At the BA: Britain's festivel of science and technology rolled into Plymouth this week. New Scientist reports from the British Association for the Advancement of Science - Going green gives greater gains

 作者:东方嬷赏     |      日期:2019-03-03 07:10:02
By ANDY COGHLAN David Pearce, the economic guru credited with turning Margaret Thatcher green, is now hoping to spread the environmental gospel to his fellow economists. ‘It may be more important that the ministry of finance appreciates the costs of environmental degradation than the ministry of the environment does,’ he told the BA. According to Pearce, the moral arguments for protecting the environment cut little ice with economists and politicians. He is repackaging the message so that they can grasp the economic reasons for action more easily. ‘It takes environment off its pedestal and stops talking about it in moralistic terms,’ he said. ‘Only recently have we begun to understand that there is wealth in nature too; that the ozone layer, atmospheric carbon cycle, nutrient cycles in tropical forests and so on are all natural wealth,’ he said. He wants those in charge at the Treasury to work out the value of such natural wealth and include it in national balance sheets. Pearce, the director of the Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment at University College London, hopes to convince economists of two things. First, that it makes economic sense to conserve ‘natural capital’. And second, that measures designed to protect the environment do not limit economic growth by placing impossible restrictions on industry. ‘Once we recognise that we measure national wealth and income wrongly, the arguments become stronger,’ he said. The key error in traditional economic models is that the economy and the environment are treated separately. Instead of looking simply at flows of goods and services, economists should consider the flows of energy and materials, says Pearce. ‘The economic process turns natural capital into waste which then places a demand on other forms of natural capital – receiving waters, the atmosphere, land – which are charged with the function of storing and degrading that waste.’ If the economy and the environment are considered together, it is possible to calculate the cost of environmental damage. In Burkina Faso, for example, soil erosion wipes out some 9 per cent of the country’s GNP. In Nigeria, soil erosion and other forms of pollution cost 17.4 per cent of GNP. Often, developing nations are forced to squander scarce hard currency buying fertilisers to revitalise depleted soil. The irony, said Pearce, is that remedial measures, such as changing the way the land is managed, are usually simple and cheap. Similarly, air pollution harms human health, resulting in absence from work and a decrease in productivity. It also damages the fabric of buildings, which must then be repaired. In 1981, for instance, it cost the US between $13 and $14 billion to meet air pollution regulations, but this brought estimated benefits of around $37 billion. Pearce’s other central message to economists and politicians was that environmental stewardship does not limit economic growth or destroy jobs. Studies have shown that the reverse is true because, for example, environmental measures lay the foundation for new industries in pollution control. ‘The available economic studies do not bear out the worst fears about the employment, price and income effects of environmental policy. They tend to suggest that environmental policy can actually increase employment and income, or at least make them no worse with regulation compared to the situation without it,’ he said. ‘The reason why the Germans are pushing so hard on environmental issues is that they are laughing up their sleeves at the rest of us. They now make all the pollution equipment so the harder they push the rules,