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Climate treaties and approaching catastrophes

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  • Barrett, Scott

Abstract

If the threshold that triggers climate catastrophe is known with certainty, and the benefits of avoiding catastrophe are high relative to the costs, treaties can easily coordinate countries' behavior so as to avoid the threshold. Where the net benefits of avoiding catastrophe are lower, treaties typically fail to help countries cooperate to avoid catastrophe, sustaining only modest cuts in emissions. These results are unaffected by uncertainty about the impact of catastrophe. By contrast, uncertainty about the catastrophic threshold normally causes coordination to collapse. Whether the probability density function has “thin” or “fat” tails makes little difference.

Suggested Citation

  • Barrett, Scott, 2013. "Climate treaties and approaching catastrophes," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 235-250.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:66:y:2013:i:2:p:235-250
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2012.12.004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Michael Finus & Alejandro Caparrós (ed.), 2015. "Game Theory and International Environmental Cooperation," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 15345, December.
    2. Barrett, Scott, 2005. "The theory of international environmental agreements," Handbook of Environmental Economics,in: K. G. Mäler & J. R. Vincent (ed.), Handbook of Environmental Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1457-1516 Elsevier.
    3. Barrett, Scott, 1997. "The strategy of trade sanctions in international environmental agreements," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 345-361, November.
    4. Barrett, Scott, 1994. "Self-Enforcing International Environmental Agreements," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(0), pages 878-894, Supplemen.
    5. William D. Nordhaus, 2009. "An Analysis of the Dismal Theorem," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1686, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    6. Alessandro Tavoni & Astrid Dannenberg & Giorgos Kallis & Andreas L�schel, 2011. "Inequality, communication and the avoidance of disastrous climate change," GRI Working Papers 34, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    7. Kenneth Arrow, 2009. "A note on uncertainty and discounting in models of economic growth," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 38(2), pages 87-94, April.
    8. Martin L. Weitzman, 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 1-19, February.
    9. Scott Barrett, 2008. "The Incredible Economics of Geoengineering," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 39(1), pages 45-54, January.
    10. Wagner, Ulrich J, 2001. " The Design of Stable International Environmental Agreements: Economic Theory and Political Economy," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(3), pages 377-411, July.
    11. Nicholas Stern, 2008. "The Economics of Climate Change," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 1-37, May.
    12. Scott Barrett, 2006. "Climate Treaties and "Breakthrough" Technologies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 22-25, May.
    13. Scott Barrett, 1999. "A Theory of Full International Cooperation," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 11(4), pages 519-541, October.
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