Considerations on ethical and distributive problems

The issues above pose ethical and social problems. Both risk-related issues and the choice of the discount rate are important from the point of view of intergenerational equity, as it can imply little or no consideration for the well-being of future generations. As Table 3 shows, the choice of the discount rate is very significant, even for a time horizon of 20 years. This issue has become a key issue in the climate mitigation literature (Kolstad et al., 2014), where the time dimensions are very long and there are non-marginal effects on future generations. These issues are less relevant for adaptation, where decisions are often similar in nature to conventional policy decisions and thus conventional fisheries economic appraisal. However, it is potentially relevant when the choices made today (or the lack of action) produce irreversible impacts.

There is also a set of issues around intra-generational equity, i.e. between those in society. In the monetary evaluation of the costs and benefits of interventions, issues concerning the rights of individuals and populations are involved. As noted, the attempt to translate these costs and benefits into monetary terms assumes that the welfare measurement of the subjects involved is their WTP. This assumption must be carefully considered. In fact, it can be acceptable when making choices that involve subjects who have comparable financial means. However, caution must be used when this homogeneity is not present and the interests of groups with unbalanced economic power are compared. This is the case, for example, of relations between developed countries and developing countries, and between users of a natural resource for tourism or for the subsistence of low-income populations. In the latter cases, the comparison of payment capacities neglects the needs of the poorest sections of the population, to the advantage of the wealthiest.