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Bjarne Asheim Geir

University of Oslo, Norway
Extending Analysis of Intergenerational Equity to Variable Population and Uncertainty
16 January 2012 -
15 June 2012

After studying mathematics and economics at the University of Bergen, Norway, Geir Asheim received his PhD in economics from the University of California – Santa Barbara. Since 1994, he has been Professor of Economics at the University of Oslo. He has had longer visits to several US universities, including Cornell, Harvard, Northwestern and Stanford. His main research fields are: (1) Game theory, in which he published the book The Consistent Preferences Approach to Deductive Reasoning in Games (2006), in addition to a number of journal articles (one of which was awarded the Royal Economic Society Prize). (2) Intergenerational equity, in which he has published numerous articles during the past 25 years. Geir Asheim is currently working on axiomatic analysis of intergenerational equity, motivated by the need to resolve the intergenerational conflict resulting from climate change.

My research on intergenerational equity has mainly focused on evaluating infinite well-being streams in a setting where an infinite number of non-overlapping generations follow each other in sequence. It considers ethically attractive properties (called axioms) that may be imposed on the ranking of different distributions of well-being for these generations and investigates what kinds of criteria satisfy all the axioms. A recent example – the concept of extended rank-discounted utilitarianism (ERDU), as proposed by Stéphane Zuber and analyzed in a joint paper (Zuber and Asheim, Justifying social discounting: the rank-discounted utilitarian approach, 2010) – is a numerically representable criterion which satisfies Strong Anonymity as an axiom of equal treatment of generations. Axiomatic analyses of intergenerational equity are relevant for resolving distributional conflicts between generations, with the evaluation of current policies for abating greenhouse gas emissions as a particularly pertinent example. Applying criteria for intergenerational equity to a distributional problem like climate change requires that the criteria explicitly take into account that population size changes over time and that the effects of present policy have uncertain future consequences. The main research question that will be posed in this project is to consider how to extend analyses of intergenerational equity, in particular the concept of ERDU, to variable population and uncertainty.

Contemporary period (1789-…)