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Climate Policy When the Distant Future Matters: Catastrophic Events with Hyperbolic Discounting


  • Karp, Larry
  • Tsur, Yacov


Low probability catastrophic climate change can have a significant influence on policy under hyperbolic discounting. We compare the set of Markov Perfect Equilibria (MPE) to the optimal policy under time-consistent commitment. For some initial levels of risk there are multiple MPE; these may involve either excessive or insufficient stabilization effort. These results imply that even if the free-rider problem amongst contemporaneous decision-makers were solved, there may remain a coordination problem amongst successive generations of decision-makers. A numerical example shows that under plausible conditions society should respond vigorously to the threat of climate change.

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  • Karp, Larry & Tsur, Yacov, 2007. "Climate Policy When the Distant Future Matters: Catastrophic Events with Hyperbolic Discounting," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt99n7v1bp, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:agrebk:qt99n7v1bp

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Karp, Larry, 2007. "Non-constant discounting in continuous time," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 132(1), pages 557-568, January.
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    15. Tsur, Yacov & Zemel, Amos, 1998. "Pollution control in an uncertain environment," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 967-975, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Karp, Larry S. & Tsur, Yacov, 2007. "Discounting And Climate Change Policy," Discussion Papers 7149, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Department of Agricultural Economics and Management.

    More about this item


    abrupt climate change; event uncertainty; catastrophic risk; hyperbolic discounting; Markov Perfect Equilibria;

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D99 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Other
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming


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