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Epstein–Zin Utility in DICE: Is Risk Aversion Irrelevant to Climate Policy?

Author

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  • Frank Ackerman

    ()

  • Elizabeth Stanton

    ()

  • Ramón Bueno

    ()

Abstract

Climate change involves uncertain probabilities of catastrophic risks, and very longterm consequences of current actions. Climate economics, therefore, is centrally concerned with the treatment of risk and time. Yet conventional assumptions about utility and optimal economic growth create a perverse connection between risk aversion and time preference, such that more aversion to current risks implies less concern for future outcomes, and vice versa. The same conflation of risk aversion and time preference leads to the equity premium puzzle in finance. A promising response to the equity premium puzzle, the recursive utility of Epstein and Zin, allows separation of risk aversion and time preference—at the cost of considerable analytic complexity. We introduce an accessible implementation of Epstein–Zin utility into the DICE model of climate economics, creating a hybrid “EZ-DICE” model. Using Epstein–Zin parameters from the finance literature and climate uncertainty parameters from the science literature, we find that the optimal climate policy in EZ-DICE calls for rapid abatement of carbon emissions; it is similar to standard DICE results with the discount rate set to equal the risk-free rate of return. EZ-DICE solutions are sensitive to the intertemporal elasticity of substitution, but remarkably insensitive to risk aversion. Insensitivity to risk aversion may reflect the difficulty of modeling catastrophic risks within DICE. Implicit in DICE are strong assumptions about the cost of climate stabilization and the certainty and speed of success; under these assumptions, risk aversion would in fact be unimportant. A more realistic analysis will require a subtler treatment of catastrophic climate risk. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Frank Ackerman & Elizabeth Stanton & Ramón Bueno, 2013. "Epstein–Zin Utility in DICE: Is Risk Aversion Irrelevant to Climate Policy?," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 56(1), pages 73-84, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:56:y:2013:i:1:p:73-84
    DOI: 10.1007/s10640-013-9645-z
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ackerman, Frank & Stanton, Elizabeth A., 2012. "Climate risks and carbon prices: Revising the social cost of carbon," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 6, pages 1-25.
    2. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
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    4. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1991. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: An Empirical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(2), pages 263-286, April.
    5. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1989. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: A Theoretical Framework," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 937-969, July.
    6. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
    7. Minh Ha-Duong & Nicolas Treich, 2004. "Risk Aversion, Intergenerational Equity and Climate Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 28(2), pages 195-207, June.
    8. Helgeson, Jennifer & Dietz, Simon & Atkinson, Giles D. & Hepburn, Cameron & Sælen, Håkon, 2009. "Siblings, not triplets: social preferences for risk, inequality and time in discounting climate change," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 3, pages 1-28.
    9. 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.
    10. Richard B. Howarth, 2003. "Discounting and Uncertainty in Climate Change Policy Analysis," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 79(3), pages 369-381.
    11. Noah Kaufman, 2012. "The bias of integrated assessment models that ignore climate catastrophes," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 110(3), pages 575-595, February.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. van den Bergh, J.C.J.M. & Botzen, W.J.W., 2015. "Monetary valuation of the social cost of CO2 emissions: A critical survey," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 33-46.
    2. repec:kap:enreec:v:67:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s10640-015-9978-x is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Svenja Hector, 2013. "Accounting for Different Uncertainties: Implications for Climate Investments?," Working Papers 2013.107, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    4. Loïc Berger & Johannes Emmerling, 2017. "Welfare as Simple(x) Equity Equivalents," Working Papers 2017.14, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    5. W. Botzen & Jeroen Bergh, 2014. "Specifications of Social Welfare in Economic Studies of Climate Policy: Overview of Criteria and Related Policy Insights," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 58(1), pages 1-33, May.
    6. Yongyang Cai & Kenneth L. Judd & Thomas S. Lontzek, 2015. "The Social Cost of Carbon with Economic and Climate Risks," Papers 1504.06909, arXiv.org, revised Apr 2015.
    7. Mariia Belaia & Michael Funke & Nicole Glanemann, 2017. "Global Warming and a Potential Tipping Point in the Atlantic Thermohaline Circulation: The Role of Risk Aversion," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 67(1), pages 93-125, May.
    8. Gohin, Alexandre & Zheng, Yu, 2015. "Assessing the Market Impacts of the Common Agricultural Policy: Does Farmers’ Risk Attitude Matter?," Proceedings Issues, 2014: Trade and Societal Well-Being, December 13-15, 2015, Clearwater Beach, Florida 229235, International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium.
    9. Christoph Hambel & Holger Kraft & Eduardo Schwartz, 2015. "Optimal Carbon Abatement in a Stochastic Equilibrium Model with Climate Change," NBER Working Papers 21044, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Alexandre Gohin & Yu Zheng, 2016. "Assessing the Market Impacts of the Common Agricultural Policy: Does Farmers' Risk Attitude Matter?," FOODSECURE Working papers 46, LEI Wageningen UR.
    11. Hambel, Christoph & Kraft, Holger & Schwartz, Eduardo S., 2015. "Optimal carbon abatement in a stochastic equilibrium model with climate change," SAFE Working Paper Series 92, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe, Goethe University Frankfurt.
    12. Johannes Emmerling & Massimo Tavoni, 2013. "Geoengineering and Abatement: A “flat” Relationship under Uncertainty," Working Papers 2013.31, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    13. Noah Kaufman, 2014. "Why is risk aversion unaccounted for in environmental policy evaluations?," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 125(2), pages 127-135, July.
    14. Svenja Hector(), "undated". "Accounting for Different Uncertainties: Implications for Climate Investments?," Working Papers ETH-RC-13-007, ETH Zurich, Chair of Systems Design.
    15. J. Farmer & Cameron Hepburn & Penny Mealy & Alexander Teytelboym, 2015. "A Third Wave in the Economics of Climate Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 62(2), pages 329-357, October.

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