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Why uncertainty matters - discounting under intertemporal risk aversion and ambiguity

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  • Traeger, Christian P

    ()
    (University of California, Berkeley. Dept of agricultural and resource economics)

Abstract

Uncertainty has an almost negligible impact on project value in the economicstandard model. I show that a comprehensive evaluation of uncertainty and uncertainty attitude changes this picture fundamentally. The analysis relies on the discount rate, which is the crucial determinant in balancing immediate costs against future benefits and the single most important determinant of optimal mitigation policies in the integrated assessment of climate change. The paper examines two shortcomings in the recent debate and the current models addressing climate change assessment. First, removing an implicit assumption of (intertemporal) risk neutrality reduces the growth effect in social discounting and significantly amplifies the importance of risk and correlation. Second, debate and models largely overlook the difference in attitude with respect to risk and with respect to non-risk uncertainty. The paper derives the resulting changes of the risk-free and the stochastic social discount rate and points out the importance of even thin tailed uncertainty for climate change evaluation. It discusses combinations ofuncertainty and correlation that reduce the social discount rate to pure preference. In a theoretical contribution, the paper extends the smooth ambiguity model by providing a threefold disentanglement between, risk aversion, ambiguity aversion, and the propensityto smooth consumption over time.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of California at Berkeley, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Policy in its series CUDARE Working Paper Series with number 1092R2.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2008
Date of revision: Jan 2012
Handle: RePEc:are:cudare:1092r2

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Related research

Keywords: ambiguity; climate change; cost benefit analysis; discounting; intertemporal substitutability; risk aversion; uncertainty;

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References

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  1. Traeger, Christian P., 2010. "Intertemporal risk aversion – or – wouldn’t it be nice to tell whether Robinson Crusoe is risk averse?," CUDARE Working Paper Series 1102, University of California at Berkeley, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Policy.
  2. Gollier, Christian, 2002. "Discounting an uncertain future," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 149-166, August.
  3. Nengjiu Ju & Jianjun Miao, . "Ambiguity, Learning, and Asset Returns," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series wp2009-014, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  4. Weitzman, Martin L., 1998. "Why the Far-Distant Future Should Be Discounted at Its Lowest Possible Rate," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 201-208, November.
  5. Geoffrey Heal, 2009. "Climate Economics: A Meta-Review and Some Suggestions for Future Research," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 3(1), pages 4-21, Winter.
  6. Michel Normandin & Pascal St-Amour, 1998. "Substitution, risk aversion, taste shocks and equity premia," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(3), pages 265-281.
  7. William D. Nordhaus, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 686-702, September.
  8. Gierlinger, Johannes & Gollier, Christian, 2008. "Socially Efficient Discounting under Ambiguity Aversion," IDEI Working Papers 561, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  9. Peter Klibanoff & Massimo Marinacci & Sujoy Mukerji, 2006. "Recursive Smooth Ambiguity Preferences," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 17, Collegio Carlo Alberto, revised 2008.
  10. Fabio Maccheroni & Massimo Marinacci & Aldo Rustichini, 2006. "Dynamic Variational Preferences," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 1, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  11. Ghirardato, Paolo & Maccheroni, Fabio & Marinacci, Massimo, 2004. "Differentiating ambiguity and ambiguity attitude," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 118(2), pages 133-173, October.
  12. Campbell, John Y, 1996. "Understanding Risk and Return," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(2), pages 298-345, April.
  13. Keller, Klaus & Bolker, Benjamin M. & Bradford, D.F.David F., 2004. "Uncertain climate thresholds and optimal economic growth," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 723-741, July.
  14. Pindyck, Robert S., 2012. "Uncertain outcomes and climate change policy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 289-303.
  15. Kelly, David L. & Kolstad, Charles D., 1999. "Malthus and Climate Change: Betting on a Stable Population," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt9ks625sk, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  16. Ravi Bansal & Amir Yaron, 2000. "Risks for the Long Run: A Potential Resolution of Asset Pricing Puzzles," NBER Working Papers 8059, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Sujoy Mukerji & Peter Klibanoff, 2002. "A Smooth Model of Decision,Making Under Ambiguity," Economics Series Working Papers 113, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  18. Martin L. Weitzman, 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 1-19, February.
  19. Azfar, Omar, 1999. "Rationalizing hyperbolic discounting," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 245-252, February.
  20. Kreps, David M & Porteus, Evan L, 1978. "Temporal Resolution of Uncertainty and Dynamic Choice Theory," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 185-200, January.
  21. Kihlstrom, Richard E. & Mirman, Leonard J., 1974. "Risk aversion with many commodities," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 361-388, July.
  22. Millner, Antony, 2013. "On welfare frameworks and catastrophic climate risks," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 310-325.
  23. Plambeck, Erica L. & Hope, Chris & Anderson, John, 1997. "The model: Integrating the science and economics of global warming," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 77-101, March.
  24. Martin L. Weitzman, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 703-724, September.
  25. Melissa Dell & Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2008. "Climate Change and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century," NBER Working Papers 14132, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Weil, Philippe, 1990. "Nonexpected Utility in Macroeconomics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 29-42, February.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Svenja Hector, 2013. "Accounting for Different Uncertainties: Implications for Climate Investments?," Working Papers 2013.107, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  2. Iverson, Terrence, 2013. "Minimax regret discounting," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 598-608.
  3. Traeger, Christian, 2012. "A 4-stated DICE: quantitatively addressing uncertainty effects in climate change," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt6jx2p7fv, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
  4. Traeger, Christian, 2013. "A 4-stated DICE: quantitatively addressing uncertainty effects in climate change," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt9034k05t, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
  5. Yongyang Cai & Kenneth L. Judd & Thomas S. Lontzek, 2013. "The Social Cost of Stochastic and Irreversible Climate Change," NBER Working Papers 18704, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Svenja Hector(), . "Accounting for Different Uncertainties: Implications for Climate Investments?," Working Papers ETH-RC-13-007, ETH Zurich, Chair of Systems Design.
  7. Crost, Benjamin & Traeger, Christian P., 2013. "Optimal climate policy: Uncertainty versus Monte Carlo," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 120(3), pages 552-558.
  8. Larry S. Karp, 2012. "Provision of a Public Good with Altruistic Overlapping Generations and Many Tribes," CESifo Working Paper Series 3895, CESifo Group Munich.

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