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The Social Discount Rate Under Intertemporal Risk Aversion and Ambiguity

Christian P. Traeger

University of California, Berkeley

December 1, 2008

The social discount rate crucially determines optimal mitigation policies. This paper examines two shortcomings of the recent debate and the models on climate change assessment. First, removing an implicit assumption of (intertemporal) risk neutrality reduces the growth effect in social discounting and significantly amplifies the importance of risk and correlation. Second, debate and models largely overlook the difference in attitude with respect to risk and with respect to non-risk uncertainty. The paper derives the resulting changes of the risk-free and the stochastic social discount rate and points out the importance of even thin tailed uncertainty for climate change evaluation. It discusses combinations of uncertainty and correlation that reduce the social discount rate to pure preference.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 40

Keywords: ambiguity, climate change, cost benefit analysis, discounting, intertemporal substitutability, risk aversion, uncertainty

JEL Classification: D61, D81, D90, H43, Q00, Q54

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Date posted: July 28, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Traeger, Christian P., The Social Discount Rate Under Intertemporal Risk Aversion and Ambiguity (December 1, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1898098 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1898098

Contact Information

Christian P. Traeger (Contact Author)
University of California, Berkeley ( email )
310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
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