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 56: Valuation and Ethics in Environmental Economics

R.K. Blamey and M.S. Common


Russell K. Blamey and Mick S. Common 1. Introduction Economists have, in the last 30 years or so, developed a range of techniques for the valuation of unpriced environmental attributes: see the other chapters in this part of the book. In this chapter we restrict our attention mainly to contingent valuation, CV, which is commonly used to elicit existence values for cost-benefit analysis, CBA, purposes. It is in this context that ethical issues are generally seen as most pertinent. ‘Ethics’ is relevant in two ways here. First, ethics as the study of morally correct behaviour has been used to argue that CV in extended CBA is the wrong way for society to make decisions which impact upon the natural environment. We briefly review some of the main issues in Section 2. Second, it has been suggested that the ethical attitudes held by individuals will influence their responses in CV surveys, with implications for the usefulness of the survey results in CBA. We consider this in Section 3. The chapter concludes, in Section 4, with some brief remarks on alternatives to CBA. We do not in this chapter consider the ethics, in either sense, of intertemporal valuation, that is, discounting. The ethical foundations of environmental economics are discussed in, for example, Chapter 2 of Perman et al. (1996) and Chapter 66 in this volume; see also the chapter on CBA in this handbook (Chapter 57). 2. Ethics and environmental economics Competing ethical theories can be classified in several ways: see, for...

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