Nav: Home

The fairer -- The greener

May 31, 2017

Researchers at universities in Freiburg, Kiel and Berlin have discovered that the economic value of nature for a society is determined by, among other things, income inequality within the society. "Social justice and nature conservation are not necessarily conflicting concepts, unlike what is frequently maintained by some. On the contrary, measures to enhance social equity in a societal and macroeconomic sense may strengthen nature conservation," stresses Stefan Baumgärtner, Professor of Environmental Economics and Resource Management at the University of Freiburg and director of the study. The researchers have published their findings in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, the leading specialist publication for environmental economics. The results were based on a comprehensive, empirical data set of environmental valuations in 22 countries around the globe.

Natural ecosystems are useful to people for many reasons. They provide water, food, building materials, energy and medicine; they regulate the climate and spread of disease; and they have important cultural significance. All these reasons give nature an economic value for humans. "Even when this value is not apparent, because most and key services of nature are not traded on markets, nature's worth should be taken into consideration in dealing with nature, for example when planning new traffic arteries and residential or industrial areas," says Baumgärtner. It has long been known that the higher the average income is within a society, the greater the economic value nature has for that society. That is because in valuing nature's benefits in economic terms, the benefits of what nature provides are compared with the benefits provided by consumption goods. Those who have higher incomes can consume more and will therefore normally ascribe a higher value to nature.

What has been unclear up to now is how inequality of income distribution influences the economic value of nature. This question has now been answered. If the services provided by nature for human well-being can be substituted for well with human-produced goods and services, then the economic value of nature for a society is higher, the more equally incomes are distributed within it. The reverse is also true. The more unequally income is distributed in a society, the less the economic value that society will place on nature. The empirical data indicate that the condition of good substitutability for many services provided by nature at the current level of consumption is met.

"This result is relevant, because there is a clear relationship between social equity and nature conservation," says Baumgärtner. According to this result, he says, income inequality will lead nature to be undervalued. By reducing income inequality, the valuation of nature in economic terms will consequentially rise, resulting in greater value being placed on nature in decisions about measures to promote economic development.
Original publication

S. Baumgärtner, M.A. Drupp, J.N. Meya, J.M. Munz and M.F. Quaas (2017), Income inequality and willingness to pay for environmental public goods, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 85: 35-61.

University of Freiburg

Related Consumption Articles:

No need to cut down red and processed meat consumption
The researchers performed four systematic reviews focused on randomized controlled trials and observational studies looking at the impact of red meat and processed meat consumption on cardiometabolic and cancer outcomes.
Estimate of cigarette consumption in England
Estimated total cigarette consumption in England fell by almost one-quarter between 2011 and 2018 in a study comparing survey and sales data.
Clarifying the economic value of adjusting the power consumption
The economic value of demand response that adjusts the power consumption has not been clarified.
Estimating microplastic consumption
Since the mass production of plastics began in the 1940s, the versatile polymers have spread rapidly across the globe.
Reducing water consumption in mining
Plenty of water is needed for beneficiation of mineral ores.
More Consumption News and Consumption Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...