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Climate Regulation and the Limits of Cost-Benefit Analysis


Jonathan S. Masur


University of Chicago - Law School

Eric A. Posner


University of Chicago - Law School

August 19, 2010

California Law Review, Vol. 99, p. 1557, 2011
U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 315
U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 525

Abstract:     
Over the past two years U.S. regulatory agencies have issued fourteen regulations that take into account the effect of industrial activities and products on the global climate. The regulatory activity so far has already set precedents on which future regulation will rest. Yet despite the potentially momentous consequences, it has received no comment in the law review literature. This Article examines the record of these agencies and criticizes the methods they have used to calculate the social cost of carbon emissions. We also develop a larger theme about the relationship between cost-benefit analysis and politics. The best case for cost-benefit analysis is that its recommendations are politically neutral in the sense of drawing on widely shared intuitions about human well-being. But cost-benefit analysis cannot cope with inherently political questions involving contested normative issues. Policymakers will have to find alternative tools when those questions predominate

Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

Keywords: climate change, carbon, regulation, EPA, DOE, DOT, CAFE, cost-benefit, social cost, discount rate, global warming, OMB, political questions

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Date posted: August 22, 2010 ; Last revised: January 22, 2012

Suggested Citation

Masur, Jonathan S. and Posner, Eric A., Climate Regulation and the Limits of Cost-Benefit Analysis (August 19, 2010). California Law Review, Vol. 99, p. 1557, 2011; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 315; U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 525. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1662147

Contact Information

Jonathan S. Masur (Contact Author)
University of Chicago - Law School ( email )
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773.702.5188 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/masur/
Eric A. Posner
University of Chicago - Law School ( email )
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-0425 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/posner-e/
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