“Making nature’s value visible”

Wednesday 05 May 21
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Contact

Marcella Veronesi
Professor
DTU Management

Contact

Jacob Ladenburg
Professor
DTU Management
+45 46 77 51 05

Contact

Signe Krarup
Head of Division
DTU Management
+45 45 25 15 02
Two new professors in environmental economy aim to use behavioral insights to increase sustainability and to make nature’s value visible to policymakers.

For almost as long as windmills have existed in Denmark there has been a public debate about where these windmills should be placed to create a minimum of disruption to neighbors and nature. As more and more solar cell fields are appearing in the Danish landscape, similar arguments are being put forward about the new technology. 

This time, however, the debate can be qualified to ensure the process takes place in a way that both promotes the green transition and satisfies as many people as possible. This according to Jacob Ladenburg, who recently joined as Professor of Environmental Economics at DTU Management. 

“If we uncritically allow the construction of solar energy in our cultural landscape, we will lose the Danish citizens’ support for the technology,” he says. “Therefore, it is extremely important that we, as a society, manage to find low-cost solutions. Both the direct costs, but also the consequences it will have on nature and aesthetics so that we get the largest possible outcome of environment for our money.”

These broad societal perspective on new technologies is exactly what the Sustainability Division at DTU Management is now strengthening by welcoming or recruiting two professors in environmental economics: Jacob Ladenburg, previously professor and senior researcher at the VIVE and ROCKWOOL Foundations Research Unit and Professor Marcella Veronesi, professor at University of Verona and previously employed at ETH Züurich and University of Maryland. 

More than just a cost-benefit analysis 

The necessity of translating alternative values into numbers is well-known for Head of Sustainability Division Signe Krarup from her previous positions in the Ministry of Environment and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency and she is very excited to welcoming Marcella and Jacob.

“Politicians make a lot of decisions based on economic calculations in large calculation models in which we are already experts. But Jacob and Marcella can help us quantify environmental goods and services, such as going for a walk without wind turbine noise, so that they are not overlooked in the decision-making process,” Signe Krarup says. 

For both Marcella Veronesi and Jacob Ladenburg, it makes sense to work at a technical university, as interdisciplinary work is a primary factor in both of the professors’ research. 

“My research highly relies on other disciplines than my own; it is not just about cost-benefit analysis, but my research also considers technical, environmental, and social factors that can affect the decision-making process, as shown in my forthcoming book on Behavioral Economics and the Environment,” Marcella says. 

For example, her research uses information from engineers and psychologists to investigate people’s preferences about new technologies and what drives the decision of citizens to adopt renewable energy technologies, like biogas.

“In a project on climate change adaptation strategies in developing countries, the data from climatologists and agronomists are key to understanding how climate change adaptation is affecting food security in developing countries. For that reason, I also look forward to collaborating with DTU Management’s division in the UN city, UNEP DTU Partnership,” Marcella says.

A gentle, sustainable push 

In addition to involving other disciplines in their research, Jacob Ladenburg and Marcella Veronesi also try to quantify preferences of Danish citizens. They do this, for example, through surveys where respondents have to make choices that reflect the influence of various factors on their actions. In this way, the professors try to understand how to change human behavior or give them a “gentle push” in the sustainable direction, as Marcella Veronesi phrases it. 

Both researchers return to the Danes, when asked about how their future research plans.

Among other things, Marcella Veronesi would like to investigate how to get more Danish citizens to choose CO2-neutral transport and how climate change education affects human-behavior. Jacob Ladenburg has already begun a collaboration with Professor Michael Zwicky Hauschild to investigate the Danish citizens’ shopping habits. 

“It may seem like an unconscious routine when we throw an item into our shopping cart without giving any thought as to how it is manufactured, transported and otherwise affects the environment,” Jacob Ladenburg says. 

“But just like when we consider wind turbines and solar cells, the decision should, to a greater extent, rely on an underlying balance between price, environmental impact, identity and aesthetics. That is why we must continue to investigate the mechanisms behind our choices,” he says.