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The Climate Policy Dilemma

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  • Robert S. Pindyck

Abstract

Climate policy poses a dilemma for environmental economists. The economic argument for stringent GHG abatement is far from clear. There is disagreement among both climate scientists and economists over the likelihood of alternative climate outcomes, over the nature and extent of the uncertainty over those outcomes, and over the framework that should be used to evaluate potential benefits from GHG abatement, including key policy parameters. I argue that the case for stringent abatement cannot be based on the kinds of modeling exercises that have permeated the literature, but instead must be based on the possibility of a catastrophic outcome. I discuss how an analysis that incorporates such an outcome might be conducted.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert S. Pindyck, 2012. "The Climate Policy Dilemma," NBER Working Papers 18205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18205
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert J. Barro & Tao Jin, 2011. "On the Size Distribution of Macroeconomic Disasters," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(5), pages 1567-1589, September.
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    5. Michael Greenstone & Elizabeth Kopits & Ann Wolverton, 2011. "Estimating the Social Cost of Carbon for Use in U.S. Federal Rulemakings: A Summary and Interpretation," NBER Working Papers 16913, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Robert J. Barro, 2009. "Rare Disasters, Asset Prices, and Welfare Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 243-264, March.
    7. Partha Dasgupta, 2008. "Discounting climate change," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 141-169, December.
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    9. Pindyck, Robert S., 2012. "Uncertain outcomes and climate change policy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 289-303.
    10. Robert S. Pindyck & Neng Wang, 2013. "The Economic and Policy Consequences of Catastrophes," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 306-339, November.
    11. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Toman Michael, 2014. "The need for multiple types of information to inform climate change assessment," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 5(3), pages 469-485, December.
    2. Elizabeth Kopits & Alex L. Marten & Ann Wolverton, 2013. "Moving Forward with Incorporating "Catastrophic" Climate Change into Policy Analysis," NCEE Working Paper Series 201301, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Jan 2013.
    3. Freeman, Mark C. & Wagner, Gernot & Zeckhauser, Richard J., 2015. "Climate Sensitivity Uncertainty: When Is Good News Bad?," Working Paper Series rwp15-002, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    4. Kent D. Daniel & Robert B. Litterman & Gernot Wagner, 2016. "Applying Asset Pricing Theory to Calibrate the Price of Climate Risk," NBER Working Papers 22795, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Tobon Orozco, David & Molina Guerra, Carlos & Vargas Cano, John Harvey, 2016. "Extent of Expected Pigouvian Taxes and Permits for Environmental Services in a General Equilibrium Model with a natural capital constraint," BORRADORES DEPARTAMENTO DE ECONOMÍA 015258, UNIVERSIDAD DE ANTIOQUIA - CIE.
    6. Claudia Kettner-Marx & Daniela Kletzan-Slamanig, 2018. "Carbon Taxes from an Economic Perspective," WIFO Working Papers 554, WIFO.
    7. Kollenberg, Sascha & Taschini, Luca, 2016. "Emissions trading systems with cap adjustments," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 20-36.
    8. Frederick Ploeg & Aart Zeeuw, 2016. "Non-cooperative and Cooperative Responses to Climate Catastrophes in the Global Economy: A North–South Perspective," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 65(3), pages 519-540, November.
    9. Michael Keen & Ian Parry & Jon Strand, 2013. "Planes, ships and taxes: charging for international aviation and maritime emissions," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 28(76), pages 701-749, October.
    10. van der Ploeg, Frederick, 2014. "Abrupt positive feedback and the social cost of carbon," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 28-41.
    11. Wagner, Gernot & Zeckhauser, Richard J., 2016. "Confronting Deep and Persistent Climate Uncertainty," Working Paper Series 16-025, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    12. Sussman Fran & Weaver Christopher P. & Grambsch Anne, 2014. "Challenges in applying the paradigm of welfare economics to climate change," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 5(3), pages 347-376, December.
    13. Nocera, Silvio & Tonin, Stefania & Cavallaro, Federico, 2015. "The economic impact of greenhouse gas abatement through a meta-analysis: Valuation, consequences and implications in terms of transport policy," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 31-43.
    14. Moritz Drupp & Mark Freeman & Ben Groom & Frikk Nesje, 2015. "Discounting disentangled: an expert survey on the determinants of the long-term social discount rate," GRI Working Papers 196a, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    15. Lucas Bretschger & Alexandra Vinogradova, 2014. "Going beyond tradition:Growth and Mitigation Policies with Uncertain Climate Damage," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 14/202, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
    16. Lucas Bretschger & Alexandra Vinogradova, 2014. "Growth and Mitigation Policies with Uncertain Climate Damage," CESifo Working Paper Series 5085, CESifo Group Munich.
    17. Mark C. Freeman & Ben Groom & Richard Zeckhauser, 2015. "Better Predictions, Better Allocations: Scientific Advances and Adaptation to Climate Change," NBER Working Papers 21463, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Loic Berger & Massimo Marinacci, 2017. "Model Uncertainty in Climate Change Economics," Working Papers 616, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    19. Jan Goebel & Christian Krekel & Tim Tiefenbach & Nicholas R. Ziebarth, 2014. "Natural Disaster, Environmental Concerns, Well-Being and Policy Action," CINCH Working Paper Series 1405, Universitaet Duisburg-Essen, Competent in Competition and Health.
    20. van der Ploeg, Frederick, 2014. "Abrupt positive feedback and the social cost of carbon," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 28-41.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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