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The Climate Policy Dilemma

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  • Robert S. Pindyck

Abstract

Climate policy poses a dilemma for environmental economists. The economic argument for stringent GHG abatement is far from clear. There is disagreement among both climate scientists and economists over the likelihood of alternative climate outcomes, over the nature and extent of the uncertainty over those outcomes, and over the framework that should be used to evaluate potential benefits from GHG abatement, including key policy parameters. I argue that the case for stringent abatement cannot be based on the kinds of modeling exercises that have permeated the literature, but instead must be based on the possibility of a catastrophic outcome. I discuss how an analysis that incorporates such an outcome might be conducted.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18205.

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Date of creation: Jul 2012
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Publication status: published as Robert S. Pindyck, 2013. "The Climate Policy Dilemma," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 7(2), pages 219-237, July.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18205

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  1. Pindyck, Robert S., 2012. "Uncertain outcomes and climate change policy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 289-303.
  2. 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.
  3. Robert S. Pindyck & Neng Wang, 2013. "The Economic and Policy Consequences of Catastrophes," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 306-39, November.
  4. Michael Greenstone & Elizabeth Kopits & Ann Wolverton, 2011. "Estimating the Social Cost of Carbon for Use in U.S. Federal Rulemakings: A Summary and Interpretation," NBER Working Papers 16913, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Robert J. Barro & Tao Jin, 2011. "On the Size Distribution of Macroeconomic Disasters," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(5), pages 1567-1589, 09.
  6. William D. Nordhaus, 2011. "Estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon: Background and Results from the RICE-2011 Model," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1826, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  7. Robert J. Barro, 2007. "Rare Disasters, Asset Prices, and Welfare Costs," NBER Working Papers 13690, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Ravi Bansal & Marcelo Ochoa, 2011. "Welfare Costs of Long-Run Temperature Shifts," NBER Working Papers 17574, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
  10. Partha Dasgupta, 2008. "Discounting climate change," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 141-169, December.
  11. Ravi Bansal & Marcelo Ochoa, 2011. "Temperature, Aggregate Risk, and Expected Returns," NBER Working Papers 17575, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Rick Van der Ploeg & Aart de Zeeuw, 2013. "Climate Policy and Catastrophic Change: Be Prepared and Avert Risk," Economics Series Working Papers OxCarre Research Paper 11, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  2. Michael Keen & Ian Parry & Jon Strand, 2013. "Planes, ships and taxes: charging for international aviation and maritime emissions," Economic Policy, CEPR & CES & MSH, vol. 28(76), pages 701-749, October.
  3. Rick Van der Ploeg, 2013. "Abrupt Positive Feedback and the Social Cost of Carbon," Economics Series Working Papers OxCarre Research Paper 12, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  4. Elizabeth Kopits & Alex L. Marten & Ann Wolverton, 2013. "Moving Forward with Incorporating "Catastrophic" Climate Change into Policy Analysis," NCEE Working Paper Series 201301, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Jan 2013.

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