26 Nov 2013

Why bother with environmental economists?

I got this email:
As a student studying environmental engineering, I'm curious to know what exactly is the role of an environmental economist? Does he add any value to onfield projects and what are the research opportunities available?
Let me answer with a few points:
  1. An economist is good at weighing costs and benefits.
  2. A good economist can also consider who gets the costs and who gets the benefits.
  3. The environment creates benefits that are hard to quantify; economic activities can have environmental costs that are significant. An environmental economist can help you understand these BEFORE you even begin field work, as well as integrate them into choices made in the field ("gee, maybe you shouldn't release that tailwater into the river; people downstream don't like to drink pollution.")
  4. There are many research opportunities, since engineers are not trained in talking to people about preferences, choices, tradeoffs and willingness to pay.
Can you add more?