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Priority for the Worse Off and the Social Cost of Carbon

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  • Adler, Matthew
  • Anthoff, David
  • Bosetti, Valentina
  • Garner, Greg
  • Keller, Klaus
  • Treich, Nicolas

Abstract

The social cost of carbon (SCC) is a monetary measure of the harms from carbon emission. Specifically, it is the reduction in current consumption that produces a loss in social welfare equivalent to that caused by the emission of a ton of CO2. The standard approach is to calculate the SCC using a discounted-utilitarian social welfare function (SWF)—one that simply adds up the well-being numbers (utilities) of individuals, as discounted by a weighting factor that decreases with time. The discounted-utilitarian SWF has been criticized both for ignoring the distribution of well-being, and for including an arbitrary preference for earlier generations. Here, we use a prioritarian SWF, with no time-discount factor, to calculate the SCC in the integrated assessment model RICE. Prioritarianism is a well-developed concept in ethics and theoretical welfare economics, but has been, thus far, little used in climate scholarship. The core idea is to give greater weight to well-being changes affecting worse off individuals. We find substantial differences between the discounted-utilitarian and non-discounted prioritarian SCC.

Suggested Citation

  • Adler, Matthew & Anthoff, David & Bosetti, Valentina & Garner, Greg & Keller, Klaus & Treich, Nicolas, 2016. "Priority for the Worse Off and the Social Cost of Carbon," MITP: Mitigation, Innovation and Transformation Pathways 244334, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:feemmi:244334
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.244334
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    File URL: https://ageconsearch.umn.edu/record/244334/files/NDL2016-055.pdf
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    1. Jacobs, Bas & van der Ploeg, Frederick, 2019. "Redistribution and pollution taxes with non-linear Engel curves," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 198-226.

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    Keywords

    Resource /Energy Economics and Policy;

    JEL classification:

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

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