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CLIMATE POLICY AND CATASTROPHIC CHANGE: Be Prepared and Avert Risk

  • Frederick van der Ploeg
  • Aart de Zeeuw

The optimal reaction to a pending climate catastrophe is to accumulate capital to be better prepared for the disaster and levy a carbon tax to reduce the risk of the hazard by curbing global warming. The optimal carbon tax consists of the present value of marginal damages, the non-marginal expected change in welfare caused by a marginal higher risk of catastrophe, and the expected loss in after-catastrophe welfare. The last two terms offset precautionary capital accumulation. A linear hazard function calibrated to an expected time of 15 years for a 32% drop in global GDP if temperature stays at 6 degrees Celsius implies with a discount rate of 1.4% a precautionary return of 1.6% and a carbon tax of 136 US $/tC. More intertemporal substitution lowers precautionary capital accumulation and lessens the need for a high carbon tax, but implies less intergenerational inequality aversion which pushes up the carbon tax.

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Paper provided by European University at St. Petersburg, Department of Economics in its series CEEES Paper Series with number CE3S-02/13.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: 01 Oct 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:eus:ce3swp:0213
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  1. Eric Nævdal, 2003. "Dynamic Optimisation in the Presence of Threshold Effects when the Location of the Threshold is Uncertain With an Application to a Possible Disintegration of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet," Working Papers 143, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics..
  2. Stephen Polasky & Aart de Zeeuw & Florian Wagener, 2010. "Optimal Management with Potential Regime Shifts," CESifo Working Paper Series 3237, CESifo Group Munich.
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  6. Martin L. Weitzman, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 703-724, September.
  7. Robert S. Pindyck, 2012. "The Climate Policy Dilemma," NBER Working Papers 18205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Karp, Larry & Tsur, Yacov, 2008. "Time perspective and climate change policy," CUDARE Working Paper Series 1062, University of California at Berkeley, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Policy.
  9. 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.
  10. Tsur, Yacov & Zemel, Amos, 1996. "Accounting for global warming risks: Resource management under event uncertainty," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 20(6-7), pages 1289-1305.
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