Chapter 2: Economics in the Environmental Crisis: Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?
Olivier Godard As a positive, that is to say explanatory, science, economics must analyse the behaviour of agents enjoying a certain degree of freedom but subject to the constraints imposed on them by nature and institutions. As a normative science, economics must investigate the best way to organise production, distribution and consumption. (Malinvaud, 1975, p. 2) Thinking like a mountain. (Leopold, 1949 , p. 129) INTRODUCTION The Earth’s climate is on the brink of serious disruption. According to the vast majority of competent scientists, and in particular the assessment reports regularly published since 1990 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this is due to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by the human activities of production, transport and consumption. This can be traced back at least as far as the nineteenth century, when the industrial revolution started to spread through Europe, and which today has reached most regions of the world – notably Asia – with the exception of Africa. Global warming is the biggest environmental externality ever generated by the human economy, to borrow a phrase from Nicholas Stern, main author of the enormously influential Stern Review, a report on the economics of climate change commissioned by the British government (Stern, 2006). Economic activity – given its various forms and physical content over the last 150 years – lies, without a doubt, at the heart of the climate risk. But what about economic thinking? To what extent do the concepts and methods developed by the discipline of economics, particularly during the last...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.