Beyond the Ramsey model for climate change assessments

A critique of the Ramsey model used in the "economics" of climate change, and proposals for improved models.

Seth Baum, 2007. Beyond the Ramsey model for climate change assessments. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, vol. 2007, pages 15-21.

Full article: Available free online at Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics (pdf).

* Winner, ESEP Ethics of Climate Change essay contest, Economics/Business section.
* Summarized as "Ethics and Modeling: Putting Ramsey model-based climate change assessments in perspective". Ethical analysis of climate science and policy, December 22, 2007. html
* Summary version also presented by the Rock Ethics Institute at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 13th Conference of Parties, December 2007, Bali, Indonesia.

The Ramsey optimal growth model contains a class of ethical frameworks popular among economists for assessing climate change. This essay critiques the Ramsey model, highlighting shortcomings in it and describing how to go beyond it towards more nuanced assessments through more accurate utility approximation and more diverse climate change mitigation strategies. This essay also critiques the 2 popular approaches for defining the modelís ethics, prescriptivism and descriptivism, both in and beyond the Ramsey model context. The descriptive approach is found to hold serious flaws and should be rejected. Despite the modelís various shortcomings, the climate change assessments using it provide a valuable applied ethics tool and bolster the case for climate change mitigation.

Created 8 Mar 2010 * Updated 29 Jul 2013