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Towards a More Inclusive and Precautionary Indicator of Global Sustainability

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  • John C. V. Pezzey

    (Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University)

  • Paul J. Burke

    (Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University)

Abstract

We construct a hybrid, economic indicator of the sustainability of global well-being, which is more inclusive than existing indicators and incorporates an environmentally pessimistic, physical constraint on global warming. Our methodology extends the World Bank's Adjusted Net Saving (ANS) indicator to include the cost of population growth, the benefit of technical progress, and a much higher, precautionary cost of current CO2 emissions. Future warming damage is so highly unknowable that valuing emissions directly is rather arbitrary, so we use a novel, inductive approach: we modify damage and climate parameters in the deterministic DICE climate-economy model so it becomes economically optimal to control emissions in a way likely to limit warming to an agreed target, here 2 degrees Celsius. If future emissions are optimally controlled, our ANS then suggests that current global well-being is sustainable. But if emissions remain uncontrolled, our base-case ANS is negative now and our corresponding, modified DICE model has an unsustained development path, with well-being peaking in 2065. Current ANS on an uncontrolled path may thus be a useful heuristic indicator of future unsustainability. Our inductive method might allow ANS to include other very hard-to-value, environmental threats to global sustainability, like biodiversity loss and nitrogen pollution.

Suggested Citation

  • John C. V. Pezzey & Paul J. Burke, 2014. "Towards a More Inclusive and Precautionary Indicator of Global Sustainability," CCEP Working Papers 1410, Centre for Climate & Energy Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  • Handle: RePEc:een:ccepwp:1410
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    global sustainability; optimism and pessimism; precautionary valuation of CO2 emissions; unknowability and induction; population growth; technical progress;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation

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