Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics
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Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics

Edited by Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh

This major reference book comprises specially commissioned surveys in environmental and resource economics written by an international team of experts. Authoritative yet accessible, each entry provides a state-of-the-art summary of key areas that will be invaluable to researchers, practitioners and advanced students.
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Chapter 33: Economic Analysis of Global Environmental Issues: Global Warming, Stratospheric Ozone and Biodiversity

D. Pearce


33 Economic analysis of global environmental issues: global warming, stratospheric ozone and biodiversity David Pearce 1. Earth economy and environment Earth as an entire ecosystem operates so as to sustain life in all its forms. How far human activity in the form of homogenized use of natural resources can impair those major functions is open to debate. It seems barely conceivable that just one species, albeit a dominant one at the top of the food chain, could bring about the very demise of such global ecological functions as temperature regulation and nutrient cycling (both with enormous implications for biomass productivity). Yet the past decades have witnessed events which some feel contain just such threats, in various degrees of uncertainty. Stratospheric ozone depletion, climate change, the loss of coastal ecosystems, deforestation, and the impairment of the oceans themselves, testify to the potential for mankind’s interference with such global biogeochemical cycles. On one interpretation of the Gaia hypothesis, humans will eliminate themselves before they eliminate the earth’s selfregulating and self-repairing functions: Gaia as an integrated life and environment system is pretty well immortal (Joseph, 1990). On another interpretation, they stand at least a good chance of taking many, but far from all, of those functions with them to their demise (Lovelock, 1979, 1987). Even as a basic hypothesis, Gaia is disputed and likely to remain so. But it provokes not just fresh looks at the science, but at the economics of global environmental issues as well. Human activity and the ecological context...

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