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The Climate Policy Dilemma

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  • Robert S. Pindyck

Abstract

Climate policy poses a dilemma for environmental economists. The economic argument for stringent greenhouse gas (GHG) abatement is far from clear. There is disagreement among both climate scientists and economists concerning the likelihood of alternative climate outcomes, the nature and extent of the uncertainty of those outcomes, and the framework that should be used to evaluate potential benefits from GHG abatement, including key policy parameters. I argue that the case for stringent abatement--if it can be made at all--cannot be based on the kinds of modeling exercises that have permeated the literature thus far, but instead must be based on the possibility of a catastrophic outcome. I discuss how an analysis that incorporates such an outcome might be conducted. (JEL: Q54; D81, Q51) Copyright 2013, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert S. Pindyck, 2013. "The Climate Policy Dilemma," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 7(2), pages 219-237, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:renvpo:v:7:y:2013:i:2:p:219-237
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert J. Barro & Tao Jin, 2011. "On the Size Distribution of Macroeconomic Disasters," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(5), pages 1567-1589, September.
    2. Ravi Bansal & Marcelo Ochoa, 2011. "Welfare Costs of Long-Run Temperature Shifts," NBER Working Papers 17574, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Stephen Newbold & Adam Daigneault, 2009. "Climate Response Uncertainty and the Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 44(3), pages 351-377, November.
    4. Robert S. Pindyck & Neng Wang, 2013. "The Economic and Policy Consequences of Catastrophes," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 306-339, November.
    5. Pindyck, Robert S., 2012. "Uncertain outcomes and climate change policy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 289-303.
    6. Melissa Dell & Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2008. "Climate Change and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century," NBER Working Papers 14132, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521700801 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Ravi Bansal & Marcelo Ochoa, 2011. "Temperature, Aggregate Risk, and Expected Returns," NBER Working Papers 17575, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Michael Greenstone & Elizabeth Kopits & Ann Wolverton, 2011. "Estimating the Social Cost of Carbon for Use in U.S. Federal Rulemakings: A Summary and Interpretation," NBER Working Papers 16913, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Robert J. Barro, 2009. "Rare Disasters, Asset Prices, and Welfare Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 243-264, March.
    11. Partha Dasgupta, 2008. "Discounting climate change," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 141-169, December.
    12. William D. Nordhaus, 2011. "Estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon: Background and Results from the RICE-2011 Model," NBER Working Papers 17540, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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