.S. Global Change Research Program Office 
Code YS-1, 300 E St., SW, Washington, DC 20546 
Telephone: (202) 358-1532; Fax: (202) 358-4103 

Additional information on the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) 
and this Seminar Series is available on the USGCRP Home Page at: Normally these seminars are held on the second 
Monday of each month. 

More information about the Coral-list-old mailing list