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Quantitative natural resource ethics

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Funding Year: 2006

Research Areas: Freshwater, Natural Capital

Regions: North America

Quantitative ethical analysis has primarily focused on medical ethics, for instance determining the acceptable rate of sickness and death due to an immunization program. But recent work in natural resource valuation provides a means to couple such quantitative rigor with environmental ethics, thereby grounding the ethical discussion with a realistic estimation of consequences. This projects research will engage collaborators throughout Stanford to tackle a number of tough environmental ethics problems, basing the analysis on quantitative data that the EVP research team will generate.

For a number of typical environmental issues, this EVP project will ask:
Who bears moral responsibility? What limits does morality place on how we should respond to these problems?

Researchers will compare outcomes of various theoretical approaches employed to ascertain moral responsibility. They will look at ethical issues that revolve around:

  • Compensation – whether the discrepancy between market and social price implies duty to compensate
  • Information – whether having information implies a moral obligation to take action and how to deal with scientific uncertainty
  • Rights – how to balance individual, national and global rights and responsibilities
  • Moral significance – whether non-human species and / or ecosystems are morally significant and how natural capital, human capital and produced capital can be compared

This projects findings will inform deliberation on the ethical dimensions of many environmental challenges. For example, when considering the moral responsibilities nations have to address climate change, the EVP researchers will couple theoretical approaches to moral responsibility with scientific date on the causes of climate change and economic damage estimates.

Learn more about the Environmental Venture Projects grant program and other funded projects.

Principal Investigators:

Kenneth Arrow

Debra Satz, Vernon R. and Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean of the School of H&S, the Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society and Professor, by courtesy, of Political Science