augmented accounting in Chapter 2 reveals only a few areas close in importance, such as the value of leisure, health status, and nonmarket educational investments.
At the same time, air quality is a most elusive concept since it has so many different components. To include these effects in the accounts, several data and measurement obstacles must be overcome. First, determination of the physical impacts of changes in air quality, generally estimated through dose-response functions, should be focused on the effects of actual human exposure to air pollution. Second, the damage estimates must separate the market effects of changes in air quality that are currently captured in the accounts (lost productivity) from the nonmarket effects that are not currently captured (lost leisure activities). Third, there is a need for reliable and objective physical and monetary damage estimates associated with exposure to air pollutants, including air toxins, ozone depleters, and greenhouse gases. Fourth, significant data gaps with respect to the impacts of air pollution and changes in air quality on ecosystem health must be filled. And finally, the estimates must represent year-to-year changes, rather than changes from a hypothetical level of pollution without regulations.
Developing a set of accounts in this area, along with the associated physical measures and valuations to apply to those measures, is a major long-run task for the nation. This task far transcends the scope and budget of BEA, and much of the necessary work lies outside BEA's specialized expertise. The task for the short run, therefore, is to continue basic research on the underlying science and economics of estimating the benefits of public goods such as clean air. Many years of concerted research are likely to be required before the materials for a set of augmented accounts in this area are available. But the payoff from the research would be large, not only in producing the raw materials for improved environmental accounts, but more important in proving the data and analysis needed for improved public policy concerning the environment. In short, the task of constructing environmental accounts for important public goods should be part of a more general goal of improving the nation's information and analytical systems in this area.
4.1 The panel recommends that BEA continue its work toward accounting for changes in natural-resource assets and for the flow of services from these assets.