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Climat et générations futures - Un examen critique du débat académique suscité par le Rapport Stern

  • Olivier Godard

    (CECO - Laboratoire d'econometrie de l'école polytechnique - CNRS - Polytechnique - X)

Applauded by several Nobel-price winners (Mirrlees, Sen, Solow, Stiglitz) the Stern review of the economics of climate change has also been exposed to severe criticisms of other well-known economists, noticeably North-American. The core of those criticisms targets choices of the discount rate and the way uncertainty and adaptation of future generations to new climatic conditions have been approached. It is said that the Stern team had cooked the economic book in order to sketch a catastrophic picture of the climate issue. The results of a critical examination of the debate are that the Stern review can be rightly opposed some methodological limits and shortcuts, but also that for essential matters, it is more right than wrong, in the context of the utilitarist philosophy that provides the conceptual basis of cost-benefit analysis used as well by Stern and his critics. Curiously, like a boomerang, the positions of certain of his eminent critics caught by ill-adapted concepts and economic routines, have been revealed by this critical debate to be rather dubious or inconsistent. More relevant, the sequential approach to decision under uncertainty has not yet gained the audience it deserves, being embarked in out of line theoretical debates. More radical, non-utilitarist alternatives do not offer an easier way to go, since several of them also meet important difficulties, particularly in relation with the idea of rights of future generations. Debates on right climate policies enlighten a rather difficult and confused relationship between economics and ethics. Notwithstanding the choice of the best analytical framing, the dressing of the criticial appraisal of the Stern review in terms of economic efficiency is deceiving since the issue is dominated by the ethical standing to be acknowledged to future generations and the legitimacy of imposed transfers of costs in asymmetrical contexts, two questions that economic analysis is not well-equipped to arbitrate.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Working Papers with number hal-00243059.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:hal-00243059
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