Explore environmental careers.
Environmental economists specialize in a branch of economics that incorporates environmental implications into economic analysis. They study the environmental impacts, both positive and negative, of projects and policies from an economic perspective and in turn advise industry and government on the environmental impacts of decisions. In addition to the evaluation process, environmental economists may be involved in developing theories that model the economic value of the environment and how it interacts with other aspects of a region’s economy.
At a glanceImagine it is a warm fall day, the sun gleaming off the yellow and gold poplar leaves and the deep green of the neighbouring pines. You are perched on the edge of a slope looking 10 metres down into a beautiful river valley. As an environmental economist, you have been given the tough job of assigning a dollar value to this magnificent vista as part of the municipality’s decision-making process. Last month, an area developer approached the municipality for permission to subdivide the land around the river valley and build expensive retirement estates. But before the municipality makes a decision, it has asked you to evaluate the economic consequences. This is a complex job, but it is what you are trained to do. As an environmental economist, you will approach this problem using a variation of the traditional cost-benefit analysis, whereby you outline all the potential benefits to the municipality if it agrees to allow this development, as well as the possible costs. On one hand, you outline the potential revenue gain for the municipality as a result of increased property taxes. You also calculate the benefits of increased economic growth in nearby communities that would result from a large construction project like this one. On the other hand, you need to evaluate the project’s cost in terms of environmental impact. This is the tricky part: the environment does not have an easily defined dollar value. As part of your comparative analysis, you will use a number of valuation tools and methodologies to assign a monetary value to the river valley’s environmental assets. You will determine the cost of removing half the area’s trees, destroying wildlife habitat, and increasing soil erosion, as well as the cost of the air and water pollution that would result from the construction project. In addition, the new development would restrict access to the river; you must calculate the potential cost to tourism, outdoor recreation, and the quality of life of nearby residents. As an environmental economist, you are responsible for quantifying the environmental impact of the new development so it can be compared to the monetary gain.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as an environmental economist:
- Advise on the analysis and development of economic policy instruments such as trading systems, green taxes, and financial incentives.
- Contribute to the formulation of government economic policies relating to environmental issues.
- Study the effects of government economic and monetary policies, taxation, and expenditures on the environment and the economy.
- Analyze how environmental policy and regulations interact with growth, trade, productivity, and competitiveness.
- Conduct research on local, regional, national, multilateral, and global markets.
- Present economic and statistical concepts and results in effective ways.
- Estimate the economic and environmental effects of changes in legislation or policy on government, industry, and society at large.
- Estimate the effects of environmental legislation on the economy using economic instruments.
- Conduct research to develop forecasts for economic trends.
- Develop and apply economic models to analyze environmental issues.
- Address concerns and questions from the public and attend public meetings.
- Calculate the value of environmental goods and capital.
Work environmentEnvironmental economists work in a variety of locations, including: In the office:
- Creating economic models
- Researching and analyzing data and preparing reports
- Providing advice to decision- and policy-makers
- Participating on committees for land and resource development
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field
- Travelling and presenting economic information to stakeholders, clients, contractors, and the general public
- Carrying out research and visiting sites
- Attending conferences and meetings
Where to workThere are a number of places environmental economists can find employment. They include:
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal governments
- Economic and management consulting firms
- Environmental consulting firms
- Colleges, universities, and research institutes
- Not-for-profit, non-governmental, and international organizations
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as an environmental economist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Social Studies
- Business and Commerce
- Environmental Management
- Natural Resource Management
- Renewable Resource Management