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Priority for the Worse Off and the Social Cost of Carbon

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

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.

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  • Matthew Adler & David Anthoff & Valentina Bosetti & Greg Garner & Klaus Keller & Nicolas Treich, 2016. "Priority for the Worse Off and the Social Cost of Carbon," CESifo Working Paper Series 6032, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6032
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    8. Bas (B.) Jacobs & Rick (F.) van der Ploeg, 2017. "Should Pollution Taxes Be Targeted At Income Redistribution?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 17-070/VI, Tinbergen Institute.
    9. Kornek, Ulrike & Klenert, David & Edenhofer, Ottmar & Fleurbaey, Marc, 2021. "The social cost of carbon and inequality: When local redistribution shapes global carbon prices," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 107(C).
    10. Jafino, Bramka Arga, 2021. "An equity-based transport network criticality analysis," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 204-221.
    11. Christian P. Fries & Lennart Quante, 2023. "Accounting for Financing Risks improves Intergenerational Equity of Climate Change Mitigation," Papers 2312.07614, arXiv.org.
    12. 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.
    13. Edenhofer, Ottmar & Flachsland, Christian & Kalkuhl, Matthias & Knopf, Brigitte & Pahle, Michael, 2019. "Optionen für eine CO2-Preisreform," Working Papers 04/2019, German Council of Economic Experts / Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    social cost of carbon; climate change; prioritarianism; integrated assessment model; welfare economics;
    All these keywords.

    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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