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date: 26 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The problem of climate change is typically discussed as a problem of intergenerational tradeoffs. Typically, it is supposed that the current generations must make sacrifices today for the improved well-being of future generations. The case for climate change mitigation becomes a question of the balancing of current and future well-being, for example, according to a social discount factor. Though this approach is common, the perspective is too narrow. By using intergenerational fiscal policy, it may be possible to fund climate change mitigation with public debt, so that in effect future generations bear both the costs and the benefits of climate change mitigation. In this way, the social discount rate is not relevant. What is relevant is whether future generations would indeed be willing to pay the price of mitigation in return for reduced climate change. The current generation must act as a steward for future generations, assessing whether future generations would (or should) be willing to bear the costs of mitigation. If so, today’s generation would undertake mitigation actions, while leaving future generations with a higher stock of public debt to service.

Keywords: climate change, intergenerational fiscal transfers, intergenerational well-being, mitigation, overlapping generations model, public finance, social discount rate

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