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Ecological Discounting

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  • Gollier, Christian

Abstract

Which rates should we use to discount costs and benefits of different natures at different time horizons? We answer this question by considering a representative agent consuming two goods whose availability evolves over time in a stochastic way. We extend the Ramsey rule by taking into account the degree of substitutability between the two goods and of the uncertainty surrounding the economic and environmental growths. The rate at which environmental impacts should be discounted is in general different from the one at which monetary benefits should be discounted. We provide arguments in favor of an ecological discount rate smaller than the economic discount rate. In particular, we show that, under certainty and Cobb-Douglas preferences, the difference between the economic and the ecological discount rates equals the difference between the economic and the ecological growth rates. Using data about the link between biodiversity and economic development, I estimate that the rate at which changes in biodiversity should be discounted is 1.5%, whereas changes in consumption should be discounted at 3.2%.

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Paper provided by Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) in its series TSE Working Papers with number 09-062.

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Date of creation: Jul 2009
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Economic Theory, vol.�145, n°2, mars 2010, p.�812-829.
Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:21927

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  1. 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.
  2. Louis Eeckhoudt & Harris Schlesinger, 2005. "Putting Risk in its Proper Place," CESifo Working Paper Series 1462, CESifo Group Munich.
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  4. Kocherlakota, N., 1995. "The Equity Premium: It's Still a Puzzle," Working Papers 95-05, University of Iowa, Department of Economics.
  5. Weikard, Hans-Peter & Zhu, Xueqin, 2005. "Discounting and environmental quality: When should dual rates be used?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 868-878, September.
  6. Louis Eeckhoudt & Béatrice Rey & Harris Schlesinger, 2007. "A Good Sign for Multivariate Risk Taking," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(1), pages 117-124, January.
  7. Gollier, Christian, 2004. "The Consumption-Based Determinants of the Term Structure of Discount Rates," IDEI Working Papers 296, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  8. Traeger, Christian P, 2007. "Sustainability, limited substitutability and non-constant social discount rates," CUDARE Working Paper Series 1045, University of California at Berkeley, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Policy.
  9. Gollier, Christian, 2002. "Time Horizon and the Discount Rate," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 463-473, December.
  10. Miles S. Kimball, 1991. "Standard Risk Aversion," NBER Technical Working Papers 0099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Martin L. Weitzman, 2007. "Subjective Expectations and Asset-Return Puzzles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(4), pages 1102-1130, September.
  12. Stengos, T. & Millimet, D.L. & List, J.A., 2002. "The Environmental Kuznets Curve: Real Progress or Misspecified Models?," Working Papers 2002-13, University of Guelph, Department of Economics and Finance.
  13. Ekaterini Panopoulou & Ben Groom & Phoebe Koundouri & Theologos Pantelidis, 2004. "An Econometric Approach To Estimating Long-Run Discount Rates," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2004 70, Royal Economic Society.
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Cited by:
  1. Christoph Heinzel, 2014. "Term structure of discount rates under multivariate s-ordered consumption growth," Working Papers SMART - LERECO 14-01, INRA UMR SMART.
  2. Gollier, Christian, 2012. "A theory of rational short-termism with uncertain betas," LERNA Working Papers 12.14.371, LERNA, University of Toulouse.
  3. Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Sterner, Thomas, 2011. "Discounting and Relative Consumption," Discussion Papers dp-11-38, Resources For the Future.
  4. M. Gallastegui & M. González-Eguino & I. Galarraga, 2012. "Cost effectiveness of a combination of instruments for global warming: a quantitative approach for Spain," SERIEs, Spanish Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 111-132, March.
  5. Elyès Jouini & Clotilde Napp & Diego Nocetti, 2013. "On Multivariate Prudence," Post-Print halshs-00635558, HAL.
  6. Kögel, Tomas, 2009. "On the Relation between Dual-Rate Discounting and Substitutability," Economics Discussion Papers 2009-10, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  7. Defrancesco, Edi & Gatto, Paola & Rosato, Paolo, 2014. "A ‘component-based’ approach to discounting for natural resource damage assessment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 1-9.
  8. Christian Gollier, 2013. "Asset Pricing with Uncertain Betas: A Long-Term Perspective," CESifo Working Paper Series 4072, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Joachim Fuenfgelt & Stefan Baumgaertner, 2012. "A utilitarian notion of responsibility for sustainability," Working Paper Series in Economics 234, University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics.
  10. Boyarchenko, Svetlana & Levendorskii, Sergei, 2010. "Discounting when income is stochastic and climate change policies," MPRA Paper 27998, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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