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A Precautionary Tale of Uncertain Tail Fattening

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  • Martin Weitzman

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Abstract

Suppose that there is a probability density function for how bad things might get, but that the overall rate at which this probability density function slims down to approach zero in the tail is uncertain. The paper shows how a basic precautionary principle of tail fattening could then apply. The worse is the contemplated damage, the more should a decision maker consider the bad tail to be among the relatively fatter-tailed possibilities. A rough numerical example is applied to the uncertain tail distribution of climate sensitivity. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Weitzman, 2013. "A Precautionary Tale of Uncertain Tail Fattening," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 55(2), pages 159-173, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:55:y:2013:i:2:p:159-173
    DOI: 10.1007/s10640-013-9646-y
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10640-013-9646-y
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Claude Henry & Marc Henry, 2002. "Formalization and applications of the Precautionary Principle," Working Papers hal-00243001, HAL.
    2. Martin L. Weitzman, 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 1-19, February.
    3. Millner, Antony & Dietz, Simon & Heal, Geoffrey, 2010. "Ambiguity and climate policy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 37595, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Johanna Etner & Meglena Jeleva & Jean‐Marc Tallon, 2012. "Decision Theory Under Ambiguity," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(2), pages 234-270, April.
    5. Martin L. Weitzman, 2011. "Fat-Tailed Uncertainty in the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5(2), pages 275-292, Summer.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. In Chang Hwang & Richard S.J. Tol & Marjan W. Hofkes, 2013. "Active Learning about Climate Change," Working Paper Series 6513, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
    2. Hans-Jürgen Nantke & Alfred Endres & Frederik Schaff & Till Requate & Susanne Dröge, 2013. "Scheitern der Reform des Emissionshandels: Verliert Europa die Vorreiterrolle in der Klimapolitik?," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 66(12), pages 03-15, June.
    3. Max Gillman & Michal Kejak & Michal Pakoš, 2015. "Learning about Rare Disasters: Implications For Consumption and Asset Prices," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 19(3), pages 1053-1104.
    4. Hwang, In Chang, 2014. "Fat-tailed uncertainty and the learning-effect," MPRA Paper 53671, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Max Gillman & Michal Kejak & Michal Pakos, 2014. "Learning about Rare Disasters: Implications For Consumption and Asset Prices," Working Papers 1002, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Department of Economics.
    6. Ian Bateman & Hassan Benchekroun & Christian Vossler, 2015. "EAERE Award for the Best Paper Published in Environmental and Resource Economics During 2013," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 60(3), pages 325-326, March.
    7. Hwang, In Chang & Tol, Richard S.J. & Hofkes, Marjan W., 2016. "Fat-tailed risk about climate change and climate policy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 25-35.
    8. Max Gillman & Michal Kejak & Michal Pakos, 2014. "Learning about Disaster Risk: Joint Implications for Consumption and Asset Prices," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp507, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Climate change; Fat tail; Uncertainty; Catastrophe;

    JEL classification:

    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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