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Responding to Threats of Climate Change Mega-Catastrophes

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  • Zeckhauser, Richard Jay
  • Kousky, Carolyn
  • Rostapshova, Olga V
  • Toman, Michael

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 Kennedy School of Government in its series Scholarly Articles with number 4454155.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Publication status: Published in HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series
Handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:4454155

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  1. 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.
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  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. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Samuelson, William & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1988. " Status Quo Bias in Decision Making," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 7-59, March.
  11. 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.
  12. Richard S. J. Tol & Maria Bohn & Thomas E. Downing & Marie-Laure Guillerminet & Eva Hizsnyik & Roger Kasperson & Kate Lonsdale & Claire Mays & Robert J. Nicholls & Alexander A. Olsthoorn & Gabriele Pf, 2006. "Adaptation to Five Metres of Sea Level Rise," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(5), pages 467-482, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Rickels, Wilfried & Rehdanz, Katrin & Oschlies, Andreas, 2012. "Economic prospects of ocean iron fertilization in an international carbon market," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 129-150.
  2. Jones, Benjamin & Keen, Michael & Strand, Jon, 2012. "Fiscal implications of climate change," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5956, The World Bank.
  3. Olivier Sterck, 2011. "Geoengineering as an alternative to mitigation: specification and dynamic implications," Working Papers halshs-00635487, HAL.
  4. Güssow, Kerstin & Proelss, Alexander & Oschlies, Andreas & Rehdanz, Katrin & Rickels, Wilfried, 2010. "Ocean iron fertilization: Why further research is needed," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 911-918, September.
  5. 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.
  6. Wilfried Rickels & Katrin Rehdanz & Andreas Oschlies, 2009. "Accounting aspects of ocean iron fertilization," Kiel Working Papers 1572, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  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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