“At its core, the climate problem is about protecting the future against intolerable damages, so it’s essential that policymakers think clearly about how much we value our descendants.
Our goal is that our descendants will think back to this generation and be convinced that we carefully considered their interests [when setting climate policy],” said co-author Marc Fleurbaey, the Robert E.
Yet, how much to invest in policies — like setting an appropriate carbon tax — to protect future generations from environmental destruction depends on how society chooses to value human population, according to a new study published Oct.
30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
To determine the ideal mitigation policy, a research team led by Princeton University, the University of Vermont and the University of Texas at Austin employed a climate-economic model to examine two ethical approaches to valuing human population.
Population Growth Research Paper
Under one approach, the researchers assumed that society aims to increase the total number of people who are “happy/well-off.” Under the other approach, the researchers assumed society intends to increase the average level of people’s happiness/well-being.
Under both approaches, as population increases the SCC increases, but optimal peak temperature decreases.
The effect is larger under TU, because it responds to the fact that a larger population means climate change hurts more people: for example, in 2025, assuming the United Nations (UN)-high rather than UN-low population scenario entails an increase in the SCC of 85% under TU vs. The difference in the SCC between the two population scenarios under TU is comparable to commonly debated decisions regarding time discounting.
We also find that at given rates of population growth, income growth is related to the time path of population growth and that population growth due to high birth and death rates is associated with slower income growth than population growth due to relatively low birth and death rates.
Hence, the timing and components of population growth are important elements in the process of economic development.