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Uncertainty In Environmental Economics

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  • Robert S. Pindyck

Abstract

In a world of certainty, the design of environmental policy is relatively straightforward, and boils down to maximizing the present value of the flow of social benefits minus costs. But the real world is one of considerable uncertainty -- over the physical and ecological impact of pollution, over the economic costs and benefits of reducing it, and over the discount rates that should be used to compute present values. The implications of uncertainty are complicated by the fact that most environmental policy problems involve highly nonlinear damage functions, important irreversibilities, and long time horizons. Correctly incorporating uncertainty in policy design is therefore one of the more interesting and important research areas in environmental economics. This paper offers no easy formulas or solutions for treating uncertainty -- to my knowledge, none exist. Instead, I try to clarify the ways in which various kinds of uncertainties will affect optimal policy design, and summarize what we know and don't know about the problem.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert S. Pindyck, 2006. "Uncertainty In Environmental Economics," NBER Working Papers 12752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12752 Note: IO EEE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Roberto Roson & Enrica de Cian & Elisa Lanzi, 2007. "The Impact of Temperature Change on Energy Demand a Dynamic Panel Analysis," Working Papers 2007_06, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
    2. Durand-Lasserve, Olivier & Pierru, Axel & Smeers, Yves, 2010. "Uncertain long-run emissions targets, CO2 price and global energy transition: A general equilibrium approach," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(9), pages 5108-5122, September.
    3. Enrica De Cian & Elisa Lanzi & Roberto Roson, 2013. "Seasonal temperature variations and energy demand," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 116(3), pages 805-825, February.
    4. C.E. Dangerfield & A.E. Whalley & Nick Hanley & C.A. Gilligan, 2016. "What a difference a stochastic process makes: epidemiological-based real options models of optimal treatment of disease," Discussion Papers in Environment and Development Economics 2016-03, University of St. Andrews, School of Geography and Sustainable Development.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • Q28 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Government Policy

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