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Malthus and Climate Change: Betting on a Stable Population

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  • Kelly, David L.
  • Kolstad, Charles D.

Abstract

A standard assumption in integrated assessment models of climate change is that population and productivity are growing, but at a decreasing rate. We explore the signifcance of the assumption of population and productivity growth for greenhouse gas abatement. After all, there has been no long run slow down in the growth of productivity over the past few centuries, and the rate of population growth has actually been increasing for the past 19 centuries. Even if either of these growth rates were expected to slow, by how much is subject to great uncertainty. We show computationally that such continued growth greatly increases the severity of climate change. Indeed we nd that climate change is a problem in large part caused by exogenous population and productivity growth. Rapid reductions in growth make climate change a small problem; smaller reductions in growth imply climate change is a very serious problem indeed. Analogously, reductions in the growth rate of population can be effective in controlling climate change.
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Suggested Citation

  • Kelly, David L. & Kolstad, Charles D., 2001. "Malthus and Climate Change: Betting on a Stable Population," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 135-161, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:41:y:2001:i:2:p:135-161
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    1. Kolstad, Charles D., 1996. "Learning and Stock Effects in Environmental Regulation: The Case of Greenhouse Gas Emissions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 1-18, July.
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    7. Harford, Jon D., 1997. "Stock Pollution, Child-Bearing Externalities, and the Social Discount Rate," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 94-105, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kavuncu, Y. Okan & Knabb, Shawn D., 2005. "Stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions: Assessing the intergenerational costs and benefits of the Kyoto Protocol," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 369-386, May.
    2. Simon Dietz & Christian Gollier & Louise Kessler, 2015. "The climate beta," GRI Working Papers 190, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    3. Dietz, Simon & Asheim, Geir B., 2012. "Climate policy under sustainable discounted utilitarianism," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 321-335.
    4. repec:pje:journl:article13sumiii is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Millner, Antony & Dietz, Simon, 2015. "Adaptation to climate change and economic growth in developing countries," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 57863, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. Geoffrey Heal & Bengt Kriström, 2002. "Uncertainty and Climate Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 22(1), pages 3-39, June.
    7. Tol, Richard S.J., 2013. "Targets for global climate policy: An overview," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 911-928.
    8. Steven Lugauer & Richard Jensen & Clayton Sadler, 2014. "An Estimate Of The Age Distribution'S Effect On Carbon Dioxide Emissions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 52(2), pages 914-929, April.
    9. Stuart, Charles & Bohn, Henning, 2011. "Global Warming and the Population Externality," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt82z9c3p6, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
    10. Antony Millner & Simon Dietz, 2011. "Adaptation to climate change and economic growth in developing countries," GRI Working Papers 60, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    11. Kelly, David L. & Kolstad, Charles D., 1999. "Bayesian learning, growth, and pollution," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 491-518, February.
    12. Kolstad, Charles D. & Toman, Michael, 2005. "The Economics of Climate Policy," Handbook of Environmental Economics,in: K. G. Mäler & J. R. Vincent (ed.), Handbook of Environmental Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 30, pages 1561-1618 Elsevier.
    13. Henning Bohn & Charles Stuart, 2015. "Calculation of a Population Externality," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 61-87, May.
    14. Christian Traeger, 2014. "Why uncertainty matters: discounting under intertemporal risk aversion and ambiguity," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 56(3), pages 627-664, August.
    15. Robert S. Pindyck, 2006. "Uncertainty In Environmental Economics," NBER Working Papers 12752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. L. Wexler, 1996. "Improving Population Assumptions in Greenhouse Emissions Models," Working Papers wp96099, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
    17. repec:spr:jopoec:v:31:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s00148-017-0665-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Peura, Pekka, 2013. "From Malthus to sustainable energy—Theoretical orientations to reforming the energy sector," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 309-327.
    19. Kavuncu, Yusuf Okan & Knabb, Shawn D., 2001. "An Intergenerational Cost-Benefit Analysis of Climate Change," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt72v881dd, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
    20. Pizer, William, 1997. "Optimal Choice of Policy Instrument and Stringency Under Uncertainty: The Case of Climate Change," Discussion Papers dp-97-17, Resources For the Future.
    21. Smith, Kathryn, 2009. "Saving the World but Saving Too Much? Time Preference and Productivity in Climate Policy Modelling," 2009 Conference (53rd), February 11-13, 2009, Cairns, Australia 47619, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.

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