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The social cost of carbon emissions: Seven propositions

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  • Foley, Duncan K.
  • Rezai, Armon
  • Taylor, Lance

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Foley, Duncan K. & Rezai, Armon & Taylor, Lance, 2013. "The social cost of carbon emissions: Seven propositions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 121(1), pages 90-97.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolet:v:121:y:2013:i:1:p:90-97 DOI: 10.1016/j.econlet.2013.07.006
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    Cited by:

    1. Havranek, Tomas & Irsova, Zuzana & Janda, Karel & Zilberman, David, 2015. "Selective reporting and the social cost of carbon," Energy Economics, Elsevier, pages 394-406.
    2. Richard S. J. Tol, 2015. "Economic impacts of climate change," Working Paper Series 7515, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
    3. repec:eee:ecolec:v:141:y:2017:i:c:p:245-260 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:foreco:v:26:y:2017:i:c:p:9-29 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Krekel, Christian & Zerrahn, Alexander, 2017. "Does the presence of wind turbines have negative externalities for people in their surroundings? Evidence from well-being data," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 221-238.
    6. Zerrahn, Alexander & Krekel, Christian, 2015. "Sowing the Wind and Reaping the Whirlwind? The Effect of Wind Turbines on Residential Well-Being," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 112956, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    7. Welsch, Heinz, 2016. "Electricity Externalities, Siting, and the Energy Mix: A Survey," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 10(1), pages 57-94, November.
    8. Naqvi, Syed Ali Asjad, 2015. "Modeling Growth, Distribution, and the Environment in a Stock-Flow Consistent Framework," Ecological Economic Papers 4468, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.
    9. Taylor, Lance & Rezai, Armon & Foley, Duncan K., 2016. "An integrated approach to climate change, income distribution, employment, and economic growth," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 196-205.
    10. Jean-Charles Hourcade & P.-R. Shukla & Christophe Cassen, 2015. "Climate policy architecture for the Cancun paradigm shift: building on the lessons from history," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 15(4), pages 353-367, November.
    11. Bernardo, Giovanni & D'Alessandro, Simone, 2014. "Transition to sustainability? Feasible scenarios towards a low-carbon economy," MPRA Paper 53746, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Anthony Bonen & Willi Semmler & Stephan Klasen, 2014. "Economic Damages from Climate Change: A Review of Modeling Approaches," SCEPA working paper series. SCEPA's main areas of research are macroeconomic policy, inequality and poverty, and globalization. 2014-3, Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA), The New School.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Climate change; Cost-benefit analysis; Climate policy; Carbon price; Scenario-dependent discounting;

    JEL classification:

    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q52 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis

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