Evaluating Nonmarket Environmental Benefits and Costs

Robin Gregory

Many of the most important changes that have occurred in the natural world over the past century have affected aspects of the environment that are not normally evaluated or even well understood; examples include changes in biodiversity or global warming or the risks associated with transgenic foods. Current methods for evaluating these changes depend on assumptions about their timing (with near-term changes counting for more than later changes) and about what does or doesn’t count (so that “goods and services” are given special status) and about appropriate sources of data (with western science inputs heavily favoured) that are now increasingly questioned. Yet standard methods for evaluating environmental changes still rule the day.

Robin’s research and consulting focus on what both common sense and new research in behavioral decision making point to as improvements in how to think about new evaluation strategies. This includes:
a.) broadening what is counted,
b.) exploring new decision-aiding and measurement approaches that incorporate uncertainty, and
c.) emphasizing decisions, not spending time or money on overly precise information or numbers when this won’t lend insight to a choice.

For more, read:

Gregory, R., Long, G., Colligan, M., Geiger, J. G., & Laser, M. (2012). When experts disagree (and better science won’t help much): Using structured deliberations to support endangered species recovery planning. Journal of Environmental Management, 105, 30–43.

Gregory, R., Failing, L., & Harstone, M. (2008). Meaningful resource consultations with First Peoples. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 50(1), 36–45.

Gregory, R., Failing, L., Ohlson, D., & McDaniels, T. (2006). Some pitfalls of an overemphasis on science in environmental risk management decisions. Journal of Risk Research, 9, 717–735.