Economic Valuation of the Environment

  • Steve YearleyEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Environmental Sociology and Policy book series (PASTESP)


Attempts to express environmental problems in economic terms have been at the forefront of environmental policy debates for over twenty years. But the process and politics of making economic valuations applicable to ecological entities have received relatively little attention within environmental sociology. This chapter starts by considering how social scientists have analysed what it means to create a market in a novel area or to ‘economize’ an issue. These social-scientific ideas are then applied to two leading ecological issues: attempts to manage carbon emissions through pricing, and concepts and practices for valuing natural resources. The chapter concludes by highlighting the way that pricing and market-making have changed the character of environmental governance, introducing new kinds of actor and incentives which social scientists need to study.


  1. Asdal, K. (2008). On Politics and the Little Tools of Democracy: A Down-To-Earth Approach. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, 9(1), 11–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bailey, P., Jackson, T., Parkinson, S., & Begg, K. (2001). Searching for Baselines: Constructing Joint Implementation Project Emission Reductions. Global Environmental Change, 11(3), 185–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Çalışkan, K., & Callon, M. (2009). Economization, Part 1: Shifting Attention from the Economy Towards Processes of Economization. Economy and Society, 38(3), 369–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Çalışkan, K., & Callon, M. (2010). Economization, Part 2: A Research Programme for the Study of Markets. Economy and Society, 39(1), 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dunlap, R., & Brulle, R. J. (Eds.). (2015). Climate Change and Society: Sociological Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Dussauge, I., Helgesson, C.-F., Lee, F., & Woolgar, S. (2015). On the Omnipresence, Diversity, and Elusiveness of Values in the Life Sciences and Medicine. In I. Dussauge, C.-F. Helgesson, & F. Lee (Eds.), Value Practices in the Life Sciences and Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ellerman, A. D., Schmalensee, R., Bailey, E. M., Joskow, P. L., & Montero, J.-P. (2000). Markets for Clean Air: The U.S. Acid Rain Program. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fairbrother, M. (2016). Externalities: Why Environmental Sociology Should Bring Them In. Environmental Sociology, 2(4), 375–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Forrester, J., & Yearley, S. (1995). Figuring Out Sustainability in the UK Context: Can a Sustainable Future Be Bought Within the Market Place? In J. Lovenduski & J. Stanyer (Eds.), Contemporary Political Studies: Proceedings of the Political Studies Association (Vol. I, pp. 233–240). Belfast: Political Studies Association.Google Scholar
  10. Fourcade, M. (2011). Cents and Sensibility: Economic Valuation and the Nature of “Nature”. American Journal of Sociology, 116(6), 1721–1777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Georgescu-Roegen, N. (1971). The Entropy Law and the Economic Process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Grubb, M. (2013). Planetary Economics: Energy, Climate Change and the Three Domains of Sustainable Development. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Helgesson, C.-F., & Muniesa, F. (2013). For What it’s Worth: An Introduction to Valuation Studies. Valuation Studies, 1(1), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Heukelom, F. (2014). Behavioral Economics: A History. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jacobs, M. (1994). The Limits to Neoclassicism: Towards an Institutional Environmental Economics. In M. Redcliff & T. Benton (Eds.), Social Theory and Global Environmental Change (pp. 67–91). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Jamieson, D. (2014). Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed—and What it Means for Our Future. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Juniper, T. (2013). What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? How Money Really Does Grow on Trees. London: Profile Books.Google Scholar
  18. Lo, A. Y. (2016). Challenges to the Development of Carbon Markets in China. Climate Policy, 16(1), 109–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. MacKenzie, D. (2006). An Engine, Not a Camera. How Financial Models Shape Markets. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Monbiot, G. (2007). Environmental Feedback: A Reply to Clive Hamilton. New Left Review, 45(May–June), 105–113.Google Scholar
  21. Mooney, H. A., & Ehrlich, P. R. (1997). Ecosystem Services: A Fragmentary History. In G. C. Daily (Ed.), Nature’s Services: Societal Dependence On Natural Ecosystems (pp. 11–19). Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  22. Mulkay, M., Pinch, T., & Ashmore, M. (1987). Colonizing the Mind: Dilemmas in the Application of Social Science. Social Studies of Science, 17(2), 231–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. O’Neill, J. (1993). Ecology, Policy and Politics. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pearce, D., Markandya, A., & Barbier, E. B. (1989). Blueprint for a Green Economy. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  25. Quattrone, P. (2012). The Jesuit Ordering: In Between the Imaginative Force of the Art of Memory and the Organizational Power of Accounting Practices. In B. Boute & T. Småberg (Eds.), Devising Order: Socio-Religious Models, Rituals, and the Performativity of Practice (pp. 243–264). Leiden: Brill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sandel, M. (2012). What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  27. Schneider, L., & Kollmuss, A. (2015). Perverse Effects of Carbon Markets on HFC-23 and SF6 Abatement Projects in Russia. Nature Climate Change, 5, 1061–1063.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Silvertown, J. (2015). Have Ecosystem Services Been Oversold? Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 30(11), 641–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Skocpol, T. (2013). Naming the Problem: What It Will Take to Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight Against Global Warming. Unpublished Paper, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  30. Spash, C. L. (1999). The Development of Environmental Thinking in Economics. Environmental Values, 8(4), 413–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stern, N. (2007). ‘Climate Change, Ethics and the Economics of the Global Deal’ Royal Economic Society Annual Public Lecture 29th and 30th November; official summary at
  32. Turnhout, E., Waterton, C., Neves, K., & Buizer, M. (2013). Rethinking Biodiversity: From Goods and Services to “Living With”. Conservation Letters, 6(3), 154–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. UK National Ecosystem Assessment. (2011). The UK National Ecosystem Assessment: Synthesis of the Key Findings. Cambridge: UNEP-WCMC.Google Scholar
  34. Yearley, S. (1989). Bog Standards: Science and Conservation at a Public Inquiry. Social Studies of Science, 19(3), 421–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Yearley, S. (2009). Sociology and Climate Change After Kyoto: What Roles for Social Science in Understanding Climate Change? Current Sociology, 57(3), 389–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. van der Zwan, N. (2014). Making Sense of Financialization. Socioeconomic Review, 12(1), 99–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of EdinburghEdinburghUK

Personalised recommendations