Early Experience and Future Prospects
Edited by John Quiggin, David Adamson and Daniel Quiggin
The problem of climate change has been described as 'a unique challenge for economics: it is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen' (Stern, 2007, p. i). Among the factors that make climate change a difficult problem, arguably the most important is uncertainty about the future course of climate change, and the effect of policies aimed at mitigating climate change. Although there is a large literature on the economic analysis of choice under uncertainty, many crucial issues are poorly understood by policymakers and the general public. In particular, uncertainty about climate change under 'business as usual' (BAU) policies is commonly seen as a reason for inaction. The widely used 'precautionary principle' suggests the contrary; early action is desirable. To resolve the conflict between these intuitions, it is necessary to consider in more detail the principles for choice in the face of environmental uncertainty and, particularly, the interpretation of the precautionary principle. The concept of the 'precautionary principle' has been the subject of vigorous debate. As with other contested concepts in environmental theory and policy, most notably that of 'sustainability,' the debate has proceeded in the absence of an agreed definition.
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