EconPapers    
Economics at your fingertips  
 

A Thought Experiment on Sustainable Management of the Earth System

Jobst Heitzig (), Wolfram Barfuss () and Jonathan F. Donges ()
Additional contact information
Jobst Heitzig: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, P.O. Box 60 12 03, 14412 Potsdam, Germany
Wolfram Barfuss: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, P.O. Box 60 12 03, 14412 Potsdam, Germany
Jonathan F. Donges: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, P.O. Box 60 12 03, 14412 Potsdam, Germany

Sustainability, 2018, vol. 10, issue 6, 1-25

Abstract: We introduce and analyze a simple formal thought experiment designed to reflect a qualitative decision dilemma humanity might currently face in view of anthropogenic climate change. In this exercise, each generation can choose between two options, either setting humanity on a pathway to certain high wellbeing after one generation of suffering, or leaving the next generation in the same state as the current one with the same options, but facing a continuous risk of permanent collapse. We analyze this abstract setup regarding the question of what the right choice would be both in a rationality-based framework including optimal control, welfare economics, and game theory, and by means of other approaches based on the notions of responsibility, safe operating spaces, and sustainability paradigms. Across these different approaches, we confirm the intuition that a focus on the long-term future makes the first option more attractive while a focus on equality across generations favors the second. Despite this, we generally find a large diversity and disagreement of assessments both between and within these different approaches, suggesting a strong dependence on the choice of the normative framework used. This implies that policy measures selected to achieve targets such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can depend strongly on the normative framework applied and specific care needs to be taken with regard to the choice of such frameworks.

Keywords: decision dilemma; intergenerational welfare; time horizon; risk attitude; inequality aversion; fairness; responsibility; sustainability paradigms (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations Track citations by RSS feed

Downloads: (external link)
https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/10/6/1947/pdf (application/pdf)
https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/10/6/1947/ (text/html)

Related works:
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.

Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text

Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:6:p:1947-:d:151732

Access Statistics for this article

Sustainability is currently edited by Prof. Dr. Marc A. Rosen

More articles in Sustainability from MDPI, Open Access Journal
Bibliographic data for series maintained by XML Conversion Team ().

 
Page updated 2018-10-25
Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:6:p:1947-:d:151732