Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Presentation bias in my inbox

Posted by Rich Sweeney on September 18, 2008

Climate Change and the Rights of Future Generations

Friday, October 3, 2008, 12:30–2:00 p.m.

Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI

1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036

There are broad disagreements over climate change policies among public officials and academics. One key source of debate hinges on how best to account for the multigenerational distribution of costs and benefits associated with various policies. This is an important consideration because if governments cut emissions immediately, the beneficiaries will be people living decades from now, not people living today. However, the costs of emissions reductions will be paid mostly by current generations. This ethical debate is at the core of the climate change problem.

In their recent Reg-Markets Center working paper, Climate Change and Discounting the Future: A Guide for the Perplexed, Cass R. Sunstein and David A. Weisbach weigh in on this controversy and argue that questions of cost distribution should be separated from the question of ethical duties. In an election year in which both presidential candidates have pledged action on climate change, this event promises to bring greater clarity to the ongoing debate. Following the authors’ presentation of their arguments, Steve Newbold of the Environmental Protection Agency and Duke University’s Richard G. Newell will comment. Robert W. Hahn, executive director of the Reg-Markets Center, will moderate.

It would be just as correct to replace the bold text with the following:

This is an important consideration because if governments fail to cut emissions immediately, people living today will benefit. However, the costs of those emissions will be borne by future generations.

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