La economía ecológica analiza cómo los esfuerzos económicos humanos afectan la ecología global.

La economía ecológica es un campo de la economía teórica que estudia la economía humana como un subsistema del ecosistema global . Esencialmente, la economía ecológica se basa en la premisa de que los seres humanos necesitan la Tierra para sustentar la vida humana a fin de tener una economía, por lo tanto, la creación y el mantenimiento de un ecosistema estable y sostenible es el requisito principal para la continuación de la economía humana. Esta teoría contrasta marcadamente con las teorías económicas tradicionales que se centran en la función del mercado como principal preocupación. La economía ecológica es un subconjunto amplio y algo vago de teorías económicas que ha ganado cierta popularidad a raíz de la educación sobre el calentamiento global y el cambio climático .

La economía ecológica a veces se denomina un campo interdisciplinario porque requiere el trabajo tanto de científicos ecológicos como de economistas tradicionales.

Gran parte de la economía humana impacta en el ecosistema natural del planeta. Si bien es posible que ir a una peluquería no parezca tener nada que ver con el mundo natural, la electricidad que alimenta el secador de pelo, los productos químicos en el tinte y el metal que entra en las tijeras provienen de la ecología . Dado que casi todas las actividades humanas tienen un efecto de toma o daca en el ecosistema global, una gran parte del estudio de la economía ecológica implica examinar la relación entre las necesidades humanas y los recursos naturales.

Natural resources are anything taken from the earthen environment and used to create goods or services used by individuals.

Ecological economics is sometimes referred to as an interdisciplinary or trans-disciplinary field because it requires the work of both ecological scientists and traditional economists. The scientific side of the field is largely concerned with measuring the sustainability of ecosystems and developing technology that makes sustainable practices cost-effective and productive. The economical side attempts to marry ecological data with traditional human needs to create the potential for systematic economic growth that is sustainable.

The theory, which has been developed and interpreted by numerous luminaries in both the scientific and economic fields, suggests that traditional economic theories have considered the importance of ecology and economy in the wrong order. Since the economy can’t function if the planet becomes wholly unlivable, ecological economics tends to consider sustainability first and economic needs second. While that premise may seem reasonable, it is the fine structure of ecological economics that tends to cause the controversy.

One of the major issues with ecological economics is that it requires scientists to make assumptions about the future. The global warming controversy of the early 21st century is an excellent example of how difficult it is to base policy, such as air pollution standards, on scientific assumptions that are not always universally agreed upon by scientists, nor immediately observable to policy makers. Additionally, the matter gets confused when non-sustainable solutions are promoted as an alternative to changing policy or the economic status quo, such as suggesting that the solution to dwindling finite resources such as fossil fuel reserves is to drill for oil in more places. Ecological economics requires a long-term perspective that is often lost in social-political debate, since people are understandably concerned about the price of gas today rather than what will happen when fossil fuels run out in a century.