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Climate Response Uncertainty and the Unexpected Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions

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Author Info

  • Adam Daigneault
  • Steve Newbold

Abstract

Some recent research suggests that uncertainty about the response of the climate system to atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations can have a disproportionately large influence on benefits estimates for climate change policies, potentially even dominating the effect of the discount rate. In this paper we conduct a series of numerical simulation experiments to investigate the quantitative significance of climate response uncertainty for economic assessments of climate change. First we characterize climate uncertainty by constructing two probability density functions—a Bayesian model-averaged and a Bayesian updated version—based on a combination of uncertainty ranges for climate sensitivity reported in the scientific literature. Next we estimate the willingness to pay of a representative agent for a range of emissions reduction policies using two simplified economic models. Our results illustrate the potential for large risk premiums in benefits estimates as suggested by the recent theoretical work on climate response uncertainty, and they show that the size and even the sign of the risk premium may depend crucially on how the posterior distribution describing the overall climate sensitivity uncertainty is constructed and on the specific shape of the damage function.- Submitted July, 2008; Resubmitted March, 2009

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File URL: http://yosemite.epa.gov/ee/epa/eed.nsf/WPNumber/2008-06/$File/2008-06.PDF
File Function: First version, 2009
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its series NCEE Working Paper Series with number 200806.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2009
Date of revision: Mar 2009
Handle: RePEc:nev:wpaper:wp200806

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Related research

Keywords: climate change; climate sensitivity; uncertainty; catastrophe;

References

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  1. Kolstad, Charles D., 1996. "Learning and Stock Effects in Environmental Regulation: The Case of Greenhouse Gas Emissions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 1-18, July.
  2. 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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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Robert S. Pindyck, 2010. "Fat Tails, Thin Tails, and Climate Change Policy," NBER Working Papers 16353, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ackerman, Frank & Stanton, Elizabeth A. & Bueno, Ramón, 2010. "Fat tails, exponents, extreme uncertainty: Simulating catastrophe in DICE," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(8), pages 1657-1665, June.
  3. Gerst, Michael D. & Howarth, Richard B. & Borsuk, Mark E., 2010. "Accounting for the risk of extreme outcomes in an integrated assessment of climate change," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(8), pages 4540-4548, August.
  4. Joseph E. Aldy & Alan J. Krupnick & Richard G. Newell & Ian W.H. Parry & William A. Pizer, 2009. "Designing Climate Mitigation Policy," NBER Working Papers 15022, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Kousky, Carolyn & Kopp, Robert E. & Cooke, Roger, 2011. "Risk premia and the social cost of carbon: A review," Economics Discussion Papers 2011-19, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  6. Pindyck, Robert S., 2012. "Uncertain outcomes and climate change policy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 289-303.

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