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Macroeconomics and the Environment

Essays on Green Accounting

Salah El Serafy

Though scientists and environmentalists have long expressed concern over the rapid deterioration of the global environment, economists have largely failed to recognize the issue’s relevance to their field. Salah El Serafy argues for an increased focus on the economic aspects of environmental degradation, calling for a fundamental shift in how economists measure and discuss national income.
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Chapter 1: Breaking the ground

Essays on Green Accounting

Salah El Serafy


A chief purpose for this book is to argue the case for greening the conventional estimates of national income basing the argument on economic grounds. These estimates are not in a vacuum, but should make economic sense and serve economic purposes, while remaining faithful to the precautionary nature of accountancy. The approach I am espousing is not geared to serving the environment – not primarily anyway – but aims to help in obtaining more meaningful measurements for monitoring economic performance properly, improving economic analysis and guiding economic policy. In line with accounting ways, my goal is not for precise estimates, which the economists understandably seek, but for approximations for which the accountants strive, and which have become indispensable for macroeconomic understanding. In this respect, to borrow an expression of the late Professor Sir Dennis Robertson: ‘It is better to be vaguely right than precisely wrong.’

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