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A Dynamic Analysis of Human Welfare in a Warming Planet

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  • Humberto Llavador
  • John E. Roemer
  • Joaquim Silvestre

Abstract

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have caused atmospheric concentrations with no precedents in the last half a million years, inducing serious uncertainties about future climates and their effects on human welfare. Recent climate science supports the view that the climate stabilization will require very low GHG emissions in the future. We ask: Is a path of low emissions compatible with sustainable levels of human welfare? With steady growth in human quality of life? Addressing these questions requires both defining welfare criteria and empirically estimating the possible paths of the economy. We specify and calibrate a dynamic model with four intertemporal links: education, physical capital, knowledge and the environment. In line with Nordhaus (2008a) and with the Stern Review (2007), we assume that GHG emissions allow increased production, while a higher stock of atmospheric carbon decreases production. Our index of human welfare, which we call quality of life (QuoL), emphasizes education, knowledge, and the environment, affected by greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to consumption and leisure. Thus, we avoid a Consumptionist Fallacy that welfare depends only on commodityconsumption and perhaps leisure. We reject discounted utilitarianism as a normative criterion, and consider two alternatives. The first is an intergenerational maximin criterion, which maximizes the quality of life of the first generation subject to maintaining at least that level for all successive generations. The second is human development optimization, that seeks the maximization of the QuoL of the first generation subject to achieving a given, constant rate of growth in all subsequent generations. Hence, our analysis focuses on a human notion of sustainability, as opposed to the conventional green sustainability, limited to keeping the quality of the environment constant. Because our dynamic optimization programs defy explicit analytical solutions, our approach has been computational. As a benchmark, we consider a simple model with physical and human capital, for which we prove a turnpike theorem. We then devise a computational algorithm inspired by the turnpike property to construct feasible, although not necessarily optimal, paths in the more complex and realistic model. Our analysis indicates that, with GHG emission paths entailing very low emissions in the future, positive rates of growth in QuoL are possible while the first generation experiences a QuoL higher than the historical reference level. We also observe a tradeoff between the quality of life of the first generation and the rate of growth in the quality of life. Yet Generation 1s sacrifice for the sake of a higher growth rate appears to be small. The paths that we compute involve investments in knowledge at noticeably higher levels than in the past.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 358.

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Date of creation: Jul 2008
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Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:358

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Keywords: Quality of life; climate change; education; maximin; growth;

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References

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  1. John Roemer, 2011. "The Ethics of Intertemporal Distribution in a Warming Planet," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 48(3), pages 363-390, March.
  2. Philip Oreopoulos & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2011. "Priceless: The Nonpecuniary Benefits of Schooling," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 159-84, Winter.
  3. Humberto Llavador & John E. Roemer & Joaquim Silvestre, 2009. "Intergenerational Justice when Future Worlds Are Uncertain," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1692, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  4. Simon Dietz & Chris Hope & Nicholas Stern & Dimitri Zenghelis, 2007. "REFLECTIONS ON THE STERN REVIEW (1) A Robust Case for Strong Action to Reduce the Risks of Climate Change," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 8(1), pages 121-168, January.
  5. Joaquim Silvestre, 2002. "Progress and conservation under Rawls's maximin principle," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 1-27.
  6. John E. Roemer, 2005. "Intergenerational Justice and Sustainability under the Leximin Ethic," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1512, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  7. Sergio Rebelo, 1999. "Long Run Policy Analysis and Long Run Growth," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2114, David K. Levine.
  8. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
  9. D. Gale Johnson, 2000. "Population, Food, and Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 1-14, March.
  10. Salvador Ortigueira, 1997. "A Dynamic Analysis of an Endogenous Growth Model with Leisure," Working Papers 9705, Centro de Investigacion Economica, ITAM.
  11. Arrow Kenneth J, 2007. "Global Climate Change: A Challenge to Policy," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 4(3), pages 1-5, June.
  12. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  13. 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.
  14. Krautkraemer, Jeffrey A, 1985. "Optimal Growth, Resource Amenities, and the Preservation of Natural Environments," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 153-70, January.
  15. Neumayer, Eric, 1999. "Global warming: discounting is not the issue, but substitutability is," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 33-43, January.
  16. Paul M Romer, 1999. "Increasing Returns and Long-Run Growth," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2232, David K. Levine.
  17. Nordhaus, William D, 1991. "To Slow or Not to Slow: The Economics of the Greenhouse Effect," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 920-37, July.
  18. Angel de la Fuente & Rafael Domenech, 2001. "Schooling Data, Technological Diffusion, and the Neoclassical Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 323-327, May.
  19. 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.
  20. Gerlagh, Reyer & van der Zwaan, B. C. C., 2002. "Long-Term Substitutability between Environmental and Man-Made Goods," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 329-345, September.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Humberto Llavador & John E. Roemer & Joaquim Silvestre, 2013. "North-South Convergence and the Allocation of CO2 Emissions," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1932, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  2. Robert D. Cairns & Vincent Martinet, 2013. "An Environmental-Economic Measure of Sustainable Development," CESifo Working Paper Series 4327, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Humberto Llavador & John E. Roemer & Joaquim Silvestre, 2010. "Intergenerational Justice When Future Worlds are Uncertain," Working Papers 473, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  4. Dieckhoener, Caroline & Hecking, Harald, 2012. "Greenhouse Gas Abatement Cost Curves of the Residential Heating Market – a Microeconomic Approach," EWI Working Papers 2012-16, Energiewirtschaftliches Institut an der Universitaet zu Koeln.
  5. Michele Lombardi & Roberto Veneziani, 2009. "Liberal Egalitarianism and the Harm Principle," Working Papers 649, Queen Mary, University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
  6. Humberto Llavador & John E. Roemer & Joaquim Silvestre, 2012. "Should we sustain? And if so, sustain what? Consumption or the quality of life?," Working Papers 1222, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  7. Giménez Gómez, José M. (José Manuel) & Teixidó Figueras, Jordi Josep & Vilella Bach, Misericòrdia, 2014. "The global carbon budget:a conflicting claims problem," Working Papers 2072/237597, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
  8. Andreas Peichl & Nico Pestel, 2011. "Multidimensional Well-Being at the Top: Evidence for Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 425, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  9. Rozenberg, Julie & Vogt-Schilb, Adrien & Hallegatte, Stephane, 2013. "How capital-based instruments facilitate the transition toward a low-carbon economy : a tradeoff between optimality and acceptability," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6609, The World Bank.
  10. John Roemer, 2011. "The Ethics of Intertemporal Distribution in a Warming Planet," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 48(3), pages 363-390, March.
  11. John Roemer, 2013. "Once More on Intergenerational Discounting in Climate-Change Analysis: Reply to Partha Dasgupta," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 56(1), pages 141-148, September.

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