Econometrica: Nov 1998, Volume 66, Issue 6

The Noah's Ark Problem

https://doi.org/0012-9682(199811)66:6<1279:TNAP>2.0.CO;2-3
p. 1279-1298

Martin L. Weitzman

This paper is about the economic theory of biodiversity preservation. A cost-effectiveness methodology is constructed, which results in a particular formula that can be used as a criterion to rank projects. The ranking criterion is sufficiently operational to be useful in suggesting what to look at when determining actual conservation priorities among endangered species. At the same time, the formula is firmly rooted in a mathematically rigorous optimization framework, so that its theoretical underpinnings are clear. The underlying model, called the "Noah's Ark Problem," is intended to be a kind of canonical form that hones down to its analytical essence the problem of best preserving diversity under a limited budget constraint.

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