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Climate Change and Long-Run Discount Rates: Evidence from Real Estate

Listed author(s):
  • Stefano Giglio
  • Matteo Maggiori
  • Johannes Ströbel
  • Andreas Weber

The optimal investment to mitigate climate change crucially depends on the discount rate used to evaluate the investment’s uncertain future benefits. The appropriate discount rate is a function of the horizon over which these benefits accrue and the riskiness of the investment. In this paper, we estimate the term structure of discount rates for an important risky asset class, real estate, up to the very long horizons relevant for investments in climate change abatement. We show that this term structure is steeply downward-sloping, reaching 2.6% at horizons beyond 100 years. We explore the implications of these new data within both a general asset pricing framework that decomposes risks and returns by horizon and a structural model calibrated to match a variety of asset classes. Our analysis demonstrates that applying average rates of return that are observed for traded assets to investments in climate change abatement is misleading. We also show that the discount rates for investments in climate change abatement that reduce aggregate risk, as in disasterrisk models, are bounded above by our estimated term structure for risky housing, and should be below 2.6% for long-run benefits. This upper bound rules out many discount rates suggested in the literature and used by policymakers. Our framework also distinguishes between the various mechanisms the environmental literature has proposed for generating downward-sloping discount rates.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2015/wp-cesifo-2015-11/cesifo1_wp5608.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 5608.

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Date of creation: 2015
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_5608
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  1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
  2. Michael Bordo & Barry Eichengreen & Daniela Klingebiel & Maria Soledad Martinez-Peria, 2001. "Is the crisis problem growing more severe?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(32), pages 51-82, 04.
  3. Reinhart, Karmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. ""This time is different": panorama of eight centuries of financial crises," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 77-114, March.
  4. Brent W. Ambrose & Piet Eichholtz & Thies Lindenthal, 2013. "House Prices and Fundamentals: 355 Years of Evidence," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 45(2-3), pages 477-491, 03.
  5. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly-Preface," MPRA Paper 17451, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Martin Lettau & Jessica A. Wachter, 2007. "Why Is Long-Horizon Equity Less Risky? A Duration-Based Explanation of the Value Premium," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 62(1), pages 55-92, 02.
  7. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly-Chapter 1," MPRA Paper 17452, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Constantinescu, Mihnea & Francke, Marc, 2013. "The historical development of the Swiss rental market – A new price index," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 135-145.
  9. Nigel Stapledon, 2012. "Trends and Cycles in S ydney and M elbourne House Prices from 1880 to 2011," Australian Economic History Review, Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 52(3), pages 293-317, November.
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