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Climate change and the irreversibility effect: combining expected utility and MaxiMin


  • Lange, Andreas


This paper analyzes decisions on emissions of a stock pollutant under uncertainty in a two period model. Decisions are based on a weighted average of expected utility (EU) and the MaxiMin criterion. I first show that more weight on the worst case (less weight on EU) may lead to increased first period emissions. The effect of learning possibilities on emissions is not clear in general, but depends qualitatively on the weight given to MaxiMin: For the quadratic utility case, considering prospective learning increases today?s abatement effort, i.e. the ?irreversibility effect? holds, if the weight on EU is small. This contrasts standard results on the irreversibility effect for EU which translates to small weights on MaxiMin. There is, however, the possibility of a negative value of learning. It is shown that the irreversibility effect holds if and only if the value of learning is negative. Consequences for the applicability of generalized EU-MaxiMin are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Lange, Andreas, 2002. "Climate change and the irreversibility effect: combining expected utility and MaxiMin," ZEW Discussion Papers 02-29, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:868

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Machina, Mark J, 1989. "Dynamic Consistency and Non-expected Utility Models of Choice under Uncertainty," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(4), pages 1622-1668, December.
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    5. Epstein, Larry G, 1980. "Decision Making and the Temporal Resolution of Uncertainty," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 21(2), pages 269-283, June.
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    7. Karni, E. & Safra, Z., 1988. "Ascending Bid Auctions With Behaviorally Consistent Bidders," Papers 1-88, Tel Aviv.
    8. Henry, Claude, 1974. "Investment Decisions Under Uncertainty: The "Irreversibility Effect."," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(6), pages 1006-1012, December.
    9. Epstein Larry G. & Le Breton Michel, 1993. "Dynamically Consistent Beliefs Must Be Bayesian," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 1-22, October.
    10. Gilboa, Itzhak, 1987. "Expected utility with purely subjective non-additive probabilities," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 65-88, February.
    11. Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 571-587, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. David McInerney & Robert Lempert & Klaus Keller, 2012. "What are robust strategies in the face of uncertain climate threshold responses?," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 112(3), pages 547-568, June.
    2. W. Botzen & Jeroen Bergh, 2014. "Specifications of Social Welfare in Economic Studies of Climate Policy: Overview of Criteria and Related Policy Insights," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 58(1), pages 1-33, May.
    3. Treich, Nicolas, 2010. "The value of a statistical life under ambiguity aversion," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 15-26, January.
    4. Camilla Froyn, 2005. "Decision Criteria, Scientific Uncertainty, and the Globalwarming Controversy," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 183-211, April.
    5. Peterson, Sonja, 2004. "The contribution of economics to the analysis of climate change and uncertainty: a survey of approaches and findings," Kiel Working Papers 1212, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    6. LANGE Andreas & TREICH Nicolas, 2007. "Uncertainty, Learning and Ambiguity in Economic Models on Climate Policy: Some Classical Results and New Directions," LERNA Working Papers 07.16.237, LERNA, University of Toulouse.
    7. Iverson, Terrence, 2012. "Communicating Trade-offs amid Controversial Science: Decision Support for Climate Policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 74-90.
    8. Clemens Löffler & Thomas Pfeiffer & Georg Schneider, 2013. "The irreversibility effect and agency conflicts," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 74(2), pages 219-239, February.
    9. Peterson, Sonja, 2006. "Uncertainty and economic analysis of climate change: a survey of approaches and findings," Open Access Publications from Kiel Institute for the World Economy 3778, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    10. A. Lopez & E. Suckling & F. Otto & A. Lorenz & D. Rowlands & M. Allen, 2015. "Towards a typology for constrained climate model forecasts," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 132(1), pages 15-29, September.

    More about this item


    uncertainty; MaxiMin; irreversibility; learning;

    JEL classification:

    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General


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