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Global Environmental Change: Understanding the Human Dimensions
disciplinary advisory group consisting of leading researchers as well as representatives of the key agency sponsors of research on the human dimensions of global change. The advisory group would be responsible for planning the project's design and implementation.
Studies of global change have been hampered by a number of problems with analytical data, that is, social indices or aggregates that take raw data and put it in a form useful for analysts. Examples include data on gross national product, indices of inequality of land or income distribution, average energy prices, and so forth. The major issues have been inadequate data outside the advanced countries and excessively narrow accounting systems for all countries.
It is well known that reliable social and environmental data have been sparse outside the OECD countries. This difficulty may be of little consequence for national social, economic, or environmental policies, but it is significant for analyses at the global level. Because poor countries often do have not the resources or statistical personnel to collect and process data, their social, demographic, economic, and environmental data are usually of poor quality. Often the best data on some environmental variables come from satellite studies. In addition, the poor quality of data from socialist countries has been compounded by antiquated accounting standards and politically motivated distortion of data. A major effort to improve the accounts of socialist and low-income countries would clearly benefit both the countries and global change researchers.
Existing systems of national income accounts omit many sectors that are important for global change research. Three critical omissions are nonmarket use of time (which is important, for example, where climate change affects recreation); use of depletable natural resources (such as oil and gas); and environmental spillovers and abatement activities (such as the costs of oil spills or the changes in amenity values of unpriced resources). Research has moved ahead sporadically on some of these topics over the past 20 years, although little progress has been made in the United States. Researchers in Germany, Japan, and other countries have made major contributions to augmenting the national accounts, while some attempts have been made to see how such changes might affect the accounts of a developing country such as Indonesia. This work needs to be undertaken either through developing aug-