Nearly all discussions about the appropriate consumption discount rate for climate change policy evaluation assume that a single discount rate concept applies. We argue that two distinct concepts and associated rates apply. We distinguish between a social-welfare-equivalent discount rate appropriate for determining whether a given policy would augment social welfare (according to a postulated social welfare function) and a finance-equivalent discount rate suitable for determining whether the policy would offer a potential Pareto improvement. Distinguishing between the two rates helps resolve arguments as to whether the choice of discount rate should be based on ethical considerations or empirical information (such as market interest rates), and whether the discount rate should serve a prescriptive or descriptive role. Separating out the two rates also helps clarify disputes about the appropriate stringency of climate change policy. We find that the structure of leading numerical optimization models used for climate policy analysis may have helped contribute to the blurring of the differences between the two rates. In addition, we indicate that uncertainty about underlying ethical parameters or market conditions implies that both rates should decline as the time horizon increases.
Roberton C. Williams III
Local Economic Impacts of Federal Protected Lands: National Monuments in the Mountain West
The prospect of lost livelihoods can produce conflict over the limits that national monuments place on land use, but creating monuments can also create value by growing new industries related to recreation and tourism.
It’s a Good Time for Women to Win the Nobel Prize
Catherine Wolfram discusses last year's historic Nobel Prize in Economics, reviews the significance of randomized controlled trials, and shares wisdom for women in economics.
Permanent Funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund: Three Next Steps
Recent pending developments for the Land and Water Conservation Fund will be even better for federal policy toward outdoor recreation, if three next steps are included.