Fabien Medvecky
University of Sydney
A central point of debate over environmental policies concerns how future costs and benefits should be assessed. The most commonly used method for assessing the value of future costs and benefits is economic discounting. One often-cited justification for discounting is uncertainty. More specifically, it is risk aversion coupled with the expectation that future prospects are more risky. In this paper I argue that there are at least two reasons for disputing the use of risk aversion as a justification for discounting when dealing with longterm decisions, one technical and one ethical. Firstly, I argue that technically, it implies an inconsistency between theory and practice. And secondly, I argue that discounting for uncertainty relies on a form of individualism which, while reasonable in standard microeconomic theory where an agent chooses how to spread her own consumption over her own lifetime, is inappropriate in the context of intergenerational social decisions
Keywords Discount rate   Risk aversion   Uncertainty   Inter-generational justice   Economics   Environmental decisions
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.23941/ejpe.v5i1.91
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,636
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
Just Health: Meeting Health Needs Fairly.Norman Daniels - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.

View all 70 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Values in Time Discounting.Conrad Heilmann - 2017 - Science and Engineering Ethics 23 (5):1333-1349.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Ecoethics: Now Central to All Ethics. [REVIEW]Paul R. Ehrlich - 2009 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 6 (4):417-436.
Time Preference, the Environment and the Interests of Future Generations.E. Wesley & F. Peterson - 1993 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 6 (2):107-126.
Intergenerational Impartiality: Replacing Discounting by Probability Weighting. [REVIEW]Yew-Kwang Ng - 2005 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 18 (3):237-257.
Environmental Ethics and Intergenerational Equity.Robin Attfield - 1998 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 41 (2):207 – 222.
Proportionality, Just War Theory and Weapons Innovation.John Forge - 2009 - Science and Engineering Ethics 15 (1):25-38.
The Ethics of Morphing.Caspar Hare - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 145 (1):111 - 130.


Added to PP index

Total views
67 ( #163,791 of 2,462,263 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #223,271 of 2,462,263 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes