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The Aggregation of Climate Change Damages: a Welfare Theoretic Approach

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  • Samuel Fankhauser
  • Richard Tol
  • DAVID Pearce

Abstract

The economic value of environmental goods is commonly determined using the concepts of willingness to pay (WTP) or willingness to accept (WTA). However, the WTP/WTA observed in different countries (or between individuals) will differ according to socio-economic characteristics, in particular income. This notion of differentiated values for otherwise identical goods (say, a given reduction in mortality risk) has been criticized as unethical, most recently in the context of the 'social cost' chapter of the IPCC Second Assessment Report. These critics argue that, being a function of income, WTP/WTA estimates reflect the unfairness in the current income distribution, and for equity reasons uniform per-unit values should therefore be applied across individuals and countries. This paper analyses the role of equity in the aggregation of climate change damage estimates, using basic tools of welfare economics. It shows one way of how WTP/WTA estimates can be corrected in aggregation if the underlying income distribution is considered unfair. It proposes that in the aggregation process individual estimates be weighted with an equity factor derived from the social welfare and utility functions. Equity weighting can significantly increase aggregate (global) damage figures, although some specifications of weighting functions also imply reduced estimates. The paper also shows that while the postulate of uniform per-unit values is compatible with a wide range of 'reasonable' utility and welfare specifications, there are also cases where the common-value notion is not compatible with defensible welfare concepts. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Fankhauser & Richard Tol & DAVID Pearce, 1997. "The Aggregation of Climate Change Damages: a Welfare Theoretic Approach," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 10(3), pages 249-266, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:10:y:1997:i:3:p:249-266
    DOI: 10.1023/A:1026420425961
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nordhaus, William D, 1991. "To Slow or Not to Slow: The Economics of the Greenhouse Effect," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 920-937, July.
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    3. Fankhauser, Samuel & Tol, Richard S.J. & Pearce, David W., 1998. "Extensions and alternatives to climate change impact valuation: on the critique of IPCC Working Group III's impact estimates," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(01), pages 59-81, February.
    4. Flores, Nicholas E. & Carson, Richard T., 1997. "The Relationship between the Income Elasticities of Demand and Willingness to Pay," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 287-295, July.
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    8. Johansson,Per-Olov, 1993. "Cost-Benefit Analysis of Environmental Change," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521447928.
    9. Blackorby, Charles & Bossert, Walter & Donaldson, David, 1995. "Intertemporal Population Ethics: Critical-Level Utilitarian Principles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(6), pages 1303-1320, November.
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