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Clement A. Tisdell

Given the current economic challenges, the desirability of achieving sustainable development has come to the fore. This chapter outlines and discusses contemporary concepts of sustainable development, paying most attention to different criteria that have been proposed for achieving sustainable economic development. Most current economic conceptions of sustainable economic development are shown to be imprecise and can be in conflict. Lack of attention to empirically measuring and examining the coefficient of concern of current generations for the well-being of future generations is identified as a major shortcoming of current debates about sustainable development. Conditions (weak and strong), which it is claimed must be satisfied to achieve sustainable economic development, are considered, before examining the merit of the three-pillar concept, which requires economic, social and ecological sustainability to be simultaneously satisfied. Although the three-pillar concept does have significant limitations, it is contended that it can be a useful guide to policy formation. Other topics covered include the role of different forms of capital in contributing to sustainable economic development. The measurement of the stock of the different forms of capital (especially social capital) is found to be problematic. Nevertheless, all these forms of capital have important influences on the sustainability of economic development, or the lack of it. Several issues involving poverty and (economic sustainability) are raised. These include open access to the use of natural resources and the social cohesiveness (embedding) of some social groups which makes it difficult for them to escape from poverty, for example, by migrating. Examples are given. Both open access to natural resources and the nature of the social capital of some social groups may result in these groups being caught in a poverty trap. An additional subject explored is the effect of labour mobility on the conservation of natural resources.

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Clement A. Tisdell

Social embedding is of central importance in influencing humanity’s ability to respond effectively to environmental change. Several causes of social embedding are identified in this chapter, namely socially determined values (cultural embedding); constraints on decision-making due to the structural characteristics of systems used for collective decision-making (for example, institutional factors); and the engulfing mechanics of economic systems. The nature of social embedding in modern market systems is given particular attention. It is argued that the structure of these systems locks modern societies into a pro-economic growth mentality. Taking into account employment and other considerations, it is concluded that it may be impossible to escape from the need for continuing economic growth (even when this is at the expense of significant environmental deterioration). The impact of the evolution of economic systems on social structures and the extent of social embedding is highlighted. The view that current societies are ultrasocial in the same manner as communities of some species of animals (for example, ants, bees and termites) is examined critically and rejected.

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Clement A. Tisdell

Marine ecosystems are estimated to have a high economic value. The total value of these services and their existing value in various geographical locations are being threatened and altered by environmental changes due to rising atmospheric greenhouse gases, especially increases in CO2 contributions. This chapter begins by outlining the basic abiotic changes in marine ecosystem systems which are attributable ultimately to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These changes in turn have important impacts on marine biota. A case study of predictions about the impact of climate change and ocean acidification on the economic value of the Norwegian fisheries is reviewed. This reveals both economic and ecological challenges that need to be surmounted to obtain reliable estimates of this type. The changing economic value of coral reefs due to climate change is also investigated, and some important limitations of current economic estimates are found. It is noted that despite the loss and degradation of coral reefs, the economic value of remnant reefs can actually increase, although overall human well-being declines. The need to take account of opportunity costs when assessing the desirability of conserving coral reefs is raised. It is also important for the purpose of economic valuation to take into account the dynamics of changes in marine ecosystems subjected to environmental stressors, such as climate change. This aspect is considered. Economic policies for responding to alterations in marine ecosystems due to climate change are briefly discussed, and the relevance of economic and ecosystem resilience to this topic is investigated.

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Clement A. Tisdell

Examines in a general manner the evolution of the historical relationship between the magnitude and nature of human activity and the natural environment. This evolution is related to different stages of economic development, namely the hunting and gathering stage; the development of agriculture; the Industrial Revolution and the current digital revolution associated with the development of new information and communication technologies. It is, however, pointed out that these stages are not distinct. This discussion is related to Ehrlich’s equation, which specifies in a very general manner the relationship between the state of the natural environment and per capita levels of material consumption, human population levels and the nature of technology. These are key variables in economic growth. Also the evolution is considered of variations in social inequality in accessing environmental spaces as economic growth has occurred. This is a neglected issue which has implications for social embedding. To complete this important background chapter, some information is provided on past patterns of environmental change, such as global warming and variations in sea levels, and the consequences are investigated for optimal decisions about resource use when user costs alter due to environmental change. The latter yields some surprising results.

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Clement A. Tisdell

Outlines the objectives of this book and the reasons for pursuing these. In doing so, it specifies the aim of each chapter and provides a brief account of its contents. It is argued that in order to better assess the nature of our current environmental challenges: we need to consider their basic historical origins; we should take account of the limitations of available economic measures and methods for valuing environmental change; we ought to be aware of the imperfections of scientific predictions about the nature, course and consequences of biophysical attributes altered by environmental change (such as increasing levels of atmospheric CO2); and we should recognize that social embedding (of different types) is a serious impediment to humankind responding effectively to actual or predicted environmental change, especially human-induced environmental change, including human-generated climate change. The importance of each of these assertions is demonstrated and illustrated.

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Economics and Environmental Change

The Challenges We Face

Clement A. Tisdell

In this innovative book, Clement Tisdell adopts a holistic approach, combining economic, social, biophysical and historical considerations to analyse the economic origins of major contemporary environmental problems, especially those associated with climate change. The ability of humankind to respond effectively to these problems is assessed in a unique and lucid fashion. The depth and nature of social embedding is identified as the major (but not the only) barrier to dealing with human-induced environmental change.
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Clement A. Tisdell

The competitive market system is sometimes extolled on the basis that it results in consumers’ sovereignty and minimizes (e.g. according to Hayek) the amount of information required for the efficiently operating economic systems for organizing resource use. This view is outlined and its assumptions are found to be too restrictive. This is illustrated by examining several economic aspects of food safety standards. These include an economic assessment of optimal food standards, the relationship between income levels and the demand for food safety and optimal geographical differences in food standards. The extension (evolution) of market systems has lengthened and diversified product chains. The implications of this for consumers’ sovereignty are considered. Some assessments of food safety standards are biased because they evaluate only the negative health effects of productive methods, for example, the use of pesticides and use of chemicals to preserve food, without considering the economic and health consequences of not using these substances. This aspect is investigated. Examples are given of certification designed to allay consumers’ concerns about the effects on the state of the environment and social and animal welfare of the production of their purchases. The examples are for the certification of the environmental and social attributes of forest products and for free-range eggs. This type of certification can be problematic. The final section considers whether consumers’ choices of purchases and use of products should be restricted when their consumption itself results in adverse externalities or has adverse consequences for consumers themselves. Excessive consumption of alcohol is taken as an example.

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Clement A. Tisdell

Human-induced climate change is a major contemporary challenge, the basic cause of which is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly of CO2, generated by human activities. In this chapter, the following are the principal topics addressed: •failure to control adequately CO2 emissions due to social embedding; • major biophysical processes resulting in climate change and reasons for concern about the use of fossil fuels and other sources of CO2 emissions following the start of the Industrial Revolution; • the general prospects of reducing CO2 emissions by substituting energy sources, by energy savings, and by greater sequestration of CO2; • the scope for substituting the types of resources used for electricity production in order to reduce CO2 emissions and the economics of doing so; • economic strategies to lower fossil fuel use in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; additional sustainability issues (for example, aspects of the availability of stocks of energy resources and their depletion) and the importance of the holistic environmental valuation of alternative forms of energy supply. The use of flow resources is shown to be advantageous from a sustainability and environmental point of view.

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Clement A. Tisdell

Continuing loss of biodiversity, mainly due to economic development, is a major contemporary concern. This is because it could threaten economic sustainability and diminish the satisfaction humankind obtains by experiencing the living world, and it can be a source of guilt among individuals who feel that humankind has a moral responsibility to help conserve the living world. Therefore, biological conservation is an important subject and is the focus of this chapter. This chapter is developed initially by identifying a range of subjects that can be investigated in studying biological conservation and management. Diverse motives are specified which have an influence on decisions about biological conservation and management. Subsequently, attention is given to the role and limitations of markets in determining biological conservation and management, and after that to the role and shortcomings of non-market institutions (governments and NGOs) in doing so. The usefulness of economic valuation techniques in relation to this subject is assessed and particular attention is given to the need to take account of opportunity costs, the importance of regular biases in conservation preferences, and the difficulty of resolving social conflict about the management of biological resources. Before concluding, the following illustrative topics are discussed: conflicts, valuation issues and the costs of policies for conserving koalas; the role of wildlife rehabilitation centres in nature conservation; • ecotourism enterprises and the conservation of species; and • conflicts between conservationists about conserving species illustrated by the presence of wild horses (brumbies) in the high country of Australia.

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Clement A. Tisdell

This chapter initially examines general relationships between agricultural activity and environmental change and the level of economic welfare. It then provides a brief account of the historical development of agriculture, focusing on its environmental and socio-economic consequences. The pivotal role of the commencement and evolution of agriculture in economic development is stressed. It is only as a result of agriculture that the current level of the world’s population can be sustained. For a considerable amount of time, the world’s population has exceeded that which can be sustained by hunting and gathering. A major challenge which agriculture faces in this century is how to increase its production to meet increasing demands for food due to global population growth and rising incomes, and how it can achieve this without causing significant environmental deterioration. Can this be achieved by sustainable agricultural intensification? This is one of the issues discussed. The likely impacts on the level of agricultural production of climate change and the adjustment issues facing agriculture as a result of climate change are major contemporary concerns. The modelling of these aspects is reviewed and some different perspectives are provided compared to those in the literature, for example, the perspective presented by Mendelsohn and Dinar. The desirability of different types of public policies for responding to the effects of climate change on agriculture is also discussed.