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Modelling the redirection of technical change: The pitfalls of incorporeal visions of the economy

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  • Pottier, Antonin
  • Hourcade, Jean-Charles
  • Espagne, Etienne

Abstract

This paper discusses attempts to represent the role of R&D in the transition towards a low carbon economy through models with no meaningful granularity to inform the studied phenomenon. By means of a critical analysis of (Acemoglu et al., 2012), we show that the advantage of these models, their analytical tractability, does not make up for their disadvantages, lack of control over policy implications and questionable numerical results. On the one hand, a comprehensive analysis of the results of Acemoglu et al. (2012) shows that even research subsidies do not pave the way for ambitious climate policies with low transitory costs, thus contradicting their policy message. On the other hand, critical parameters such as the elasticity of substitution between clean and dirty technologies, carbon sinks, or the productivity of researchers are not in accordance with existing scientific knowledge. We show that using more realistic parameters leads to even more pessimistic conclusions and that their model provides no leeway for overcoming them. We suggest that a too highly aggregated model can only describe an incorporeal economy and comes to a deadlock. We propose a more promising route for economic research in order to break this deadlock.

Suggested Citation

  • Pottier, Antonin & Hourcade, Jean-Charles & Espagne, Etienne, 2014. "Modelling the redirection of technical change: The pitfalls of incorporeal visions of the economy," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 213-218.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eneeco:v:42:y:2014:i:c:p:213-218
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eneco.2013.12.003
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    Cited by:

    1. Lennox, James A. & Witajewski-Baltvilks, Jan, 2017. "Directed technical change with capital-embodied technologies: Implications for climate policy," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 400-409.
    2. Grubb, M. & Mercure, J. & Salas, P. & Lange, R., 2018. "Systems Innovation, Inertia and Pliability: A mathematical exploration with implications for climate change abatement," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1819, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    3. Peter K. Kruse-Andersen, 2016. "Directed Technical Change and Economic Growth Effects of Environmental Policy," Discussion Papers 16-06, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    4. Mattauch, Linus & Creutzig, Felix & Edenhofer, Ottmar, 2015. "Avoiding carbon lock-in: Policy options for advancing structural change," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 49-63.
    5. Etienne Espagne, 2016. "Climate Finance at COP21 and After: Lessons Learnt," CEPII Policy Brief 2016-09, CEPII research center.
    6. repec:pal:compes:v:60:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1057_s41294-018-0055-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. van den Bijgaart, Inge, 2017. "The unilateral implementation of a sustainable growth path with directed technical change," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 305-327.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Technological change; Endogenous growth; Climate; Energy substitutability;

    JEL classification:

    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • B4 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology

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