Risk and Return in Environmental Economics
AbstractI examine the risk/return tradeoff for environmental investments, and its implications for policy choice. Consider a policy to reduce carbon emissions. To what extent does the value of such a policy depend on the expected future damages from global warming versus uncertainty over those damages, i.e., on the expected benefits from the policy versus their riskiness? And to what extent should the policy objective be a reduction in the expected temperature increase versus a reduction in risk? Using a simple model of a stock externality (e.g., temperature) that evolves stochastically, I examine the ``willingness to pay" (WTP) for alternative policies that would reduce the expected damages under ``business as usual" (BAU) versus the variance of those damages. I also show how one can compute ``iso-WTP" curves (social indifference curves) for combinations of risk and expected returns as policy objectives. Given cost estimates for reducing risk and increasing expected returns, one can compute the optimal risk-return mix for a policy, and the policy's social surplus. I illustrate these results by calibrating the model to data for global warming.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18262.
Date of creation: Jul 2012
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Find related papers by JEL classification:
- D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
- Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
- Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2012-08-23 (All new papers)
- NEP-ENE-2012-08-23 (Energy Economics)
- NEP-ENV-2012-08-23 (Environmental Economics)
- NEP-RES-2012-08-23 (Resource Economics)
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