Special Issue: Population, climate change, and social welfare economics

Authors are invited to submit high-quality papers within the scope of Social Choice and Welfare that focus on population and climate change. We are especially interested in papers that:

  •  Advance formal population ethics, with applications to or illustrations for climate policy; or 
  •  Advance economic modeling of climate policy (such as Integrated Assessment Models) to improve the treatment of population, especially in models’ social objectives.


Paper Submission Deadline: July 5, 2020

Submit complete papers for peer review through Social Choice and Welfare online submission system Editorial Manager. Submissions may be revised papers presented at the UT-Austin conference, or may be new submissions.

Guest Editors
Stéphane Zuber, CNRS 

Dean Spears, UT-Austin

Background. Climate change has renewed interest in assessing the consequences for policy of population size, which in turn raises difficult normative issues. Following the leading contribution by Derek Parfit, a large literature in social welfare theory, economics, and philosophy has explored the question of “population ethics.” Open theoretical puzzles and challenges remain. 

Integrated assessment models (IAMs) of the climate and the economy are widely used in policymaking and are important inputs to inform optimal climate mitigation policy (such as the choice of a carbon tax). Yet, leading climate policy IAMs – such as the DICE model, for which William Nordhaus won the 2018 Economics Nobel Prize – are underdeveloped in their treatment of population. 

The primary focus of the issue will be on the normative aspects of population ethics and their implications for climate change. However, interactions with economy-climate modeling can be fruitful to highlight the relevance of welfare theory for policy. This special issue will aim at fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. It will welcome theoretical papers on social welfare criteria and/or their implications in simplified or computable models, with a focus on population issues. Relevant papers in empirical social choice are also invited. It will also welcome papers using IAMs to discuss the implications of welfare criteria on climate policy in a context where population size can be endogenous.