Should we sustain? And if so, sustain what? Consumption or the quality of life?
AbstractSustainability has been largely replaced by discounted utilitarianism in contemporary climate-change economics. Our approach rejuvenates sustainability by expanding the conception of the quality of life, along the lines of the UN Human Development Reports, to include not only consumption, but also education, leisure, the stock of knowledge and the quality of the biosphere. We report on our results showing that the quality of life can be sustained forever at levels higher than present levels, while reducing GHG emissions to converge to carbon concentrations of 450 ppm. Here we repeat our optimization but substituting consumption for the quality of life. Our sustainability results carry over. As it should be expected, optimal consumption is higher when the objective is consumption rather than the quality of life, but not by much (7% higher). On the other hand, the stock of knowledge is twice as large, and education is four times as large. So if the “true” social welfare index were consumption, a planner who “mistakenly” maximized the quality of life would be making a relatively small error. But the converse error would be large. If the quality of life provides an appropriate welfare index, but the public policy aims at maximizing consumption, the quality of life would be reduced by 60%. The expansion of the concept of welfare beyond consumption renders possible responding to the climate-change challenge by moving away from energy-intensive commodities and towards less intensive ones, like knowledge, education, and leisure.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by University of California, Davis, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1222.
Date of creation: 26 Sep 2012
Date of revision:
Sustainability; climate change; growth; GHG; CO2 emissions; quality of life; education; knowledge.;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
- D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
- D90 - Microeconomics - - Intertemporal Choice - - - General
- H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
- O40 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
- Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters
- Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation
- Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
- Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2012-10-06 (All new papers)
- NEP-ENE-2012-10-06 (Energy Economics)
- NEP-ENV-2012-10-06 (Environmental Economics)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Cabeza Gutes, Maite, 1996. "The concept of weak sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 147-156, June.
- T. W. Swan, 1956. "ECONOMIC GROWTH and CAPITAL ACCUMULATION," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 32(2), pages 334-361, November.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Llavador, Humberto & Roemer, John E. & Silvestre, Joaquim, 2010. "Intergenerational justice when future worlds are uncertain," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(5), pages 728-761, September.
- Joaquim Silvestre & Joaquim Silvestre & John E. Roemer & Joaquim Silvestre, 2009. "“Intergenerational justice when future worlds are uncertain”," Working Papers 94, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
- Humberto Llavador & John E. Roemer & Joaquim Silvestre, 2010. "Intergenerational Justice When Future Worlds are Uncertain," Working Papers 473, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
- Humberto Llavador & John E. Roemer & Joaquim Silvestre, 2009. "Intergenerational justice when future worlds are uncertain," Economics Working Papers 1178, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jun 2010.
- Neumayer, Eric, 2001. "The human development index and sustainability -- a constructive proposal," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 101-114, October.
- Humberto Llavador & John E. Roemer & Joaquim Silvestre, 2011. "Sustainability in the Presence of Global Warming: Theory and Empirics," Human Development Research Papers (2009 to present) HDRP-2011-05, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
- Geir Asheim & Wolfgang Buchholz & Cees Withagen, 2003.
"The Hartwick Rule: Myths and Facts,"
Environmental & Resource Economics,
European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 25(2), pages 129-150, June.
- Asheim,G.B. & Buchholz,W., 2000. "The Hartwick rule : myths and facts," Memorandum 11/2000, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
- Asheim, G.B. & Buchholz, W. & Withagen, C.A.A.M., 2002. "The Hartwick Rule: Myths and Facts," Discussion Paper 2002-52, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
- Geir B. Asheim & Wolfgang Buchholz, 2000. "The Hartwick Rule: Myths and Facts," CESifo Working Paper Series 299, CESifo Group Munich.
- 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.
- Dixit, Avinash & Hammond, Peter & Hoel, Michael, 1980. "On Hartwick's Rule for Regular Maximin Paths of Capital Accumulation and Resource Depletion," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 551-56, April.
- Barrett, Scott, 1992. "Economic growth and environmental preservation," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 289-300, November.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Scott Dyer).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.