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Moving Beyond Concentrations: The Challenge of Limiting Temperature Change

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  • Manne, Alan S.
  • Richels, Richard G.
  • Wigley, Tom M. L.

Abstract

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change shifted the attention of the policy community from stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions to stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. While this represents a step forward, it does not go far enough. We find that, given the uncertainty in the climate system, focusing on atmospheric concentrations is likely to convey a false sense of precision. The causal chain between human activity and impacts is laden with uncertainty. From a benefit-cost perspective, it would be desirable to minimize the sum of mitigation costs and damages. Unfortunately, our ability to quantify and value impacts is limited. For the time being, we must rely on a surrogate. Focusing on temperature rather than on concentrations provides much more information on what constitutes an ample margin of safety. Concentrations mask too many uncertainties that are crucial for policy making.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Regulation2point0 in its series Working paper with number 531.

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Date of creation: Apr 2004
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Handle: RePEc:reg:wpaper:531

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Web page: http://regulation2point0.org/

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Cited by:
  1. Stavins, Robert, 2004. "Can an Effective Global Climate Treaty be Based on Sound Science, Rational Economics, and Pragmatic Politics?," Working Paper Series rwp04-020, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  2. Olmstead, Sheila M. & Stavins, Robert N., 2006. "An International Policy Architecture for the Post-Kyoto Era," Working paper 353, Regulation2point0.
  3. Crost, Benjamin & Traeger, Christian P., 2011. "Risk and aversion in the integrated assessment of climate change," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt1562s275, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
  4. Crost, Benjamin & Traeger, Christian P., 2013. "Optimal climate policy: Uncertainty versus Monte Carlo," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 120(3), pages 552-558.
  5. Bosetti, Valentina & Buchner, Barbara, 2009. "Data Envelopment Analysis of different climate policy scenarios," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(5), pages 1340-1354, March.

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