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Sacrifice, Discounting and Climate Policy: Five Questions

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  • Larry S. Karp

Abstract

I offer a selective review of discounting and climate policy. Analytic and numerical models show that different assumptions greatly change the degree to which decisions about climate policy depend on the discount rate. I discuss a claim that standard models exaggerate the current generation’s sacrifices needed to internalize climate damages. This claim, if correct, affects the role of discounting. I argue that the assertion that the risk of catastrophic damage overwhelms discounting is unfounded. I show that the claim that we “view the world in perspective” implies hyperbolic rather than constant discounting.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2761.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2761

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Keywords: climate change; discounting; intergenerational conflict; catastrophic risk; hyperbolic discounting;

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  1. Karp, Larry, 2005. "Global warming and hyperbolic discounting," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 261-282, February.
  2. 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.
  3. Armon Rezai & Duncan Foley & Lance Taylor, 2012. "Global warming and economic externalities," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 49(2), pages 329-351, February.
  4. Traeger, Christian P., 2008. "Sustainability, Limited Substitutability and Non-Constant Social Discount Rates," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt10d7d7n4, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
  5. Minh Ha-Duong & Nicolas Treich, 2004. "Risk Aversion, Intergenerational Equity and Climate Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 28(2), pages 195-207, June.
  6. Thomas Sterner & U. Martin Persson, 2008. "An Even Sterner Review: Introducing Relative Prices into the Discounting Debate," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 2(1), pages 61-76, Winter.
  7. 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.
  8. Karp, Larry & Tsur, Yacov, 2008. "Time perspective and climate change policy," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt04k4b21g, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
  9. Fujii, Tomoki & Karp, Larry, 2008. "Numerical analysis of non-constant pure rate of time preference: A model of climate policy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 83-101, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Foley, Duncan K. & Rezai, Armon & Taylor, Lance, 2013. "The social cost of carbon emissions: Seven propositions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 121(1), pages 90-97.
  2. Horowitz, John & Lange, Andreas, 2014. "Cost–benefit analysis under uncertainty — A note on Weitzman's dismal theorem," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 201-203.

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