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Optimal Learning on Climate Change: Why Climate Skeptics should reduce Emissions

Author

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  • Sweder van Wijnbergen

    (University of Amsterdam)

  • Tim Willems

    (Oxford University)

Abstract

Climate skeptics argue that the possibility that global warming is exogenous implies that we should not take additional action towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions until we know more. However this paper shows that even climate skeptics have an incentive to reduce emissions: such a change of direction facilitates their learning process on the causes of global warming. Since the optimal policy action depends on these causes, they are valuable to know. Although an increase in emissions would also ease learning, that option is shown to be inferior because emitting greenhouse gases is irreversible. Consequently the policy implications of the different positions in the global warming debate turn out to coincide - thereby diminishing the relevance of this debate from a policy perspective. Uncertainty is no reason for inaction.

Suggested Citation

  • Sweder van Wijnbergen & Tim Willems, 2012. "Optimal Learning on Climate Change: Why Climate Skeptics should reduce Emissions," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 12-085/2, Tinbergen Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20120085
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Tatiana Kiseleva, 2016. "Heterogeneous Beliefs and Climate Catastrophes," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 65(3), pages 599-622, November.
    2. In Chang Hwang & Richard S.J. Tol & Marjan W. Hofkes, 2013. "Active Learning about Climate Change," Working Paper Series 6513, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
    3. Ahlvik, Lassi & Hyytiäinen, Kari, 2015. "Value of adaptation in water protection — Economic impacts of uncertain climate change in the Baltic Sea," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 231-240.
    4. repec:eee:eneeco:v:68:y:2017:i:s1:p:4-16 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Rezai, Armon & van der Ploeg, Frederick, 2017. "Climate policies under climate model uncertainty: Max-min and min-max regret," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(S1), pages 4-16.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    climate policy; global warming; climate skepticism; active learning; irreversibilities;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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