Discounting and Sustainability in Integrated Assessment Models

37 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2000

See all articles by Reyer Gerlagh

Reyer Gerlagh

Tilburg University - Tilburg University School of Economics and Management

Bob van der Zwaan

Columbia University - Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy, Earth Institute

Date Written: September 1999

Abstract

Most currently employed Integrated Assessment Models are of a dynastic nature, commonly assuming a fixed relation between pure time preference, economic growth and interest rate. This rigid relation has led to much debate on which level of discounting to adopt. Especially the quantitative results of Integrated Assessment Models have been subject to controversy because of their strong sensitivity on future discounting. Many economic analysts advocate employing a descriptive time preference, based on historic data, which usually represents an approximate efficient use of environmental resources. Others encourage assuming a prescriptive time discounting, allowing them - by taking low discount values - to model a sustainable use of environmental services. This paper argues that, although a fixed time preference relation might be convenient for economic analysis, such a supposition can be misleading. By avoiding a rigid discounting relation, the descriptive-prescriptive controversy can be avoided. It is concluded that dynastic Integrated Assessment Models are in many respects inappropriate for providing policy makers with quantitative figures about the costs of carbon dioxide emissions, and their desirable reduction levels. In contrast, Overlapping Generations models, allowing the use of a flexible discounting relation, are suitable for designing a broad class of policy instruments. With the Integrated Assessment Model ALICE 2.0, it is shown how various assumptions on demographic change and public institutions can affect the interest rate, thereby influencing the desired optimal greenhouse gas emission reductions. It is recommended that economic modelling intensify attempting to establish both efficient and sustainable resource use. The discount rate should be treated as an endogenous variable, rather than an exogenous parameter characterising a central planner.

JEL Classification: Q20, Q28, Q40, Q48, H40, C61, J18

Suggested Citation

Gerlagh, Reyer and van der Zwaan, Bob, Discounting and Sustainability in Integrated Assessment Models (September 1999). FEEM Working Paper No. 63-99. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=200631 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.200631

Reyer Gerlagh (Contact Author)

Tilburg University - Tilburg University School of Economics and Management ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Bob Van der Zwaan

Columbia University - Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy, Earth Institute ( email )

314 Low Library
535 West 116th Street, MC 4327
New York, NY 10027
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
113
Abstract Views
1,388
rank
253,036
PlumX Metrics