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Watch Your Step: Optimal Policy in a Tipping Climate

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  • Derek Lemoine
  • Christian Traeger

Abstract

We investigate the optimal policy response to the possibility of abrupt, irreversible shifts in system dynamics. The welfare cost of a tipping point emerges from the policymaker's response to altered system dynamics. Our policymaker also learns about a threshold's location by observing the system's response in each period. Simulations with a recursive, numerical climate-economy model show that tipping possibilities raise the optimal carbon tax more strongly over time. The resulting policy paths ultimately lower optimal peak warming by up to 0.5°C. Different types of posttipping shifts in dynamics generate qualitatively different optimal pretipping policy paths.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.

Volume (Year): 6 (2014)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 137-66

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:6:y:2014:i:1:p:137-66

Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.6.1.137
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References

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  1. Weitzman, Martin L., 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," Scholarly Articles 3693423, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Stephen Polasky & Aart de Zeeuw & Florian Wagener, 2010. "Optimal Management with Potential Regime Shifts," CESifo Working Paper Series 3237, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Keller, Klaus & Bolker, Benjamin M. & Bradford, D.F.David F., 2004. "Uncertain climate thresholds and optimal economic growth," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 723-741, July.
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  5. Brozovic, Nicholas & Schlenker, Wolfram, 2011. "Optimal management of an ecosystem with an unknown threshold," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(4), pages 627-640, February.
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  7. Fudenberg, Drew & Ellison, Glenn, 2003. "Knife-Edge or Plateau: When Do Market Models Tip?," Scholarly Articles 3160493, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. de Zeeuw, Aart & Zemel, Amos, 2012. "Regime shifts and uncertainty in pollution control," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 939-950.
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  12. Skiba, A K, 1978. "Optimal Growth with a Convex-Concave Production Function," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(3), pages 527-39, May.
  13. Wagener, F. O. O., 2003. "Skiba points and heteroclinic bifurcations, with applications to the shallow lake system," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 27(9), pages 1533-1561, July.
  14. Naevdal, Eric & Oppenheimer, Michael, 2007. "The economics of the thermohaline circulation--A problem with multiple thresholds of unknown locations," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 262-283, November.
  15. Jon Gjerde & Sverre Grepperud & Snorre Kverndokk, 1998. "Optimal Climate Policy under the Possibility of a Catastrophe," Discussion Papers 209, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
  16. Naevdal, Eric, 2006. "Dynamic optimisation in the presence of threshold effects when the location of the threshold is uncertain - with an application to a possible disintegration of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 30(7), pages 1131-1158, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Frederick van der Ploeg, 2014. "Abrupt Positive Feedback and the Social Cost of Carbon," OxCarre Working Papers 122, Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, University of Oxford.
  2. Hwang, In Chang & Reynes, Frederic & Tol, Richard, 2014. "The effect of learning on climate policy under fat-tailed uncertainty," MPRA Paper 53681, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Traeger, Christian, 2013. "A 4-stated DICE: quantitatively addressing uncertainty effects in climate change," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt9034k05t, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
  4. Hwang, In Chang, 2014. "A recursive method for solving a climate-economy model: value function iterations with logarithmic approximations," MPRA Paper 54782, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Edilio Valentini & Paolo Vitale, 2014. "Optimal Climate Policy for a Pessimistic Social Planner," Working Papers 2014.33, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.

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