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Reason in a Dark TimeWhy the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed -- and What It Means for Our Future$
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Dale Jamieson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199337668

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199337668.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 05 December 2021

The Limits of Economics

The Limits of Economics

(p.105) 4 The Limits of Economics
Reason in a Dark Time

Dale Jamieson

Oxford University Press

There is a way of looking at climate change that suggests that it should yield to an economic solution despite its scale and complexity, yet it does not. Part of the explanation mirrors the reasons that scientific consensus does not produce action. Economists have also done a lot to obscure the basic message that we should act. The 2005 Stern Review advocates a carbon tax an order of magnitude greater than that recommended by American economists such as Nordhaus. This turns almost entirely on the choice of a discount rate. If future costs are heavily discounted, then only modest investments in climate protection are warranted at present; if the discount rate is low, then aggressive policies are justified. This dispute cannot be resolved by economics. Other features of standard economic analysis also presuppose normative stances. Economics alone cannot tell us how to respond to climate change.

Keywords:   Economics, ethics, Stern, Nordhaus, discounting

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