HKS Authors

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Economic activity can damage natural systems and reduce the flow of ecosystem services. The harms can be substantial, as our case studies vividly illustrate. Most degraded landscapes have at least some potential to be reclaimed. However, uncertainty plagues decision making regarding degradation and reclamation, in relation to the extent of the damage, the success of reclamation, and how exposure will change in the future. We examine how a range of observed decision biases can lead to far-from-optimal policies regarding how much degradation to allow and when, as well as how and how much, to reclaim degraded sites. Despite our focus on degraded landscapes, we believe these are generic biases present in a wide range of risk situations. Our three case studies show these biases at work. The first two studies are of mining operations in the United States and Canada, and the third is of climate change.


Berger, Alan, Case Brown, Carolyn Kousky, and Richard Zeckhauser. "The Challenge of Degraded Environments: How Common Biases Impair Effective Policy." Risk Analysis 31.9 (September 2011): 1423–1433.