Descriptive versus Prescriptive Discounting in Climate Change Policy Analysis

Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy 15:957-977 (2017)
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This paper distinguishes between five different approaches to social discount rates in climate change economics, criticizes two of these, and explains how the other three are to some degree mutually compatible. It aims to shed some new light on a longstanding debate in climate change economics between so-called “descriptivists” and “prescriptivists” about social discounting. The ultimate goal is to offer a sketch of the conceptual landscape that makes visible some important facets of the debate that very often go unacknowledged.

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J. Paul Kelleher
University of Wisconsin, Madison


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