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A balance of questions: what can we ask of climate change economics?

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Abstract

The standard approach to the economics of climate change, which has its best known implementation in Nordhaus's DICE and RICE models (well described in Nordhaus's 2008 book, A Question of Balance) is not well equipped to deal with the possibility of catastrophe, since we are unable to evaluate a risk averse representative agent's expected utility when there is any significant probability of zero consumption. Whilst other authors attempt to develop new tools with which to address these problems, the simple solution proposed in this paper is to ask a question that the currently available tools of climate change economics are capable of answering. Rather than having agents optimally choosing a path (that divers from the recommendations of climate scientists) within models which cannot capture the essential features of the problem, I argue that economic models should be used to determine the savings and investment paths which implement climate targets that have been suggested in the physical science literature.

Suggested Citation

  • David Comerford, 2013. "A balance of questions: what can we ask of climate change economics?," ESE Discussion Papers 216, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  • Handle: RePEc:edn:esedps:216
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Masako Ikefuji & Roger Laeven & Jan Magnus & Chris Muris, 2014. "Expected Utility and Catastrophic Risk," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 14-133/III, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. Lemoine, Derek M. & Traeger, Christian P., 2011. "Tipping points and ambiguity in the economics of climate change," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt9nd591ww, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
    3. Richard S. J. Tol, 2009. "The Economic Effects of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 29-51, Spring.
    4. Per Krusell & Conny Olovsson & John Hassler, 2011. "Directed Energy-Saving Technical Change," 2011 Meeting Papers 1055, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Millner, Antony, 2013. "On welfare frameworks and catastrophic climate risks," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 310-325.
    6. Martin L. Weitzman, 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, pages 1-19.
    7. Mikhail Golosov & John Hassler & Per Krusell & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2014. "Optimal Taxes on Fossil Fuel in General Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(1), pages 41-88, January.
    8. Masako Ikefuji & Roger J. A. Laeven & Jan R. Magnus & Chris Muris, 2011. "Weitzman meets Nordhaus: Expected utility and catastrophic risk in a stochastic economy-climate model," ISER Discussion Paper 0825, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
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    Keywords

    climate change; catastrophe; optimal policy; alternative energy investment;

    JEL classification:

    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies

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