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Preserving the Ocean Circulation: Implications for Climate Policy

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  • Klaus Keller
  • Kelvin Tan
  • Francois M.M. Morel
  • David F. Bradford

Abstract

Climate modelers have recognized the possibility of abrupt climate changes caused by a reorganization of the North Atlantic's current pattern (technically known as a thermohaline circulation collapse). This circulation system now warms north-western Europe and transports carbon dioxide to the deep oceans. The posited collapse of this system could produce severe cooling in north-western Europe, even when general global warming is in progress. In this paper we use a simple integrated assessment model to investigate the optimal policy response to this risk. Adding the constraint of avoiding a thermohaline circulation collapse would significantly reduce the allowable greenhouse gas emissions in the long run along an optimal path. Our analysis implies that relatively small damages associated with a collapse (less than 1 % of gross world product) would justify a considerable reduction of future carbon dioxide emissions.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7476.

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Date of creation: Jan 2000
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Publication status: published as Keller, Klaus, Kelvin Tan, François M. M. Morel, and David F. Bradford. "Preserving the Ocean Circulation: Implications for Climate Policy." Climatic Change 47, 1-2 (October 2000): 17-43.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7476

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  1. Manne, Alan S, 1995. "The rate of time preference : Implications for the greenhouse debate," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 391-394.
  2. Richels, Richard & Edmonds, Jae, 1995. "The economics of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 373-378.
  3. Dowlatabadi, Hadi, 1995. "Integrated assessment models of climate change : An incomplete overview," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 289-296.
  4. Costanza, Robert & d'Arge, Ralph & de Groot, Rudolf & Farber, Stephen & Grasso, Monica & Hannon, Bruce & Limburg, Karin & Naeem, Shahid & O'Neill, Robert V. & Paruelo, Jose, 1998. "The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 3-15, April.
  5. Roughgarden, Tim & Schneider, Stephen H., 1999. "Climate change policy: quantifying uncertainties for damages and optimal carbon taxes," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(7), pages 415-429, July.
  6. David F. Bradford, 1997. "On the Uses of Benefit-Cost Reasoning in Choosing Policy Toward Global Climate Change," NBER Working Papers 5920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Minh Ha-Duong & Michael Grubb & Jean-Charles Hourcade, 1997. "Influence of socioeconomic inertia and uncertainty on optimal CO2-emission abatement," Post-Print halshs-00002452, HAL.
  8. William D. Nordhaus & David Popp, 1996. "What is the Value of Scientific Knowledge? An Application to Global Warming Using the PRICE Model," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1117, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  9. Maddison, David, 1995. "A cost-benefit analysis of slowing climate change," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 337-346.
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Cited by:
  1. Geoffrey Heal & Bengt Kriström, 2002. "Uncertainty and Climate Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 22(1), pages 3-39, June.
  2. Kousky, Carolyn & Rostapshova, Olga & Toman, Michael & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2009. "Responding to Threats of Climate Change Mega-Catastrophes," Discussion Papers dp-09-45, Resources For the Future.
  3. Ranjan, Ram & Shortle, James S. & Marshall, Elizabeth P., 2003. "The Relevance and Implications of the Environmental Kuznets Curve Under Stock Effects and Non-Linearities: A Hysteresis Based Approach," 2003 Annual meeting, July 27-30, Montreal, Canada 22147, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  4. Greiner, Alfred & Semmler, Willi, 2005. "Economic growth and global warming: A model of multiple equilibria and thresholds," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 57(4), pages 430-447, August.
  5. Tol, Richard S.J., 2013. "Targets for global climate policy: An overview," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 911-928.
  6. Hall, Darwin C. & Behl, Richard J., 2006. "Integrating economic analysis and the science of climate instability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(3), pages 442-465, May.
  7. T. Bruckner & K. Zickfeld, 2009. "Emissions corridors for reducing the risk of a collapse of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 61-83, January.
  8. Bahn, Olivier & Edwards, Neil R. & Knutti, Reto & Stocker, Thomas F., 2011. "Energy policies avoiding a tipping point in the climate system," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 334-348, January.
  9. Lempert, Robert J. & Sanstad, Alan H. & Schlesinger, Michael E., 2006. "Multiple equilibria in a stochastic implementation of DICE with abrupt climate change," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(5-6), pages 677-689, November.
  10. Ranjan, Ram & Shortle, James, 2007. "The environmental Kuznets curve when the environment exhibits hysteresis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 204-215, October.
  11. Kingwell, Ross S., 2006. "Climate change in Australia: agricultural impacts and adaptation," Australasian Agribusiness Review, University of Melbourne, Melbourne School of Land and Environment, vol. 14.
  12. P. Michael Link & Richard S.J. Tol, 2004. "Possible Economic Impacts of a Shutdown of the Thermohaline Circulation: an Application of FUND," Working Papers FNU-42, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Apr 2004.
  13. Kingwell, Ross S., 2006. "Is Hanrahan sort of right? Will climate change ruin us all?," 2006 Conference (50th), February 8-10, 2006, Sydney, Australia 137961, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.

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