IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/ehl/lserod/37578.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Climate policy under sustainable discounted utilitarianism

Author

Listed:
  • Dietz, Simon
  • Asheim, Geir B.

Abstract

Empirical evaluation of policies to mitigate climate change has been largely confined to the application of discounted utilitarianism (DU). DU is contro-versial, both due to the conditions through which it is justifed and due to its consequences for climate policies, where the discounting of future utility gains from present abatement efforts makes it harder for such measures to justify their present costs. In this paper, we propose sustainable discounted utilitari- anism (SDU) as an alternative principle for evaluation of climate policy. Unlike undiscounted utilitarianism, which always assigns zero relative weight to present utility, SDU is an axiomatically based criterion, which departs from DU by assigning zero weight to present utility if and only if it exceeds future welfare. Using the DICE integrated assessment model to run risk analysis, we show that it is possible for future welfare to be below present utility along a `business as usual' development path. Consequently SDU and DU differ, and willingness to pay for emissions reductions is (sometimes signifcantly) higher under SDU than under DU. Under SDU, stringent schedules of emissions reductions increase social welfare, even if the discount rate is relatively high.

Suggested Citation

  • Dietz, Simon & Asheim, Geir B., 2011. "Climate policy under sustainable discounted utilitarianism," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 37578, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:37578
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/37578/
    File Function: Open access version.
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Geir B. Asheim, 2010. "Intergenerational Equity," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 197-222, September.
    2. Blackorby,Charles & Bossert,Walter & Donaldson,David J., 2005. "Population Issues in Social Choice Theory, Welfare Economics, and Ethics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521532587.
    3. Nordhaus, William D, 1991. "To Slow or Not to Slow: The Economics of the Greenhouse Effect," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 920-937, July.
    4. Fankhauser, Samuel & S.J. Tol, Richard, 2005. "On climate change and economic growth," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 1-17, January.
    5. Marc Fleurbaey, 2010. "Assessing Risky Social Situations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(4), pages 649-680, August.
    6. Hammond, Peter J, 1989. "Consistent Plans, Consequentialism, and Expected Utility," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(6), pages 1445-1449, November.
    7. Blackorby, Charles & Bossert, Walter & Donaldson, David, 1995. "Intertemporal Population Ethics: Critical-Level Utilitarian Principles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(6), pages 1303-1320, November.
    8. Martin L. Weitzman, 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 1-19, February.
    9. Asheim, Geir B. & Mitra, Tapan, 2010. "Sustainability and discounted utilitarianism in models of economic growth," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 148-169, March.
    10. Geir Asheim & Tapan Mitra & Bertil Tungodden, 2012. "Sustainable recursive social welfare functions," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 49(2), pages 267-292, February.
    11. Kelly, David L. & Kolstad, Charles D., 2001. "Malthus and Climate Change: Betting on a Stable Population," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 135-161, March.
    12. Zuber, Stéphane & Asheim, Geir B., 2012. "Justifying social discounting: The rank-discounted utilitarian approach," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(4), pages 1572-1601.
    13. repec:hrv:faseco:33373343 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Mirrlees, J. A. & Stern, N. H., 1972. "Fairly good plans," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 268-288, April.
    15. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521700801 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Martin L. Weitzman, 1976. "On the Welfare Significance of National Product in a Dynamic Economy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(1), pages 156-162.
    17. Antoine Bommier & Stéphane Zuber, 2008. "Can preferences for catastrophe avoidance reconcile social discounting with intergenerational equity?," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 31(3), pages 415-434, October.
    18. Graciela Chichilnisky, 1996. "An axiomatic approach to sustainable development," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 13(2), pages 231-257, April.
    19. repec:ito:pbooks:1876 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Ackerman, Frank & Stanton, Elizabeth A. & Bueno, Ramón, 2010. "Fat tails, exponents, extreme uncertainty: Simulating catastrophe in DICE," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(8), pages 1657-1665, June.
    21. Dasgupta, Partha, 2001. "Human Well-Being and the Natural Environment," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199247882.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    climate change; discounted utilitarianism; intergenerational equity; sustainable development; sustainable discounted utilitarianism;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:37578. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (LSERO Manager). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/lsepsuk.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.