The impact of education on environmental policy decision-making

Download

Civil servants in governmental agencies regularly both propose environmental policies for the elected politicians and make own decisions. In making these decisions they may be influenced by legal norms, agency policy and culture, professional norms acquired through education as well as personal political preferences. This study tests how students in late stages of professional training in economics, biology and social sciences handle information in order to make a stylized choice of a national nutrient limit for lake water, or choose a program at a municipal level to lower the nutrient level in a local lake. The purpose is to test whether professional norms acquired during academic education and/or the presence of an international standard influences decision-making. We examine three hypotheses. Firstly, students’ political attitudes affect their choice of major, i.e. biology, economics or social sciences, and thereby indirectly their decisions. We find that the distribution of the political values among disciplines is compatible with the hypothesis, which therefore is not rejected. Secondly, a student’s major influences the kind of information they use and consequently the policy choice they will recommend. In plain words we expected biology students to go for environmentally more ambitious (lower) nutrient limits and economics students to prefer economically efficient (higher) levels. The central result is that while economics majors are more likely than biology or social science majors to choose a cost-efficient nutrient limit, the mean and median values of the nutrient levels chosen by the three groups do not differ from one another in a statistically significant way. Economists thus have a higher standard deviation in their answers than the other majors. The third hypothesis is that the presence of an internationally approved standard level for the nutrient content will significantly influence the choice of national nutrient limit. We find that biology students are influenced to set a lower nutrient limit when presented with the standard than otherwise, thereby rejecting the null hypothesis for this group. For students in economics and social sciences, no significant effect is found. Our results have implications for the feasibility of micromanagement in government agencies as recruiting economists to environmental agencies may not be sufficient to ensure economically efficient decisions. The findings also should sound a warning about the skills learned by economics majors at the two largest universities in Sweden: while some students seem familiar with the concepts of optimality and cost efficiency and able to use them, this applies to far from all of them.

MEET US


7
Dec

Shipping and the environment – research meets reality

Centre for Transport Studies (CTS) in co-operation with Ports of Stockholm invite you to the seminar Shipping and the environment – research meets reality.

LATEST NEWS


2017-10-26

Simulation of cut-in by manually driven vehicles in platooning scenarios

A study in a VTI-driving simulator has showed that a platoon will be able to handle a cut in from a manually driven car. The results of this study have recently been presented at two conferences in Japan.


2017-10-16

ERPUG Forum

The five-year anniversary of European Road Profile Users' Group (ERPUG) Forum will take place at Ramboll head quarter, Copenhagen, Denmark October 19-20, 2017.


2017-09-29

Self-driving buses in Sweden next year?

A self-driving, fossil-free bus. This idea might become reality through a forthcoming collaborative project involving the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI), Linköping University and several other participants. The project group aim...


2017-09-29

New climate-proof solutions for hard surfaces in cities

High-density road infrastructure that emphasise maximum durability and minimum maintenance create inflexible systems, which put increased stress on urban trees and lead to increased risk for flooding. Over the past five years, the ‘Climate-proof solutions for...


2017-09-29

VTI is preparing for automated vehicles

Automation of traffic systems will lead to major changes. The European Union’s (EU) CoEXist research project began in June 2017 with the aim of preparing cities and road operators for the introduction of self-driving vehicles. The Swedish National Road and...


2017-07-05

Vehicle Driver Monitoring: sleepiness and cognitive load

To prevent road crashes it is important to understand driver related contributing factors, which have been suggested to be the critical reason in 94 per cent of crashes. The overall aim of the project Vehicle Driver Monitoring has been to advance the...