Optimal Learning on Climate Change: Why Climate Skeptics Should Reduce Emissions

Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 12-085/2

35 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2012

See all articles by Sweder van Wijnbergen

Sweder van Wijnbergen

Universiteit van Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Tim Willems

University of Oxford - Nuffield College of Medicine

Date Written: August 16, 2012

Abstract

Climate skeptics argue that the possibility that global warming is exogenous implies that we should not take additional action towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions until we know more. However this paper shows that even climate skeptics have an incentive to reduce emissions: such a change of direction facilitates their learning process on the causes of global warming. Since the optimal policy action depends on these causes, they are valuable to know. Although an increase in emissions would also ease learning, that option is shown to be inferior because emitting greenhouse gases is irreversible. Consequently the policy implications of the different positions in the global warming debate turn out to coincide - thereby diminishing the relevance of this debate from a policy perspective. Uncertainty is no reason for inaction.

Keywords: climate policy, global warming, climate skepticism, active learning, irreversibilities

JEL Classification: D83, Q54, Q58

Suggested Citation

van Wijnbergen, Sweder and Willems, Tim, Optimal Learning on Climate Change: Why Climate Skeptics Should Reduce Emissions (August 16, 2012). Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 12-085/2. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2132529 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2132529

Sweder Van Wijnbergen (Contact Author)

Universiteit van Amsterdam ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands
+31 20 525 4011 / 4203 (Phone)
+31-35-624 91 82 (Fax)

Tinbergen Institute

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Tim Willems

University of Oxford - Nuffield College of Medicine ( email )

New Road
Oxford, OX1 1NF
United Kingdom

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