ing the specific types of nonmarket goods and services produced by these assets.

Pollutant Emissions and Their Relation to Stocks, Flows, and Economic Activity

Before constructing environmental accounts, it is necessary to determine the interactions between natural resources and the environment and economic activity. It is essential to understand the key physical flows and stocks and how they affect humans and economic activities and values. A complete accounting requires detailed knowledge of the physical properties of resources and pollutants as described in fate, transport, and impact or damage models, as well as the service flows to market and nonmarket sectors.

Figure 4-1 illustrates key relationships among emissions, stocks of pollutants, natural- resource assets, and economic activities in different sectors. As the figure shows, economic activities produce a variety of uninternalized emissions and residuals that find their way into the environment. Many of the pollutants of concern are residuals that also have natural sources—sulfur, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen compounds—and are emitted during volcanic eruptions, produced by forests and wetlands, or released from wildfires. Other residuals of concern—such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and many pesticides used in agriculture—are anthropogenic and have no natural sources. In terms of effects on human activities, the sources of the residuals are not important. What may be important is that human activities have increased the levels occurring in the environment, concentrated them to a degree that makes them dangerous, or relocated them to areas where people or economic activities are exposed to them at high levels.

Whether from natural sources or human activities, environmental variables can affect economic well-being in three general ways, as illustrated in Figure 4-1: (1) direct effects on consumption or income of households, industry, and government; (2) accumulation in the environment of stocks of residuals that then affect economic activities or economic assets; and (3) effects on the service flows of economic assets (capital stock, natural resources, or human resources), such as recreation, clean air to breathe, and navigable river channels free of sedimentary deposits.

Direct Effects

Environmental variables affect human and natural systems directly. Urban smog, whose concentrations change daily or even hourly, is an obvious example. Sulfate and nitrate aerosols, pollutants contributing to acid precipitation, remain in the atmosphere for a matter of days. These

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement