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Now or Never: Environmental Protection under Hyperbolic Discounting

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Abstract

In this paper, we extend the well known result that hyperbolically discounting agents tend to postpone costs into the future. In a simple model we show that, without commitment to the ex ante optimal plan, no investment in environmental protection is undertaken over the whole time horizon, no matter whether the decision makers are naive or sophisticated, although investment seems optimal in the long run from every generations point of view. This result questions the application of hyperbolic discounting in cost-benefit analysis and gives rise to concern, as it is consistent with unsatisfactory policy performance in solving long-term environmental problems.

Suggested Citation

  • Ralph Winkler, 2006. "Now or Never: Environmental Protection under Hyperbolic Discounting," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 06/60, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:eth:wpswif:06-60
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    Cited by:

    1. Yohe, Gary W. & Tol, Richard S. J. & Anthoff, David, 2009. "Discounting for Climate Change," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 3, pages 1-22.
    2. Therese Grijalva & Jayson Lusk & W. Shaw, 2014. "Discounting the Distant Future: An Experimental Investigation," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 59(1), pages 39-63, September.
    3. Funk, Matt, 2008. "On the Problem of Vague Terms: A Glossary of Clearly Stated Assumptions & Careful, Patient, Descriptions," MPRA Paper 14505, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    environmental policy; environmental protection; hyperbolic discounting; intertemporal decision theory; procrastination; time-(in)consistency;

    JEL classification:

    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General
    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis

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