Adaptation and the Option Value of Uncertain Environmental Resources

Jason F. Shogren, Thomas D. Crocker
May 1990  [90-WP 58]

Just as ecology has benefited from the economic theory of optimization, economics can benefit from the ecological theory of adaptation. We examine the impact of short-term, nongenetic adaptive self-protection on the values individuals attach to uncertain prospective environmental resources. We demonstrate that collective provision of reductions in supply uncertainty does not necessitate a positive option value, given that uncertainty is influenced by the individual's ability to adapt through self-protection. We conclude that the total value of reducing the supply uncertainty of a natural resource is reflected in both the individual's option price payments for collective provision and in his willingness-to-pay for adaptation through self-protection. By ignoring adaptive self-protection, traditional benefit-cost analysis has systematically underestimated the total value of environmental resources that are characterized by uncertain supplies.

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