climate change, climate economics, cost-benefit analysis, discounting, equality, ethics, moral expertise, Ramsey Rule
This chapter introduces several distinctions relevant to what is called the “discounting problem”, since the issue is how (future) costs and benefits are discounted to make them comparable in present terms. The author defends the claim that there are good reasons to adopt Ramsey-style discounting in the context of climate change: the Ramsey rule is robust, flexible, and well-understood. An important distinction involved in discounting—“descriptivism” and “prescriptivism”—is discussed. It is argued that, even if we adopt prescriptivism, and accept that this means there is need for moral experts in parameter assignments, there is a significant issue. The type of moral expertise required for the discounting problem will not involve knowledge of moral theory—thus making moral philosophy unhelpful in terms of making particular parameter assignments, despite these being substantive moral judgments.