The estimated value to society from climate change mitigation is highly sensitive to the long-term social discount rate. Governmental discounting guidance has almost exclusively been influenced by economists, although it is not clear that they possess any special expertise on intergenerational ethics. Here, by contrast, we report the views of philosophers, who are the most trained in ethical matters. We show that, as a group, these experts offer strong support for a real social discount rate of 2%, a value that is also predominantly backed by economists. We find multidisciplinary support for climate policy paths in line with the United Nations climate targets when views on discounting determinants are applied within a recent update of the DICE integrated assessment model. However, this apparent agreement hides important differences in views on how the ethics of intergenerational welfare can be better incorporated into climate policy evaluation.

Nesje, F., Drupp, M.A., Freeman, M.C. et al. Philosophers and economists agree on climate policy paths but for different reasons. Nat. Clim. Chang. 13, 515–522 (2023).

Keep in touch with the Grantham Research Institute at LSE
Sign up to our newsletters and get the latest analysis, research, commentary and details of upcoming events.