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Carbon Prices for the Next Thousand Years

  • Reyer Gerlagh
  • Matti Liski

Climate is a persistent asset, bar none: changes in climate-related stocks have consequences spanning over centuries or possibly millennia to the future. To reconcile the discounting of such far-distant impacts and realism of the shorter-term decisions, we consider hyperbolic time-preferences in a climate-economy model. Time-changing utility discount rates have unexplored general-equilibrium effects: carbon prices exceed the pure carbon externality costs - the Pigouvian tax level - by multiple factors in our quantitative assessment. The climate-economy model is rich in details but can be solved in closed-form yielding Markov carbon prices dependent on climate system parameters, damage estimates, technology parameters, and both short- and long-term time preferences. The equilibrium time discount rate is endogenous, and it can justify high carbon taxes as advocated by Stern while maintaining the realism of the macroeconomic outcome, thus providing a solution for the dilemma centering the carbon tax-discount rate debate. The welfare ranking of the policy alternatives is unambiguous: enforcing the Pigouvian tax decreases a consistently-defined welfare measure vis-a-vis the Markov equilibrium.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3855.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3855
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  1. Karp, Larry, 2004. "Non-Constant Discounting in Continuous Time," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt7pr05084, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
  2. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
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  7. Karp, Larry, 2005. "Global warming and hyperbolic discounting," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 261-282, February.
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  9. Robert J. Barro, 1999. "Ramsey Meets Laibson In The Neoclassical Growth Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1125-1152, November.
  10. Maria Saez-Marti & Jorgen W. Weibull, 2005. "Discounting and altruism to future decision-makers," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 784828000000000001, www.najecon.org.
  11. Christian Gollier & Richard Zeckhauser, 2005. "Aggregation of Heterogeneous Time Preferences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(4), pages 878-896, August.
  12. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2009. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 51-104, February.
  13. Martin L. Weitzman, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 703-724, September.
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