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How certain are we about the certainty-equivalent long term social discount rate?

  • Mark C. Freeman
  • Ben Groom

The case for using declining social discount rates when the future is uncertain is now widely accepted in both academic and policy circles. We present sharp upper and lower bounds for this term structure when we have limited knowledge about the nature of our uncertainty. At horizons beyond 75 years, these bounds are widely spread even if there is agreement on the support and first four moments of the relevant underlying probability distribution. Hence, even in the unlikely event that there is consensus between experts on the primitives of the social discount rate, estimates of the present value of intergenerational costs and benefits, such as the Social Cost of Carbon, can potentially lie anywhere within a wide range. This makes it di� cult to prescribe crisp policy recommendations for long-term investments.

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File URL: http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/WP138-How-certain-about-certainty-equivalent-long-term-social-discount-rate.pdf
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Paper provided by Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in its series GRI Working Papers with number 138.

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Date of creation: Oct 2013
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Handle: RePEc:lsg:lsgwps:wp138
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  1. Weitzman, Martin L., 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," Scholarly Articles 3693423, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Arrow, Kenneth J. & Cropper, Maureen L. & Gollier, Christian & Groom, Ben & Heal, Geoffrey M. & Newell, Richard G. & Nordhaus, William D. & Pindyck, Robert S. & Pizer, William A. & Portney, Paul R. & , 2012. "How Should Benefits and Costs Be Discounted in an Intergenerational Context? The Views of an Expert Panel," Discussion Papers dp-12-53, Resources For the Future.
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  7. Gollier, Christian & Koundouri, Phoebe & Pantelidis, Theologos, 2008. "Declining Discount Rates: Economic Justifications and Implications for Long-Run Policy," IDEI Working Papers 525, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  8. Newell, Richard G. & Pizer, William A., 2003. "Discounting the distant future: how much do uncertain rates increase valuations?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 52-71, July.
  9. Christian Gollier & Martin L. Weitzman, 2009. "How Should the Distant Future be Discounted when Discount Rates are Uncertain?," CESifo Working Paper Series 2863, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Mark C. Greeman & Ben Groom & Ekaterini Panopoulou & Theologos Pantelidis, 2015. "Declining discount rates and the ‘Fisher Effect’: Inflated past, discounted future?," Discussion Paper Series 2015_01, Department of Economics, University of Macedonia, revised Jan 2015.
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  16. Phoebe Koundouri & Theologos Pantelidis & Ben Groom & Ekaterini Panopoulou, 2007. "Discounting the distant future: How much does model selection affect the certainty equivalent rate?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(3), pages 641-656.
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