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Disentangling the Stern/Nordhaus Controversy: Beyond the Discounting Clash

  • Etienne Espagne

    (Centre International de Recherche sur l’Environnement et le Développement (CIRED))

  • Baptiste Perrissin Fabert

    (CIRED)

  • Antonin Pottier

    (CIRED)

  • Franck Nadaud

    (CIRED)

  • Patrice Dumas

    (Centre International de Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement)

The Stern/Nordhaus controversy has polarized the widely disparate beliefs about what to do in order to tackle the climate challenge. To explain differences in results and policy recommendations, comments following the publication of the Stern Review have mainly focused on the role played by the discount rate. A closer look at the actual drivers of the controversy reveals however that Stern and Nordhaus also disagree on two other parameters: technical progress on abatement costs and the climate sensitivity. This paper aims at appraising the relative impacts of such key drivers of the controversy on the social cost of carbon and climate policy recommendations. To this end, we use the flexible integrated assessment model RESPONSE which allows us to compare very diverse worldviews, including Stern and Nordhaus’ ones within the same modelling framework and map the relative impacts of beliefs on the three key drivers of the controversy. Furthermore we appraise quantitatively, by means of a linear statistical model, the impacts on results of an extended set of core parameters of RESPONSE. We show that beliefs on long term economic growth, technical progress, the form of the climate damage function and the climate sensitivity have an impact as important as beliefs on pure time preference. Hence, we can qualify the role played by the discount rate in the Stern/Nordhaus controversy and more broadly in the definition of climate policies.

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Paper provided by Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in its series Working Papers with number 2012.61.

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Date of creation: Sep 2012
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Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2012.61
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  1. Jean-Charles Hourcade & Philippe Ambrosi & Stéphane Hallegatte & Franck Lecocq & Patrice Dumas & Minh Ha-Duong, 2003. "Optimal control models and elicitation of attitudes towards climate damages," Post-Print halshs-00000966, HAL.
  2. Pindyck, Robert S., 2000. "Irreversibilities and the timing of environmental policy," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 233-259, July.
  3. Minh Ha-Duong, 1998. "Quasi-option value and climate policy choices," Post-Print halshs-00002457, HAL.
  4. David Pearce, 2003. "The Social Cost of Carbon and its Policy Implications," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(3), pages 362-384.
  5. Graciela Chichilnisky & Geoffrey Heal, 1993. "Global Environmental Risks," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 65-86, Fall.
  6. Baptiste Perrissin Fabert & Patrice Dumas & Jean-Charles Hourcade, 2012. "What Social Cost of Carbon? A Mapping of the Climate Debate," Working Papers 2012.34, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  7. Kolstad, Charles D., 1996. "Fundamental irreversibilities in stock externalities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 221-233, May.
  8. Martin L. Weitzman, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 703-724, September.
  9. Ulph, Alistair & Ulph, David, 1997. "Global Warming, Irreversibility and Learning," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(442), pages 636-50, May.
  10. Minh Ha-Duong & Michael Grubb & Jean-Charles Hourcade, 1997. "Influence of socioeconomic inertia and uncertainty on optimal CO2-emission abatement," Post-Print halshs-00002452, HAL.
  11. Goulder, Lawrence H. & Mathai, Koshy, 2000. "Optimal CO2 Abatement in the Presence of Induced Technological Change," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 1-38, January.
  12. Patrice Dumas & Etienne Espagne & Baptiste Perrissin-Fabert & Antonin Pottier, 2012. "Comprehensive Description of RESPONSE," CIRED Working Papers hal-00866414, HAL.
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