Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Time Value of Carbon and Carbon Storage: Clarifying the terms and the policy implications of the debate


Author Info

  • Marshall, Liz
  • Kelly, Alexia


The question of whether there is any value to the temporary storage of carbon is fundamental to climate policy design across a number of arenas, including physical carbon discounting in greenhouse gas accounting, the relative value of temporary carbon offsets, and the value of other carbon mitigation efforts that are known to be impermanent, including deferred deforestation. Quantifying the value of temporary carbon storage depends on a number of assumptions about how the incremental impact (or social cost) of a given ton of carbon emissions is expected to change over time. In 2009, a U.S. government interagency working group was established and assigned the responsibility of calculating social cost of carbon estimates to be used in benefit/cost analysis of regulations impacting carbon dioxide emissions. Those estimates were released in March 2010. This working paper explores what those estimates imply about the value of temporary carbon storage, as well as the implications of those temporary storage values for several critical policy design questions relating to greenhouse gas accounting and biological offsets. This analysis suggests, for instance, that appropriate physical carbon discount rates for carbon accounting may be even lower than the social discount rates often used in intergenerational analyses. In the context of agricultural offsets, the social cost of carbon estimates are used to establish a definition of equivalence between permanent and temporary offsets; equivalence ratios are derived that vary between ~2 and 30, depending on the discount rate used and the length of the temporary offset contract period.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL:
File Function: original version
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 27326.

as in new window
Date of creation: Nov 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:27326

Contact details of provider:
Postal: Schackstr. 4, D-80539 Munich, Germany
Phone: +49-(0)89-2180-2219
Fax: +49-(0)89-2180-3900
Web page:
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords: temporary carbon storage; time value of carbon; temporary offsets; physical carbon discount rate;

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Philip Fearnside & Daniel Lashof & Pedro Moura-Costa, 2000. "Accounting for time in Mitigating Global Warming through land-use change and forestry," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 239-270, September.
  2. Searchinger, Timothy & Heimlich, Ralph & Houghton, R. A. & Dong, Fengxia & Elobeid, Amani & Fabiosa, Jacinto F. & Tokgoz, Simla & Hayes, Dermot J. & Yu, Hun-Hsiang, 2008. "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change," Staff General Research Papers, Iowa State University, Department of Economics 12881, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  3. G. Cornelis van Kooten & Alison Eagle & James Manley & Tara Smolak, 2004. "How Costly are Carbon Offsets? A Meta-Analysis of Forest Carbon Sinks," Working Papers, University of Victoria, Department of Economics, Resource Economics and Policy Analysis Research Group 2004-01, University of Victoria, Department of Economics, Resource Economics and Policy Analysis Research Group.
  4. Eric Marland & Kirk Stellar & Gregg Marland, 2010. "A distributed approach to accounting for carbon in wood products," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 71-91, January.
  5. van Kooten, G. Cornelis, 2008. "Biological Carbon Sequestration and Carbon Trading Re-Visited," 2008 International Congress, August 26-29, 2008, Ghent, Belgium, European Association of Agricultural Economists 44262, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
  6. Marechal, Kevin & Hecq, Walter, 2006. "Temporary credits: A solution to the potential non-permanence of carbon sequestration in forests?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 58(4), pages 699-716, July.
  7. Fearnside, Philip M., 2002. "Time preference in global warming calculations: a proposal for a unified index," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 21-31, April.
  8. Veronika Dornburg & Gregg Marland, 2008. "Temporary storage of carbon in the biosphere does have value for climate change mitigation: a response to the paper by Miko Kirschbaum," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 211-217, March.
  9. Anda, Jon & Golub, Alexander & Strukova, Elena, 2009. "Economics of climate change under uncertainty: Benefits of flexibility," Energy Policy, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 1345-1355, April.
  10. Miko Kirschbaum, 2006. "Temporary Carbon Sequestration Cannot Prevent Climate Change," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, Springer, vol. 11(5), pages 1151-1164, September.
  11. Dutschke, Michael, 2001. "Permanence of CDM forests or non-permanence of land use related carbon credits?," HWWA Discussion Papers, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWA) 134, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWA).
  12. Hepburn, Cameron J. & Koundouri, Phoebe, 2007. "Recent advances in discounting: Implications for forest economics," Journal of Forest Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 13(2-3), pages 169-189, August.
  13. Philip Fearnside, 2008. "On the value of temporary carbon: a comment on Kirschbaum," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 207-210, March.
  14. Hope, Chris, 2008. "Discount rates, equity weights and the social cost of carbon," Energy Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 1011-1019, May.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Heather Klemick, 2012. "What is the Optimal Offsets Discount under a Second-Best Cap & Trade Policy?," NCEE Working Paper Series, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 201204, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Jul 2012.


This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


Access and download statistics


When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:27326. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ekkehart Schlicht).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.