Economics, statistics and the environment- (10.02.02)

The Environmentalist movements are up in arms against economic analysis at the moment. A recent book by Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, has identified what is described as a "litany" of four big environmental fears that he then goes on to disprove using statistics. For those of you who want to explore this issue further The Economist has an excellent article by Dr. Lomborg that you can reach by clicking here.

The problem is how far can you justify environmental action or lack of action through statistical analysis. Economics works very well on a Global or macroeconomic level but less well when looking at specific effects on individuals. The problem with discussing the environment is that the effects of pollution are not consistent across the whole world and a never constant over time, two situations that economics rarely produces meaningful answers for. The problem with both sides of this debate is that statistics are dominating both the argument and the rebuttal. We shouldn't be frightened to use statistical analysis to back up our beliefs but to believe that a whole debate should be driven by them doesn't appear to be an appropriate approach.