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Additive Damages, Fat-Tailed Climate Dynamics, and Uncertain Discounting

In: The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present

  • Martin L. Weitzman

This paper in applied theory argues that there is a loose chain of reasoning connecting the following three basic links in the economics of climate change: 1) additive disutility damages may be appropriate for analyzing some impacts of global warming; 2) an uncertain feedback-forcing coefficient, which might be near one with infinitesimal probability, can cause the distribution of the future time trajectory of global temperatures to have fat tails and a high variance; 3) when high-variance additive damages are discounted at an uncertain rate of pure time preference, which might be near zero with infinitesimal probability, it can make expected present discounted disutility very large. Some possible implications for welfare analysis and climate-change policy are briefly noted.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

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This chapter was published in:
  • Gary D. Libecap & Richard H. Steckel, 2011. "The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number libe10-1, 07.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 11981.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11981
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Weitzman, Martin L., 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," Scholarly Articles 3693423, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    2. Thomas Sterner & U. Martin Persson, 2008. "An Even Sterner Review: Introducing Relative Prices into the Discounting Debate," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 2(1), pages 61-76, Winter.
    3. Sterner, Thomas & Persson, U. Martin, 2007. "An Even Sterner Review: Introducing Relative Prices into the Discounting Debate," Discussion Papers dp-07-37, Resources For the Future.
    4. Weitzman, Martin L., 1998. "Why the Far-Distant Future Should Be Discounted at Its Lowest Possible Rate," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 201-208, November.
    5. Partha Dasgupta, 2007. "The Stern Review's economics of climate change," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 199(1), pages 4-7, January.
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