EPRG 1023

David M Newbery

Oil Shortages, Climate Change and Collective Action

EPRG 1023 | Non-Technical Summary | PDF | Appendix

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Abstract: Concerns over future oil scarcity might not be so worrying but for the high carbon content of substitutes, and the limited capacity of the atmosphere to absorb additional CO2 from burning fuel. The paper argues that the tools of economics are helpful in understanding some of the key issues in pricing fossil fuels, the extent to which pricing can be left to markets, the need for, and design of, international agreements on corrective carbon pricing, and the potential prisoners’ dilemma in reaching such agreements, partly mitigated in the case of oil by current taxes and the likely incidence of carbon taxes on the oil price. The ‘Green Paradox’ in which carbon pricing exacerbates climate change is theoretically possible, but empirically unlikely.

Keywords:  exhaustible resources, climate change, carbon prices, prisoners’ dilemma, international agreement, Green Paradox

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