METHODSCommensuration and theories of value in ecological economics
Review articleOpen access

AbstractWithout a theory of value (price) in ecological economics, the valuation of ecosystem and economic resources cannot be rigorously defended. At the crux of the matter is the `valuation' or `mixed units' problem of commensurating biophysical inputs/outputs which are different. This paper critically reviews candidate theories of value which have emerged in the ecological economics literature for dealing with this problem. First of all, the Neo-Ricardian approach, using Sraffa-type systems is discussed. In particular, Judson's assertion that the Sraffa system is suitable for ecological economics is questioned, as it is based on `circular flow', generation of a `surplus' and `exchange values'. None of these ideas are consistent with a biophysical characterisation of an economic system, which is paramount in ecological economics. A more fruitful avenue for establishing a biophysical theory of value based on ecological and thermodynamic principles, is to extend Patterson's quality equivalent methodology (QEM) to explicitly include mass flows in addition to energy. At this point a model close to Costanza and Hannon's biosphere model of price determination emerges. The extended QEM model however, has a number of important advantages over the Costanza–Hannon model because it has a more generalised formulation and is not reliant on necessarily using solar energy as the numeraire. The paper concludes with a discussion of some outstanding issues that need to be resolved before a biophysical theory of value can be properly established in ecological economics.

Request full text

References (0)

Cited By (0)

No reference data.
No citation data.
Join Copernicus Academic and get access to over 12 million papers authored by 7+ million academics.
Join for free!