New study shows governments need more honest environmental accounting

Jan 02, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Queensland research is paving the way for better management of our precious natural environment.

In work published in Science today, researchers from UQ’s Ecology Centre and collaborators have found only the ‘honest’ reporting of both the positive and negative outcomes of conservation policy can we hope to properly manage our dwindling environmental resources.

Lead author of the study, Dr Eve McDonald-Madden, said without rigorous and transparent accounting it is impossible to manage the environment.

“Given the increasing public awareness of conservation issues and the need for ongoing investment in environmental management, it is worrying that little attention has been given to deriving rigorous metrics for reporting on conservation investments,” Dr McDonald-Madden said.

“Reporting both gains and losses is a basic requirement of ‘honest’ conservation accounting. The current global standard of reporting gains but not losses is unjustified and potentially misleading.”

Professor Hugh Possingham, Director of a federally funded Commonwealth Environmental Research Facility on environmental decision-making and co-author of the study, said the field of biodiversity conservation is hampered by weak performance measurement,

“In the corporate world such weak reporting would be considered bad practice,” Professor Possingham said.

The researchers used a case study of land clearing in Queensland from 1997 to 2003 and found, with traditional reporting methods, the conservation gains would appear to be small but positive.

“When metrics are used that account for both loss and reservation, they tell a markedly different story,” he said

“They reveal that overall in that period Queensland lost habitats far faster than they were being conserved. Hopefully changes to land clearing laws and a government commitment to expanding the reserve system will show better performance in the next period.”

Dr McDonald-Madden said honest metrics of conservation achievements are essential to inform conservation shareholders, we the public, about the performance of their investments.

“In failing to mention the losses and opportunity costs of conservation investments, agencies reporting on conservation achievements are disclosing revenue rather than net profit, and are being economical with the truth,” Dr McDonald-Madden said.

“An auditor from the financial sector would be appalled. Governments around Australia, and all over the world, need to get their environmental accounts cleaned up.”

On the web: www.sciencemag.org/

Provided by University of Queensland

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User comments : 12

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GrayMouser
4 / 5 (4) Jan 02, 2009
%u201CWhen metrics are used that account for both loss and reservation, they tell a markedly different story,%u201D

Who says that the metrics are honest? Dr McDonald-Madden? Some 'consensus' of scientists?
MikeB
5 / 5 (6) Jan 02, 2009
Speaking of accounting... What would an accountant think of the rewriting of our historic temperature records?

http://gallery.su...Id=50890

This is one of thousands...
Ensa
5 / 5 (5) Jan 02, 2009
Markets solve all problems;
Markets are not solving global warming;
QED, global warming is not a problem.

;)
moebiex
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 02, 2009
"In the corporate world such weak reporting would be considered bad practice"

Really?- It seems to me that that obscuring and/or otherwise hiding away unflattering implications as "externalities" is a major concern of modern political energy and legal concentration. Lets face it, profitability in many industrial and other economic endeavours depends critically on the success of such obfuscation. Including all costs in a project assessment and and making sure the beneficiaries and/or proponents are actually fully accountable for all associated costs until the economic and environmental impacts have fully dissipated would render many, maybe even a majority, of them unfeasible.

Unthinkable isn't it? That is why we have developed our traditions of Civil Law and Social Order. If however irreversible ecological changes start cascading we might all be living back in the mud within only a few generations, with few or none even capable of reading about the arguments going on today. Never happen you say? I believe history suggests otherwise - assuming you examine all the evidence not just those bits which selectively support a presumed argument of infallibility.

And how about that "Market"- even recent economic events show again how powerful interests discount risk for their own benefit until reality smacks everyone, including them (although it does really not hurt them as much), in the side of the head. That is 'The Market' at work. Ideally it is predicated on equality of access but in practice it is based on Power. Rational Thought mixed with a Killer Instinct obviously isn't all bad but to claim it is "all powerful and perfectly equitable" is more than a bit of a stretch. How do you reconcile the "Invisible Hand of the Market" with the old adage that "Failing to plan is planning to fail".

Of course maybe some other entity will step in to save us from ourselves. Yeah- that's a real confidence builder that one. It seems to me we are getting pretty close to the point where we can destroy through simple ignorance the environmental systems we depend on globally to survive. And just arguing about for too long will, instead of say figuring out ways to take out 2, 3 or more birds with new ways of doing things, make it more likely.
Velanarris
4 / 5 (5) Jan 03, 2009
moebiex, could you provide the underlying theory for your statements above, I'm not sure how socialism would fit into reduction of pollution initiatives. Afterall, it's doing a dandy of a job in China.
theophys
2.3 / 5 (4) Jan 03, 2009
moebiex, could you provide the underlying theory for your statements above, I'm not sure how socialism would fit into reduction of pollution initiatives. Afterall, it's doing a dandy of a job in China.

I don't think he was saying that socialism would be better for the environment. I think he was saying that it's foolish to depend on the Market to fix any problem and that wasting time with Market arguments is hurting more than it is helping.
brant
5 / 5 (3) Jan 03, 2009
I cant believe you used "honest" and "governments" in the same sentence!!!
vlam67
4 / 5 (5) Jan 03, 2009
All the protagonists and antagonists should undergo compulsory truth testing. This bullshitting from both sides has gone long enough without answers.
dachpyarvile
3.8 / 5 (4) Jan 04, 2009
Markets solve all problems;
Markets are not solving global warming;
QED, global warming is not a problem.

;)


But, for now, global warming is not a problem. 2008 had what has been identified as "the coldest winter of the 21st century."

Average global temperatures have dropped to below the temperature rises of over a decade. There has been a cooling trend over the last three years in spite of rising CO2 levels. I have been monitoring the situation for several years and that is what I am seeing overall.

So, I suppose we do not have to worry about markets at all--except the one that drives the rising fortunes of the hypocritical AGW "Chicken Littles" of the world.
lengould100
1.3 / 5 (3) Jan 05, 2009
But, for now, global warming is not a problem. 2008 had what has been identified as "the coldest winter of the 21st century."


So non-scientific it MUST be coming from a religious leader.
Velanarris
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 05, 2009
But, for now, global warming is not a problem. 2008 had what has been identified as "the coldest winter of the 21st century."


So non-scientific it MUST be coming from a religious leader.


Similar to every release stating the global warming was "fact" and "undisputed".
dachpyarvile
not rated yet Feb 01, 2009
But, for now, global warming is not a problem. 2008 had what has been identified as "the coldest winter of the 21st century."


So non-scientific it MUST be coming from a religious leader.


Well, if you mean the climate scientists from which this information was taken, then maybe you might be right. :)

Then again, the end of the previous ice age was several degrees warmer than now and the climatologists do not know why, so I suppose one must be religiously inclined to have the kind of faith necessary to believe in AGW in the face of the evidence rolling in by the day.