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Climate Change and Common SenseEssays in Honour of Tom Schelling$
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Robert W. Hahn and Alistair Ulph

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199692873

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199692873.001.0001

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Discounting While Treating Generations Equally

Discounting While Treating Generations Equally

(p.131) 8 Discounting While Treating Generations Equally
Climate Change and Common Sense

Geir B. Asheim

Oxford University Press

This chapter asks whether equal treatment of generations is compatible with social discounting. It presents the rank‐discounted utilitarian criterion, proposed by Stéphane Zuber and analysed in Zuber and Asheim (2010), which combines equal treatment with social discounting by giving priority for the worse off not only due to their absolute level of well‐being but also their relative rank in well‐being. If the future is better off than the present, then this criterion is behaviourally indistinguishable from discounted utilitarianism, which is the criterion usually employed by economists. However, if for example climate change breaks the correlation between time and well‐being, then rank‐discounted utilitarianism more than discounted utilitarianism calls for present action to protect the interests of future generations.

Keywords:   equal treatment, social discounting, utilitarianism

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