Over-exploitation of natural resources is followed by inevitable declines in economic growth and discount rate

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Abstract

A major challenge in environmental policymaking is determining whether and how fast our society should adopt sustainable management methods. These decisions may have long-lasting effects on the environment, and therefore, they depend critically on the discount factor, which determines the relative values given to future environmental goods compared to present ones. The discount factor has been a major focus of debate in recent decades, and nevertheless, the potential effect of the environment and its management on the discount factor has been largely ignored. Here we show that to maximize social welfare, policymakers need to consider discount factors that depend on changes in natural resource harvest at the global scale. Particularly, the more our society over-harvests today, the more policymakers should discount the near future, but the less they should discount the far future. This results in a novel discount formula that implies significantly higher values for future environmental goods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1419
JournalNature communications
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

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Economic Development
Natural resources
exploitation
economics
resources
Economics
Social Welfare
environment management
management methods
Natural Resources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

Cite this

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abstract = "A major challenge in environmental policymaking is determining whether and how fast our society should adopt sustainable management methods. These decisions may have long-lasting effects on the environment, and therefore, they depend critically on the discount factor, which determines the relative values given to future environmental goods compared to present ones. The discount factor has been a major focus of debate in recent decades, and nevertheless, the potential effect of the environment and its management on the discount factor has been largely ignored. Here we show that to maximize social welfare, policymakers need to consider discount factors that depend on changes in natural resource harvest at the global scale. Particularly, the more our society over-harvests today, the more policymakers should discount the near future, but the less they should discount the far future. This results in a novel discount formula that implies significantly higher values for future environmental goods.",
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