Prioritarianism and Climate Change

Maddalena Ferranna, Marc Fleurbaey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


This chapter compares utilitarianism and prioritarianism as alternative social welfare frameworks for evaluating climate policies. We review the main debates in the climate policy literature concerning the parameters of the utilitarian social welfare function, and discuss the analytical requirements and climate policy implications of prioritarianism both in deterministic and stochastic settings. We show that, given the specific characteristics of the climate issue and the assumptions routinely made in the climate literature, prioritarianism tends to support more lenient climate policies than undiscounted utilitarianism. This is based on the assumption of economic and social progress that makes the current generation worse-off than future generations. The presence of catastrophic climate outcomes that endanger the living conditions of future generations (or of the poorest individuals living in the future) relaxes this result.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPrioritarianism in Practice
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages48
ISBN (Electronic)9781108691734
ISBN (Print)9781108480932
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance


  • Climate change
  • climate policy
  • Damage risk
  • Inequality
  • Prioritarianism
  • Social Cost of Carbon
  • Utilitarianism


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