Abstract: This paper confronts the theory of discounting with climate change economics. Standard discounting would give long-term damages a very low present value. On the other hand, low discount rates would imply more sacrifices for present generations, although future generations may be richer. And using multiple rates would lead to economic inefficiencies. The paper first shows that arguments favouring a low or zero discount rate in general are weak, even from an ethical point of view. It goes on by considering different arguments in favour of discount rates decreasing over time, and by recalling the argument that non-reproducible environmental assets should be given a value growing over time. Through the example of climate change, it finally shows that the latter argument not only implies that the costs of damages associated to climate change should not be underestimated, but also reinforce the legitimacy of using decreasing discount rates.
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