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The Economic Impact of Climate Change

  • Tol, Richard S. J.

    (Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI))

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    I review the literature on the economic impacts of climate change, an externality that is unprecedentedly large, complex, and uncertain. Only 14 estimates of the total damage cost of climate change have been published, a research effort that is in sharp contrast to the urgency of the public debate and the proposed expenditure on greenhouse gas emission reduction. These estimates show that climate change initially improves economic welfare. However, these benefits are sunk. Impacts would be predominantly negative later in the century. Global average impacts would be comparable to the welfare loss of a few percent of income, but substantially higher in poor countries. There are over 200 estimates of the marginal damage cost of carbon dioxide emissions. The uncertainty about the social cost of carbon is large and right-skewed. For a standard discount rate, the expected value $50/tC, which is much lower than the price of carbon in the European Union but much higher than the price of carbon elsewhere. Current estimates of the damage costs of climate change are incomplete, with positive and negative biases. Most important among the missing impacts are the indirect effects of climate change on economic development, large scale biodiversity loss, low probability ? high impact scenarios, the impact of climate change on violent conflict, and the impacts of climate change beyond 2100. From a welfare perspective, the impact of climate change is problematic because population is endogenous, and because policy analyses should separate impatience, risk aversion, and inequity aversion between and within countries.

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    File URL: http://www.esri.ie/pubs/WP255.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2008
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    Paper provided by Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in its series Papers with number WP255.

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    Length: 35 pages
    Date of creation: Sep 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:wp255
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    1. Richard S.J. Tol, 2002. "Emission Abatement Versus Development As Strategies To Reduce Vulnerability To Climate Change: An Application Of Fund," Working Papers FNU-12, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Apr 2002.
    2. Hope, Chris, 2008. "Discount rates, equity weights and the social cost of carbon," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 1011-1019, May.
    3. van den Bergh, Jeroen C. J. M., 2004. "Optimal climate policy is a utopia: from quantitative to qualitative cost-benefit analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 385-393, April.
    4. Nordhaus, William D., 1993. "Rolling the 'DICE': an optimal transition path for controlling greenhouse gases," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 27-50, March.
    5. Maria Berrittella & Andrea Bigano & Roberto Roson & Richard S.J. Tol, 2004. "A General Equilibrium Analysis Of Climate Change Impacts On Tourism," Working Papers FNU-49, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Nov 2004.
    6. Richard Tol, 2002. "Estimates of the Damage Costs of Climate Change. Part 1: Benchmark Estimates," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 21(1), pages 47-73, January.
    7. Francesco Bosello & Roberto Roson & Richard S.J. Tol, 2004. "Economy-Wide Estimates Of The Implications Of Climate Change: Human Health," Working Papers FNU-57, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Dec 2004.
    8. Geoffrey Heal, 2008. "Climate Economics: A Meta-Review and Some Suggestions," NBER Working Papers 13927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Maddison, David, 2003. "The amenity value of the climate: the household production function approach," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 155-175, May.
    10. Frank Ackerman, 2008. "Climate Economics in Four Easy Pieces," Development, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 51(3), pages 325-331, September.
    11. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David, 1984. "Social criteria for evaluating population change," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1-2), pages 13-33, November.
    12. Richard Tol, 2002. "Estimates of the Damage Costs of Climate Change, Part II. Dynamic Estimates," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 21(2), pages 135-160, February.
    13. Spash, Clive L., 2007. "The economics of climate change impacts a la Stern: Novel and nuanced or rhetorically restricted?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 706-713, September.
    14. Tol, Richard S. J., 2008. "The Social Cost of Carbon: Trends, Outliers and Catastrophes," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 2, pages 1-22.
    15. Cameron Hepburn & Hakon Sælen & Giles Atkinson, 2008. "Risk, inequality and time in the welfare economics of climate change: is the workhorse model underspecified?," Economics Series Working Papers 400, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    16. Frankhauser, Samuel & Tol, Richard SJ, 1996. "Climate change costs : Recent advancements in the economic assessment," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(7), pages 665-673, July.
    17. Nordhaus, William D, 1991. "To Slow or Not to Slow: The Economics of the Greenhouse Effect," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 920-37, July.
    18. Robert Ayres & Jörg Walter, 1991. "The greenhouse effect: Damages, costs and abatement," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 1(3), pages 237-270, September.
    19. Plambeck, Erica L & Hope, Chris, 1996. "PAGE95 : An updated valuation of the impacts of global warming," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(9), pages 783-793, September.
    20. Robert Mendelsohn & William D. Nordhaus & Shaw, Daigee, 1992. "The Impact of Climate on Agriculture: A Ricardian Approach," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1010, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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