Monetary Valuation of Ecosystem Services: It Matters to Get the Timeline Right. Baveye, P. C.; Baveye, J.; and Gowdy, J. 95:231–235.
Monetary Valuation of Ecosystem Services: It Matters to Get the Timeline Right [link]Paper  doi  abstract   bibtex   
In the abundant literature dealing with the monetary valuation, or monetization, of ecosystem services (MES), with very few exceptions, the concept is presented as having emerged in 1997. In fact, there is a long history, starting in the late fifties but largely ignored, of sustained attempts to assign monetary values to nature's services. These early efforts encountered many conceptual and methodological roadblocks, which could not be resolved and led a number of researchers to argue that monetary valuation was not a fruitful approach. It is in that context that MES was hailed by some in 1997 as a promising way to integrate environmental goods and services into the logic of economic markets. Knowledge of the full timeline casts a very different light, in particular on the difficulties currently encountered in the practice of MES; far from being the expected growing pains of a young discipline, these difficulties turn out to be long-standing problems that have eluded solution over the last half-century and appear intrinsically unresolvable. This perspective suggests that, at this point, it is advisable to look at alternatives to MES for the integration of nature into economic decisions. [Excerpt: Significance of Considering the Detailed Timeline] Aside from historical reasons, the fact that the research on MES and on its practical applications has a significantly longer chronology than what is traditionally acknowledged in the literature on ecosystem services, does matter in a number of respects. [...] The field, in reality, is more than fifty years old, and started having growing pains decades ago. Researchers from the onset struggled with methodological problems, and one could argue that the research community still has not managed to resolve any of them satisfactorily, as illustrated vividly by Hausman's (2012) recent downgrading of the status of the contingent valuation method from dubious to ” hopeless”. Spurred by government agencies in many countries to evaluate ecosystem services, researchers and field practitioners are laboriously trying to provide monetary estimates of ecosystem services, but in many ways it seems that questions about the soundness of these numbers are still as challenging, and their answers as uncertain, as they were in the past (Gowdy et al., 2013, Norgaard, 2010 and Parks and Gowdy, 2013). [\n] From this perspective, it is legitimate to ask whether, after more than half a century of one-sided efforts, the time may not have come to give consideration to alternative ways to integrate nature and economics. One possible avenue would be to look at approaches that do not require monetary values to be assigned to every single one among the multitude of services we derive from nature. In this respect, several frameworks exist for assessing ecosystem values without forcing all of them into the straightjacket of neoclassical economic theory. The TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) initiative (Kumar, 2010 and Kumar et al., 2013), as well as recent uses of multicriteria decision analysis (Linkov and Moberg, 2011), for example, stress the importance of multiple valuation approaches. Economic values such as ecotourism can be expressed in monetary units, non-economic benefits to human society can be quantified using a variety of measures (health or well-being indices for example), and such things as the value of biodiversity to ecosystems can be described in detail even if they cannot be quantified. The fact that this approach does not end up with a single number to compare all policies should be seen as an advantage, not a drawback. Beyond this non-monetary valuation of ecosystem services, there may be a number of other alternatives where, while recognizing the many services nature renders to human populations, one does not attempt to value them directly, monetarily or otherwise. Some aspects of ecosystem functioning, such as the proximity of tipping points, call for precautionary approaches prior to any consideration of valuation (TEEB, 2010, p. 12). These approaches include the adoption of safe minimum standards or measures aiming at the maintenance or restoration of the critical natural capital (the preservation of which is essential for environmental sustainability). The problem is then to decide what must be deemed critical in a particular context (Ekins et al., 2003). Given the current gaps in scientific knowledge, this is undoubtedly a challenging endeavor. It might nonetheless serve the environment better than monetary valuation.
@article{baveyeMonetaryValuationEcosystem2013,
  title = {Monetary Valuation of Ecosystem Services: It Matters to Get the Timeline Right},
  author = {Baveye, Philippe C. and Baveye, Jacques and Gowdy, John},
  date = {2013-11},
  journaltitle = {Ecological Economics},
  volume = {95},
  pages = {231--235},
  issn = {0921-8009},
  doi = {10.1016/j.ecolecon.2013.09.009},
  url = {https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2013.09.009},
  abstract = {In the abundant literature dealing with the monetary valuation, or monetization, of ecosystem services (MES), with very few exceptions, the concept is presented as having emerged in 1997. In fact, there is a long history, starting in the late fifties but largely ignored, of sustained attempts to assign monetary values to nature's services. These early efforts encountered many conceptual and methodological roadblocks, which could not be resolved and led a number of researchers to argue that monetary valuation was not a fruitful approach. It is in that context that MES was hailed by some in 1997 as a promising way to integrate environmental goods and services into the logic of economic markets. Knowledge of the full timeline casts a very different light, in particular on the difficulties currently encountered in the practice of MES; far from being the expected growing pains of a young discipline, these difficulties turn out to be long-standing problems that have eluded solution over the last half-century and appear intrinsically unresolvable. This perspective suggests that, at this point, it is advisable to look at alternatives to MES for the integration of nature into economic decisions.

[Excerpt: Significance of Considering the Detailed Timeline]

Aside from historical reasons, the fact that the research on MES and on its practical applications has a significantly longer chronology than what is traditionally acknowledged in the literature on ecosystem services, does matter in a number of respects. [...] The field, in reality, is more than fifty years old, and started having growing pains decades ago. Researchers from the onset struggled with methodological problems, and one could argue that the research community still has not managed to resolve any of them satisfactorily, as illustrated vividly by Hausman's (2012) recent downgrading of the status of the contingent valuation method from dubious to ” hopeless”. Spurred by government agencies in many countries to evaluate ecosystem services, researchers and field practitioners are laboriously trying to provide monetary estimates of ecosystem services, but in many ways it seems that questions about the soundness of these numbers are still as challenging, and their answers as uncertain, as they were in the past (Gowdy et al., 2013, Norgaard, 2010 and Parks and Gowdy, 2013).

[\textbackslash n] From this perspective, it is legitimate to ask whether, after more than half a century of one-sided efforts, the time may not have come to give consideration to alternative ways to integrate nature and economics. One possible avenue would be to look at approaches that do not require monetary values to be assigned to every single one among the multitude of services we derive from nature. In this respect, several frameworks exist for assessing ecosystem values without forcing all of them into the straightjacket of neoclassical economic theory. The TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) initiative (Kumar, 2010 and Kumar et al., 2013), as well as recent uses of multicriteria decision analysis (Linkov and Moberg, 2011), for example, stress the importance of multiple valuation approaches. Economic values such as ecotourism can be expressed in monetary units, non-economic benefits to human society can be quantified using a variety of measures (health or well-being indices for example), and such things as the value of biodiversity to ecosystems can be described in detail even if they cannot be quantified. The fact that this approach does not end up with a single number to compare all policies should be seen as an advantage, not a drawback. Beyond this non-monetary valuation of ecosystem services, there may be a number of other alternatives where, while recognizing the many services nature renders to human populations, one does not attempt to value them directly, monetarily or otherwise. Some aspects of ecosystem functioning, such as the proximity of tipping points, call for precautionary approaches prior to any consideration of valuation (TEEB, 2010, p. 12). These approaches include the adoption of safe minimum standards or measures aiming at the maintenance or restoration of the critical natural capital (the preservation of which is essential for environmental sustainability). The problem is then to decide what must be deemed critical in a particular context (Ekins et al., 2003). Given the current gaps in scientific knowledge, this is undoubtedly a challenging endeavor. It might nonetheless serve the environment better than monetary valuation.},
  keywords = {*imported-from-citeulike-INRMM,~INRMM-MiD:c-13452996,~to-add-doi-URL,controversial-monetarisation,cost-benefit-analysis,ecosystem-services,environment-society-economy,multi-criteria-decision-analysis,neglecting-non-monetary-criteria,review,science-ethics,science-policy-interface,science-society-interface}
}
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