Intertemporal Fairness in Global Climate Cooperation

Which types of intertemporal cost distributions are likely to find majority support in industrialised emitter countries?

Project Summary

Why do countries find it difficult to realise an effective global climate deal? Limiting global warming requires countries to cooperate over many decades and involves making contentious decisions about the intertemporal and intergenerational distribution of climate costs. So far, however, we lack knowledge about which types of intertemporal cost distributions are likely to find majority support in industrialised emitter countries. This research project will explore which temporal distribution of climate costs publics support and which types of temporal distributions they prefer for other countries. To this end, the research team will develop a theory of intertemporal fairness in climate cooperation that focuses on the intergenerational dimension of climate policy cost distributions. The research team will evaluate the theoretical arguments using behavioral measures of fairness norms and time preferences in combination with randomised conjoint experiments embedded in representative surveys in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

These states are major industrialised countries that not only account for a noteworthy share of global emissions but also will have to make significant contributions to tackling climate change that may help realise an effective global climate deal. The insights gained in this project will advance the academic debate about the role of intertemporal fairness in climate cooperation and the sources of variation in dynamic policy preferences. They also promise to generate scientific knowledge that will enable policymakers to design climate policies that are more likely to be politically acceptable in major emitter countries.

Academic Output

Executive Summary

Intertemporal Fairness in Global Climate Cooperation

Why do countries find it difficult to realize an effective global climate deal? Limiting global warming requires countries to cooperate over many decades and involves making contentious decisions about the intertemporal and intergenerational distribution of climate costs. We explore whether inequality aversion and time preferences can explain support for climate cooperation. We demonstrate the feasibility of a theoretically superior approach to measuring time preferences in large surveys and develop a novel measure of individual-level inequality aversion. We find that inequality aversion predicts support for climate cooperation. These results advance the academic debate about the role of fairness and time preferences in dynamic climate cooperation and promise to generate scientific knowledge that will enable policymakers to design climate policies that are more likely to be politically feasible in major emitter countries.

Article

Inequality and redistribution behaviour in a give-or-take game

Political polarization and extremism are widely thought to be driven by the surge in economic inequality in many countries around the world. Understanding why inequality persists depends on knowing the causal effect of inequality on individual behaviour. We study how inequality affects redistribution behaviour in a randomized “give-or-take” experiment that created equality, advantageous inequality, or disadvantageous inequality between two individuals before offering one of them the opportunity to either take from or give to the other. We estimate the causal effect of inequality in representative samples of German and American citizens (n = 4,966) and establish two main findings. First, individuals imperfectly equalize payoffs: On average, respondents transfer 12% of the available endowments to realize more equal wealth distributions. This means that respondents tolerate a considerable degree of inequality even in a setting in which there are no costs to redistribution. Second, redistribution behaviour in response to disadvantageous and advantageous inequality is largely asymmetric: Individuals who take from those who are richer do not also tend to give to those who are poorer, and individuals who give to those who are poorer do not tend to take from those who are richer.

Article

Constant carbon pricing increases support for climate action compared to ramping up costs over time

The introduction of policies that increase the price of carbon is central to limiting the adverse effects of global warming. Conventional wisdom holds that, of the possible cost paths, gradually raising costs relating to climate action will receive the most public support. Here, we explore mass support for dynamic cost paths in four major economies (France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States). We find that, for a given level of average costs, increasing cost paths receive little sup- port whereas constant cost schedules are backed by majorities in all countries irrespective of whether those average costs are low or high. Experimental evidence indicates that constant cost paths significantly reduce opposition to climate action relative to increasing cost paths. Preferences for climate cost paths are related to the time horizons of individuals and their desire to smooth consumption over time.

Article

What Determines Climate Policy Preferences If Reducing Greenhouse-Gas Emissions Is A Global Public Good?

Many international policy problems, including climate change, have been character- ized as global public goods. We adopt this theoretical framework to identify the base- line determinants of individual opinion about climate policy. The model implies that support for climate action will be increasing in future benefits, their timing, and the probability that a given country’s contribution will make a difference while decreas- ing in expected costs. Utilizing original surveys in France, Germany, the United King- dom, and the United States, we provide evidence that expected benefits, costs, and the probability of successful provision as measured by the contribution of other nations are critical for explaining support for climate action. Notably, we find no evidence that the temporality of benefits shapes support for climate action. These results indi- cate that climate change may be better understood as a static rather than a dynamic public goods problem and suggest strategies for designing policies that facilitate cli- mate cooperation.

Article

Measuring Time Preferences in Large Surveys∗

Time preferences may explain public opinion about a wide range of long-term policy problems whose costs and benefits will be realized in the distant future. However, mass publics may discount these costs and benefits because they are later or because they are more uncertain. Standard methods to elicit individual-level time preferences tend to conflate attitudes toward risk and time and are susceptible to social desirabil- ity bias. A potential solution relies on a costly lab-experimental method, convex time budgets (CTB). We present and experimentally validate an affordable version of this approach for implementation in mass surveys. We find that the theoretically preferred CTB patience measure predicts attitudes toward a local, delayed investment problem but fails to predict support for more complex, future-oriented policies. These results have implications for studying the mass politics of dynamic policy problems.

Research Team

Michael M. Bechtel
Coordinator
University of St. Gallen

Charles Kolstad
Co-Coordinator
Stanford University

Kenneth F. Scheve
Co-Coordinator
Stanford University

Massimo Mannino
Principal Member
University of St. Gallen

Lukas Schmid
Principal Member
University of St. Gallen

Status

completed

Disciplines

Themes

Regions

Countries

France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States of America

Host Institution

Coordinator

Year