Natural Resource Economics

Natural Resource Economics

Year: 2018-2019
Course code: ECON4021
Course credits: 15
Taught: Semester 2
Course co-ordinator: Paulina Navrouzoglou
Entry requirements: Normally admission to an honours programme in Economics
Available to visiting students:Yes
Contact for more information: Gillian Weir

Course description

This course aims to familiarise students with the differing categories of natural resources and an explanation and critique of the economic theory associated with their optimal use.  The general context is that of the 'sustainable development /carrying capacity' debate and the potential constraints that natural resource availability may pose to the processes of economic development.  The course will have a multidisciplinary flavour and some basic knowledge of the physical and biological sciences is helpful.  The history of concern over 'limits to growth' will be discussed alongside explanations for the failure of earlier forecast 'doomsday' predictions to materialise.  The issue of climate change will also be incorporated since environmental  ‘assimilative capacity’ is now recognised as a pressing resource constraint issue and with it policies aimed at ‘decarbonising’ economic activity.

By the end of this course, students are expected to be able to recognise and explain the key categories of natural resources; explain the significance of the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of matter within the context of the environmental debates; exhibit an understanding of economists’ concepts of the optimal use/depletion of natural resources and associated limitations; explain and understand the role and limits for the recycling of resources; formulate and explain some of the main criteria for achieving a sustainable flow of resource inputs to the economy system; and, differentiate between ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ sustainability approaches and the associated policy implications.

This topic is very much in a state of flux and it is important that students make a real effort to keep abreast with developments.

Learning and teaching methods

20 hours of lectures (10 x 2 hours), Monday, 12:00-14:00 but with scope for discussion and feedback on the essay topics.

Course texts

Perman, R., May, Y., McGilvray, J. and Common, M. (2000). Natural Resource and Environmental Economics, London: Longman.


An in-course assignment of 2,000 words (30%)
A 2-hour degree exam (April/May) (70%)

Formative Assessment: group presentation