How Should the Distant Future Be Discounted When Discount Rates are Uncertain?
16 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2009
Date Written: December 2009
It is not immediately clear how to discount distant-future events, like climate change, when the distant-future discount rate itself is uncertain. The so-called “Weitzman-Gollier puzzle” is the fact that two seemingly symmetric and equally plausible ways of dealing with uncertain future discount rates appear to give diametrically opposed results with the opposite policy implications. We explain how the “Weitzman-Gollier puzzle” is resolved. When agents optimize their consumption plans and probabilities are adjusted for risk, the two approaches are identical. What we would wish a reader to take away from this paper is the bottom-line message that the appropriate long run discount rate declines over time toward its lowest possible value.
Keywords: discount rate, term structure, climate change, cost-benefit analysis
JEL Classification: G12, E43, Q51
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation