Discussion on carbon metrics and economic valuation of nature

A few weeks ahead of the Paris Climate Summit and in the heat of the
debate around ambition, solutions and progress, we would like to invite
you to take a step back with us and take time to read and digest two
papers that we are launching today that brush climate and environmental
policies against the nap – challenging some of the most fundamental
beliefs and questioning many of the mainstream answers.

Welcome to our online debate on the economic valuation of nature!
Economic valuation of nature is not new. In fact, it has been a
companion of capital accumulation for centuries. Yet, despite the long
history of valuing select portions of nature economically, there seems
to be a new quality to current approaches. Jutta Kill’s paper “Economic
Valuation and Payment for Environmental Services: Recognizing Nature’s
Value or Pricing Nature’s Destruction?” explores where the recent
initiatives aimed at ‘ending the economic invisibility of nature’ differ
from previous approaches to economic valuation of nature.
We have invited a number of scientists, academics and environmentalists
to provide different views and starting points for the discussion. Their
reviews of the paper will successively be published to fuel the debate.
Now, we are inviting you to comment and discuss online:


We hope that you will actively participate and contribute to a lively
debate on this highly controversial issue. You can post your comment
from this day forward until December 11, 2015. After that the author,
Jutta Kill, will respond to the comments uploaded and posted. All inputs
will feed into our ongoing discussions and work plans for 2016 and

We are also pleased to present to you our latest publication in our
Ecology series:
Carbon Metrics – Global abstractions and ecological epistemicide
The environmental crisis is real, urgent, and of global reach and
significance. Climate change is framed as the largest threat. But this
threat is seen almost exclusively as a problem of too much CO2
emissions. Is climate change more important and more urgent than the
loss of biodiversity, the degradation of arable soils, or the depletion
of fresh water? Can any of these phenomena even be considered in
isolation from each other?
This paper argues that the way we describe and frame a problem very much
predetermines the kinds of solutions and answers we seek, e.g.
carbon-centric mode creates and even destroys knowledge at the same
time. Quantification can be illuminating but it can also act as a
blindfold. Like car headlamps on full beam: within the light cone, the
view of the road is crystal clear, but outside it the blackness of the
night is all the more striking. Seeing the world in carbon units has a
similar headlamp effect. If we go over to calculating and comparing all
nations and economic activities in carbon units, we become blind to
other requirements in ecology and society. Blinded by numbers, we fail
to see the diversity of nature, culture and lifestyles – outright
Camila Moreno, Daniel Speich Chassé and Lili Fuhr invite the reader to
grasp a well-intentioned trend in climate policy and brush it against
the nap. In the process they demolish the ideal pursued by conventional
economics – that we can only manage what we can quantify numerically,
under the added assumption that what is not countable does not exist.
The danger is that “carbon accounting” is just one more round in the
history of quantification.

Carbon Metrics – Global abstractions and ecological epistemicide

An essay by Camila Moreno, Daniel Speich Chassé and Lili Fuhr with an
introductory preface by Wolfgang Sachs
Edited by the Heinrich Böll Foundation
Publication Series Ecology, Volume 42