the costs and benefits. Some favor publicly administered regulations and penalties; others favor the use of more market-like incentives, such as taxes or subsidies, to achieve the same end (Kneese and Russell, 1987). Resource management, an interdisciplinary subfield that combines physical and social science, focuses on physical resources such as water, oil, or wildlife. The field draws on legal and social theory so that its management concepts take into account objectives other than growth or efficiency, such as social cohesion or preservation of cultural groups (Emel and Peet, 1989; Heathcoate and Mabbutt, 1988; Rees, 1985; Savory, 1988).


Social science has potential for contributing to knowledge about global change, starting from either practical questions or relevant theory. This is good news for social scientists because it indicates that global change research can become a rich new field of study. But it also means that priorities must be set to effectively allocate the scarce resources of time and money. In later chapters, we review current knowledge and address the issue of priorities for a national research program on the human dimensions of global change. Among the research needs identified there, highest priority should be given to research activities that meet several of the following criteria.

  1. Importance. The research addresses fundamental issues relating to the anthropogenic sources of global environmental change or the human consequences of or responses to global change. We favor studies that seem likely to shed light on patterns of behavior that:

  • have high impact, for example, if a proximate cause of global change, such as emissions of major greenhouse gases, is highly sensitive to the behavior or if a behavior is highly sensitive to an anticipated global change;

  • have multiple impacts, for example, increases in crop acreage have combined effects on biological diversity and releases of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane;

  • are likely to become more important over a time scale of decades or centuries, even if they do not have high or multiple impacts now;

  • affect the robustness of societies under the impact of global environmental changes, that is, their ability to withstand such changes without major disruptions of human life;

  • affect the capacity to respond appropriately to global change,

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