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Climate Change Policy: What Do the Models Tell Us?

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  • Robert S. Pindyck

Abstract

Very little. A plethora of integrated assessment models (IAMs) have been constructed and used to estimate the social cost of carbon (SCC) and evaluate alternative abatement policies. These models have crucial flaws that make them close to useless as tools for policy analysis: certain inputs (e.g., the discount rate) are arbitrary, but have huge effects on the SCC estimates the models produce; the models' descriptions of the impact of climate change are completely ad hoc, with no theoretical or empirical foundation; and the models can tell us nothing about the most important driver of the SCC, the possibility of a catastrophic climate outcome. IAM-based analyses of climate policy create a perception of knowledge and precision, but that perception is illusory and misleading.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert S. Pindyck, 2013. "Climate Change Policy: What Do the Models Tell Us?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(3), pages 860-872, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:51:y:2013:i:3:p:860-72
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jel.51.3.860
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C51 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Construction and Estimation
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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