The Rangeland Journal Lecture Series 2014

Australia’s rangelands: Some dismal science perspectives

When: Wednesday 3 September 12 – 1pm

Speaker: Leo Dobes, Crawford School, ANU

Location: Fenner Seminar Room, Frank Fenner Building #141, Linnaeus Way, ANU

Presented by: Fenner School of Environment & Society, ANU College of Medicine, Biology & Environment

The study of Australia’s rangelands by scientists and agronomists is generally motivated by the laudable objective of improving the livelihoods of producers, as well as their contribution to the well-being of other Australians. However, scientific research is often focused on understanding physical phenomena and effects. Although some work also takes into account effects on farm profitability there is a considerable risk that wider economic effects can be ignored by a one-sided focus on purely commercial perspectives.

From a broader economic perspective, there is a need to address issues such as the current system of drought relief, negative externalities due to land degradation and feral animals, potential positive externalities from natural sequence farming, and dealing with an uncertain future climate. A key sub-text of the presentation is that obvious, deterministic solutions are not necessarily always the best ones. Greater cross-disciplinary collaboration can increase the policy relevance of research.

A graduate of Melbourne University, Leo Dobes completed a DPhil in the area of East European economics at the University of Oxford in 1980. Since then, he has been an Australian diplomat, an intelligence analyst in the Office of National Assessments, a policy adviser in a range of Commonwealth departments, including Defence, The Treasury, and a research manager in the Bureau of Transport Economics. He played a key role in developing and implementing the reform of the telecommunications sector in 1990-91.

Leo is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Australian National University and at the University of Canberra. He was President of the ACT Economic Society in 2012. His main research interests are adaptation to climate change, and cost-benefit analysis.

This lecture is free and open to the public.

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This lecture is part of the 2014 Rangeland Journal Lecture Series.