“Understanding ecosystems and economic systems is the same”
How do climate change and other environment problems affect our economies? And vice versa: how does our economic behaviour, like consumption, affect the environment?
Professor Jason Shogren is interested in this dynamics and it has taken him all the way to the Nobel Peace Prize – at least he was part of the United Nations Team on Climate Change, working with two thousand other scientists and the former Vice president Al Gore.
“Science needs to explore the feedback loops in both directions. People affect nature; nature affects people. In thinking about climate risks, for instance, we need to understand better how mitigation and adaptation choices are interlinked; how our choices affect the climate risks and costs of protecting humans and natural systems. By explicitly identifying and examining feedback loops between these systems, we can make good policy better by supplying more environmental protection at less cost.”
Risk assessment in natural resources is one of Shogren’s areas of expertise. In various projects over the past twenty years he has investigated how societies choose to manage their stock of biological diversity, to design cost-effective strategies to reduce risks from climate change, and to value ecosystem services typically not bought and sold in the marketplace.
“Basically, we have three different views on the problem. If you ask mainstream economists they will worry about the markets. Environmental economists will be worried about missing markets and then there are non-economists who don’t even consider the role of markets in environmental problems.”
Jason Shogren argues that we need more knowledge about the feedbacks in the economic-ecologic world we live in, to be able to address future challenges properly.
“There are still lots of barriers between academic disciplines that need to be broken down. Economists must talk to environmental scientists, and I do look forward to the Royal Environment Symposium as one attempt in this direction.”
And what about the future?
“I hope that we in the western world can provide technologies and methods and share them with the developing world. Then they might be able to achieve more prosperity while maintaining environmental protection.”
Stroock professor of natural resource conservation & management, University of Wyoming, USA
Royal guest professorship: 2007/2008 at Umeå University
Editor: Eva Krutmeijer