Taking Economic Stock of Environmental Resources: PCAST Report the Ninth

On Friday the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its ninth report of the Obama Administration.  The report, “Sustaining Environmental Capital: Protecting Society and the Economy,” was previewed during the March 2011 PCAST meeting.  It outlines a series of recommendations that would help better describe how much economic activity is connected to biodiversity and environmental resources.  PCAST issued a report on this subject in 1998.

The idea of environmental capital is not new, nor particularly novel.  Arguably changes in the environment are depleting or otherwise depreciating the value of that capital.  As the report describes (see the first four appendices), there are several programs that try and assess the environmental capital of the U.S.  But there could be a more systematic means of making and coordinating these efforts.  The report recommends a quadrennial review to “identify trends related to ecosystem sustainability and possible policy responses.”  This would utilize most of the existing programs that work in this area, in addition to the other related programs recommended in the report.

Those other recommendations extend the general emphasis in the report of expanding and extending the scope and depth of U.S. information collection and analysis on environmental resources and the sustainability of those resources.  They are difficult to summarize even further than they are in the report summary, but they include developing additional sources of knowledge and resources for managing this knowledge (infrastructure as well as funding).