The Social Cost of Carbon: Ethics and the Limits of Climate Change Economics. Oxford University Press, PPE Book Series, forthcoming.

Climate change economists have called it “the most important number you’ve never heard of” and the “holy grail of climate economic analysis.” It is the social cost of carbon (SCC), and its purpose is to reflect—in one dollar figure—the harm caused by emitting a single ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The SCC is an essential concept for environmental cost-benefit analysis, and for the idea of an “optimal tax” on carbon emissions. It is also the subject of fierce debate in the academic literature and in American politics. This book offers the most systematic analysis yet of the social cost of carbon, its theoretical basis, and its proper role in climate economics and climate policy design. It explains that the SCC is not one concept but four, each of which is addressed to a distinct task in climate economics. Moreover, these four concepts can be sorted into two families that correspond to the two main branches of welfare economics, social choice theory and general equilibrium theory. The book explains these radically different theoretical frameworks and how a mathematically identical pair of SCC concepts can emerge from each. It then argues that the analytical power of each SCC concept is limited by its inability to capture the full array of ethical considerations that bear on responsible climate policy. Despite these limitations, the book explains how at least some SCC concepts can and should be put to work in real-world climate change policy analysis.

Edited volume

Editor. Richard W. Miller, The Ethics of Social Democracy: Justice Meets Capitalism. Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

Richard W. Miller (Cornell University) died as he was completing his final book. Dick was my dissertation supervisor, and I am working with OUP to prepare his manuscript for publication. I will also contribute an editor’s introduction.

Articles, Chapters, and Entries

(All solo-authored, except for items with bolded name)

  • “Temporal Discounting and Climate Change,” in Nina Emery (ed.), Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Time (Routledge, forthcoming). Link to preprint.

  • Gernot Wagner, David Anthoff, Maureen Cropper, Simon Dietz, Kenneth T. Gillingham, Ben Groom, J. Paul Kelleher, Frances C. Moore, and James H. Stock, “Eight priorities for calculating the social cost of carbon”. Nature 590 (Feb. 25, 2021): 548-550. Link to published pdf.

  • “Reflections on the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize Awarded to William Nordhaus,” Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 12(1) (2019): 93-107. Link to open access version.

  • “The Social Cost of Carbon from Theory to Trump,” in Ravi Kanbur and Henry Shue (eds.) Climate Justice: Integrating Economics and Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2019). Link to preprint.

  • J. Paul Kelleher and Gernot Wagner, “Ramsey Discounting Calls for Subtracting Climate Damages from Economic Growth Rates”. Applied Economics Letters 26(1) (2019). Link to preprint.

  • J. Paul Kelleher and Gernot Wagner, “Prescriptivism, Risk Aversion, And Intertemporal Substitution In Climate Economics”. Annals of Economics and Statistics 132 (December 2018). Link to published pdf.

  • “Descriptive versus Prescriptive Discounting in Climate Change Policy Analysis.” Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy 15(2017): 957-977. Link to published pdf.

  • “Pure Time Preference in Intertemporal Welfare Economics,” Economics & Philosophy 33 (2017): 441–473. Link to preprint. Link to published pdf.

  • “Climate Change Ethics,” in Jonathan A. Patz and Barry S. Levy(eds.) Climate Change and Public Health (Oxford University Press, 2016). Link to published pdf.

  • “Is There A Sacrifice-Free Solution to Climate Change?” Ethics, Policy & Environment 18(1) (2015): 68-78. Link to preprint.

  • “Health Inequalities and Relational Egalitarianism,” in Rebecca Walker, Mara Buchbinder, and Michele Rivkin-Fish (eds.) Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice: Bridging Perspectives for New Conversations (University of North Carolina Press, 2015). Link to preprint.

  • “Evaluating Health Inequalities: Residual Worries,” American Journal of Bioethics 15(3) (2015): 50-51. Link to preprint.

  • “Capabilities versus Resources” Journal of Moral Philosophy 12 (2015): 151-171. Link to published pdf.

  • “Efficiency and Equity in Health: Philosophical Considerations,” entry for Anthony Culyer, ed., Encyclopedia of Health Economics Vol. 1 (San Diego: Elsevier, 2014): 259-266. Link to preprint.

  • “Relevance and Non-Consequentialist Aggregation,” Utilitas 26(4) (2014): 385-408. Link to preprint. Link to published pdf.

  • “Beneficence, Justice, and Health Care,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 24(1) (2014): 27-49. Link to preprint. Link to published version.

  • “Public Health Paternalism and ‘Expenditure Harm’,” Hastings Center Report 44(4) (July – August 2014): 4. Link to published pdf.

  • Pilar N. Ossorio and J. Paul Kelleher, “Why We Should Not Use the Affordable Care Act to Encourage Widespread Whole Genome Sequencing,” Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law 39(1) (2014): 247-258. Link to published pdf.

  • “Prevention, Rescue, and Tiny Risks,” Public Health Ethics 6(3) (2013): 252-261. Link to preprint.

  • “Real and Alleged Problems for Daniels’s Account of Health Justice” Journal of Medicine & Philosophy 38(4)(2013): 388-399. Link to preprint.

  • “Energy Policy and the Social Discount Rate,” Ethics, Policy & Environment 15(1) (2012): 45-50.


    The analysis in this piece is superseded by that given in “Temporal Discounting and Climate Change” (listed above) and, most fully, in my book The Social Cost of Carbon.

  • “Emergency Contraception and Conscientious Objection” Journal of Applied Philosophy 27(3) (2010): 290-304. Link to preprint. Link to published pdf.

Scholarly Book Reviews

  • [Review of:] Eric A. Posner & David Weisbach, Climate Change Justice (Princeton University Press, 2015, paperback edition), Œconomia 6(2) (2016). Link to open access review.

  • [Review of:] Henry Shue, Climate Justice (Oxford University Press, 2014), Ethics, Policy & Environment 19(1) (2016): 111-114. Link to preprint.

  • [Review of:] Dominic Wilkinson, Death or Disability?: The ‘Carmentis Machine’ and Decision-Making for Critically Ill Children (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), Mind 123 (2014): 974-980. Link to preprint.

  • [Review of:] Halley S. Faust and Paul T. Menzel (eds.), Prevention vs. Treatment: What’s the Right Balance? (Oxford University Press, 2012), Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (March 2012). Link to preprint. Link to published version.