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The Social Cost of Carbon Emissions

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  • Duncan Foley
  • Lance Taylor
  • Armon Rezai

Abstract

Determining the social cost of carbon emissions (SCC) is a crucial step in the economic analysis of climate change policy as the US government's recent decision to use a range of estimates of the SCC centered at $77/tC (or, equivalently, $21/tCO2) in cost-benefit analyses of proposed emission-control legislation underlines. This note reviews the welfare economics theory fundamental to the estimation of the SCC in both static and intertemporal contexts, examining the effects of assumptions about the typical agent's pure rate of time preference and elasticity of marginal felicity of consumption, production and mitigation technology, and the magnitude of climate-change damage on estimates of the SCC. We highlight three key conclusions: (i) an estimate of the SCC is conditional on a specific policy scenario, the details of which must be made explicit for the estimate to be meaningful; (ii) the social discount rate relevant to intertemporal allocation decisions also depends on the policy scenario; and (iii) the SCC is uniquely defined only for policy scenarios that lead to an efficient growth path because marginal costs and benefits of emission mitigation diverge on inefficient growth paths. We illustrate these analytical conclusions with simulations of a growth model calibrated to the world economy.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) in its series INET Research Notes with number 28.

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Date of creation: 12 Mar 2013
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Handle: RePEc:thk:rnotes:28

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  1. Chichilnisky, Graciela & Heal, Geoffrey, 1994. "Who should abate carbon emissions? : An international viewpoint," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 443-449, April.
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  9. Lemoine, Derek M. & Traeger, Christian P., 2010. "Tipping points and ambiguity in the economics of climate change," CUDARE Working Paper Series 1111R, University of California at Berkeley, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Policy, revised Dec 2011.
  10. Hans-Werner Sinn, 2007. "Pareto Optimality in the Extraction of Fossil Fuels and the Greenhouse Effect: A Note," CESifo Working Paper Series 2083, CESifo Group Munich.
  11. Armon Rezai & Duncan Foley & Lance Taylor, 2012. "Global warming and economic externalities," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 49(2), pages 329-351, February.
  12. Armon Rezai, 2011. "The Opportunity Cost of Climate Policy: A Question of Reference," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 113(4), pages 885-903, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Bernardo, Giovanni & D'Alessandro, Simone, 2014. "Transition to sustainability? Feasible scenarios towards a low-carbon economy," MPRA Paper 53746, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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