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.

Conference at UT-Austin. A conference will be held at the University of Texas at Austin on the afternoon of February 6th and all day February 7th, 2020. Authors who submit an abstract, proposal, or paper by the Early Interest Deadline may be invited (with travel funded by UT-Austin) to present at the conference. Participation at the conference is not required for publication in the special issue. 


Early Interest Deadline: November 15th, 2019.
Submit a paper, abstract, or multi-page proposal by email to the two editors for consideration for inclusion at the conference at UT-Austin. 

Paper Submission Deadline: March 13th, 2020
Submit complete papers for peer review through the Social Choice and Welfare online submission system. Submissions may be revised papers presented at the UT-Austin conference, or may be new submissions. 

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.