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The Social Evaluation of Intergenerational Policies and Its Application to Integrated Assessment Models of Climate Change

Listed author(s):
  • Kaplow Louis

    ()

    (Harvard Law School)

  • Moyer Elisabeth

    ()

    (University of Chicago)

  • Weisbach David A

    ()

    (University of Chicago)

Registered author(s):

    Assessment of climate change policies requires aggregation of costs and benefits over time and across generations, a process ordinarily done through discounting. Choosing the correct discount rate has proved to be controversial and highly consequential. To clarify past analysis and guide future work, we decompose discounting along two dimensions. First, we distinguish discounting by individuals, an empirical matter that determines their behavior in models, and discounting by an outside evaluator, an ethical matter involving the choice of a social welfare function. Second, for each type of discounting, we distinguish it due to pure time preference from that attributable to curvature of the pertinent function: utility functions (of consumption) for individuals and the social welfare function (of utilities) for the evaluator. We apply our analysis to leading integrated assessment models used to evaluate climate policies. We find that past work often confounds different sources of discounting, and we offer suggestions for avoiding these difficulties. Finally, we relate the standard intergenerational framework that combines considerations of efficiency and distribution to more familiar modes of analysis that assess most policies in terms of efficiency, leaving distributive concerns to the tax and transfer system.

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    File URL: https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/bejeap.2010.10.issue-2/bejeap.2010.10.2.2519/bejeap.2010.10.2.2519.xml?format=INT
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    Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.

    Volume (Year): 10 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 2 (November)
    Pages: 1-34

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    Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:10:y:2010:i:2:n:7
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    1. anonymous, 1995. "Does the bouncing ball lead to economic growth?," Regional Update, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Jul, pages 1-2,4-6.
    2. Robert J. Barro, 2013. "Inflation and Economic Growth," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(1), pages 121-144, May.
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    4. Toth, Ferenc L, 1995. "Discounting in integrated assessments of climate change," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 403-409.
    5. David Anthoff & Richard Tol, 2009. "The Impact of Climate Change on the Balanced Growth Equivalent: An Application of FUND," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 43(3), pages 351-367, July.
    6. David Altig, 2001. "Simulating Fundamental Tax Reform in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 574-595, June.
    7. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 2001. "Any Non-welfarist Method of Policy Assessment Violates the Pareto Principle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(2), pages 281-286, April.
    8. 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.
    9. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey Smith & Nancy Clements, 1997. "Making The Most Out Of Programme Evaluations and Social Experiments: Accounting For Heterogeneity in Programme Impacts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(4), pages 487-535.
    10. Louis Kaplow, 2004. "On the (Ir)Relevance of Distribution and Labor Supply Distortion to Government Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 159-175, Fall.
    11. Xavier Sala-I-Martin, 1997. "Transfers, Social Safety Nets, and Economic Growth," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 44(1), pages 81-102, March.
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