A critical problem, which has long plagued cost-benefit analysis, concerns the appropriate interest rate to use for discounting the future. This paper proposes a new approach to resolving the dilemma of the unknown discount rate, by incorporating the uncertainty directly into the analysis. An operational methodology is developed to determine the time-dependent schedule of effective interest rates appropriate for discounting long-term environmental projects or activities, like mitigating the effects of global warming. A numerical example is constructed from the results of a survey based on the opinions of 1,720 economists. Implications and ramifications of the proposed "gamma-discounting" approach are discussed.
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Web page: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/journals/hier
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- Weitzman, Martin L., 1998. "Why the Far-Distant Future Should Be Discounted at Its Lowest Possible Rate," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 201-208, November.
- Pizer, William A., 1999. "The optimal choice of climate change policy in the presence of uncertainty," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3-4), pages 255-287, August.
- Cropper, Maureen & Laibson, David, 1998. "The implications of hyperbolic discounting for project evaluation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1943, The World Bank.
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