Monday, January 27, 2014

Required Viewing for Social Scientists Studying Climate Change

The website of the American Economics Association (AEAweb) has webcasts of a couple of panels from this year's annual meetings, which should be of great interest to social scientists studying climate change.

Discounting for the Long Run
Presiding: Nicholas Stern
Declining Discount Rates Maureen Cropper; Mark C. Freeman; Ben Groom; William A. Pizer
Discounting and Growth Christian Gollier
Fat Tails and the Social Cost of Carbon Martin Weitzman
On Not Revisiting Official Discount Rates: Institutional Inertia and the Social Cost of Carbon Cass Sunstein
Discussants: Kenneth Arrow
View Webcast

Climate Change Policy after Kyoto
Presiding: Nicholas Stern
Tax Policy Issues in Designing a Carbon Tax Eric Toder; Donald Marron
How Effective are U.S. Renewable Energy Subsidies in Cutting Greenhouse Gases? Brian Murray; John Reilly; Maureen Cropper; Francisco de la Chesnaye
International Aspects of Taxing Carbon Charles McLure
The Costs and Consequences of Clean Air Act Regulation of CO2 from Power Plants Dallas Burtraw; Joshua Linn; Karen Palmer; Anthony Paul
Discussants: Gilbert Metcalf
View Webcast

One observation: On a discounting panel full of star-power, Christian Gollier's presentation really stood out. He is perhaps the most insightful scholar working today on the problem of social discounting.

A second observation: I agree with Kenneth Arrow and Maureen Cropper's comments implying that Cass Sunstein overstated the inertia in the Executive Branch's ability to take action based on new data and analyses. As he himself noted, the federal government was able to update its own estimate of the social cost of carbon (SCC) between 2010 to 2013. There's no reason to believe that we're stuck with OMB's current 7% discount rate. No doubt inertia is a problem, but it is far from disabling.

A third and final observation: In question time on the discounting panel, when the camera pulled back to show the audience, attendance appeared surprisingly sparse for such a star-studded panel on such an important topic.

I learned about these webcasts from the Environmental Economics Blog.

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