Abstract

As a quintessential long-term policy problem, climate change poses two major challenges. The first is to develop, under considerable uncertainty, a plan for allocating resources over time to achieve an effective policy response. The second is to implement this plan, once arrived at, consistently over time. We consider the second of these two challenges, arguing that it consists of three interrelated, commitment problems—the time inconsistency problem, the domestic politics problem, and the anarchy problem. We discuss each of these commitment problems in some detail, explore how they relate to climate policy, and suggest institutional designs that may help limit their adverse impact. While each of these commitment problems is difficult to tackle on its own, climate change requires us to cope with all of them at once. This is likely one major reason why we have so far made only modest headway on this vital issue.

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Author notes

*We appreciate the helpful and encouraging comments from two anonymous reviewers.