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Metrics for Aggregating the Climate Effect of Different Emissions: A Unifying Framework


  • Tol, Richard S. J.

    (Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI))

  • Berntsen, Terje K.

    (CICERO - Center for International Climate and Environmental Research)

  • O'Neill, Brian C.

    (Institute for the Study of Society and Environment, National Center for Atmospheric Research P.O. Box 3000 Boulder, CO 80307 USA)

  • Fuglestvedt, Jan S.

    (CICERO ? Center for International Climate and Environmental Research ? Oslo, P.O. Box 1129 Blindern, N-0318 Oslo, NORWAY)

  • Shine, Keith P.

    (Department of Meteorology, University of Reading)

  • Balkanski, Yves

    (LSCE/IPSL, Laboratoire CEA-CNRS-UVSQ)

  • Makra, Laszlo

    (SZTE, University of Szeged, Hungary)


Multi-gas approaches to climate change policies require a metric establishing ?equivalences? among emissions of various species. Climate scientists and economists have proposed four classes of such metrics and debated their relative merits. We present a unifying framework that clarifies the relationships among them. We show that the Global Warming Potential, used in international law to compare greenhouse gases, is a special case of the Global Damage Potential, assuming (1) a finite time horizon, (2) a zero discount rate, (3) constant atmospheric concentrations, and (4) impacts that are proportional to radiative forcing. We show that the Global Temperature change Potential is a special case of the Global Cost Potential, assuming (1) no induced technological change, and (2) a short-lived capital stock. We also show that the Global Cost Potential is a special case of the Global Damage Potential, assuming (1) zero damages below a threshold and (2) infinite damage after a threshold. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change uses the Global Warming Potential, a simplified cost-benefit concept, even though the UNFCCC frames climate policy as a cost-effectiveness problem and should therefore use the Global Cost Potential or its simplification, the Global Temperature Potential.

Suggested Citation

  • Tol, Richard S. J. & Berntsen, Terje K. & O'Neill, Brian C. & Fuglestvedt, Jan S. & Shine, Keith P. & Balkanski, Yves & Makra, Laszlo, 2008. "Metrics for Aggregating the Climate Effect of Different Emissions: A Unifying Framework," Papers WP257, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:wp257

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kandlikar, Milind, 1996. "Indices for comparing greenhouse gas emissions: integrating science and economics," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 265-281, October.
    2. Kandlikar, Milind, 1995. "The relative role of trace gas emissions in greenhouse abatement policies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(10), pages 879-883, October.
    3. Richard S. Eckaus, 1992. "Comparing the Effects of Greenhouse Gas Emissions on Global Warming," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 25-36.
    4. John Reilly & Kenneth Richards, 1993. "Climate change damage and the trace gas index issue," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 3(1), pages 41-61, February.
    5. Richard Schmalensee, 1993. "Comparing Greenhouse Gases for Policy Purposes," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 245-256.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Azar & Daniel Johansson, 2012. "Valuing the non-CO 2 climate impacts of aviation," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 111(3), pages 559-579, April.
    2. Remuzgo, Lorena & Trueba, Carmen & Sarabia, José María, 2016. "Evolution of the global inequality in greenhouse gases emissions using multidimensional generalized entropy measures," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 444(C), pages 146-157.
    3. Daniel Johansson, 2012. "Economics- and physical-based metrics for comparing greenhouse gases," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 110(1), pages 123-141, January.
    4. Johansson, Daniel J.A., 2009. "Economics vs. Physical-based Metrics for Relative Greenhouse Gas Valuations," Working Papers in Economics 363, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Climate change; multi-gas climate policy; Global Warming Potential; equivalences between greenhouse gases;

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