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Responding to Threats of Climate Change Mega-Catastrophes

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  • Kousky, Carolyn

    (Resources for the Future)

  • Rostapshova, Olga

    (Harvard University)

  • Toman, Michael

    (Resources for the Future)

  • Zeckhauser, Richard

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

There is a low but uncertain probability that climate change could trigger "mega-catastrophes," severe and at least partly irreversible adverse effects across broad regions. This paper first discusses the state of current knowledge and the defining characteristics of potential climate change mega-catastrophes. While some of these characteristics present difficulties for using standard rational choice methods to evaluate response options, there is still a need to balance the benefits and costs of different possible responses with appropriate attention to the uncertainties. To that end, we present a qualitative analysis of three options for mitigating the risk of climate mega-catastrophes--drastic abatement of greenhouse gas emissions, development and implementation of geoengineering, and large-scale ex ante adaptation--against the criteria of efficacy, cost, robustness, and flexibility. We discuss the composition of a sound portfolio of initial investments in reducing the risk of climate change mega-catastrophes.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp10-008.

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Date of creation: Mar 2010
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp10-008

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  1. Richard Zeckhauser (ed.), 1991. "Strategy and Choice," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262240335, December.
  2. Sterner, Thomas & Persson, U. Martin, 2007. "An Even Sterner Review: Introducing Relative Prices into the Discounting Debate," Discussion Papers dp-07-37, Resources For the Future.
  3. Summers, Lawrence & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2008. "Policymaking for Posterity," Working Paper Series rwp08-040, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  4. Samuelson, William & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1988. " Status Quo Bias in Decision Making," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 7-59, March.
  5. Kjell Arne Brekke & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2008. "The behavioural economics of climate change," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(2), pages 280-297, Summer.
  6. Cass Sunstein & Richard Zeckhauser, 2011. "Overreaction to Fearsome Risks," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 48(3), pages 435-449, March.
  7. Dasgupta, Susmita & Laplante, Benoit & Meisner, Craig & Wheeler, David & Jianping Yan, 2007. "The impact of sea level rise on developing countries : a comparative analysis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4136, The World Bank.
  8. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
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  11. Klaus Keller & Kelvin Tan & Francois M.M. Morel & David F. Bradford, 1999. "Preserving the Ocean Circulation: Implications for Climate Policy," CESifo Working Paper Series 199, CESifo Group Munich.
  12. Kousky, Carolyn & Cooke, Roger, 2009. "Climate Change and Risk Management: Challenges for Insurance, Adaptation, and Loss Estimation," Discussion Papers dp-09-03-rev, Resources For the Future.
  13. van den Bergh, Jeroen C. J. M., 2004. "Optimal climate policy is a utopia: from quantitative to qualitative cost-benefit analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 385-393, April.
  14. William D. Nordhaus, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 686-702, September.
  15. Scott Barrett, 2008. "The Incredible Economics of Geoengineering," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 39(1), pages 45-54, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Wilfried Rickels & Katrin Rehdanz & Andreas Oschlies, 2009. "Accounting aspects of ocean iron fertilization," Kiel Working Papers 1572, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  2. Wilfried Rickels & Katrin Rehdanz & Andreas Oschlies, 2009. "Economics prospects of ocean iron fertilization in an international carbon market," Kiel Working Papers 1573, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  3. Kerstin Güssow & Alexander Proelss & Andreas Oschlies & Katrin Rehdanz & Wilfried Rickels, 2009. "Ocean iron fertilization: Why further research is needed," Kiel Working Papers 1574, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  4. Baptiste Perrissin Fabert & Etienne Espagne & Antonin Pottier & Patrice Dumas, 2012. "The “Doomsday” Effect in Climate Policies. Why is the Present Decade so Crucial to Tackling the Climate Challenge?," Working Papers 2012.62, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  5. Olivier STERCK, 2011. "Geoengineering as an alternative to mitigation: specification and dynamic implications," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2011035, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  6. Jones, Benjamin & Keen, Michael & Strand, Jon, 2012. "Fiscal implications of climate change," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5956, The World Bank.
  7. Gary D. Libecap & Richard H. Steckel, 2011. "Climate Change: Adaptations in Historical Perspective," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present, pages 1-22 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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