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Climate Uncertainty and the Necessity to Transform Global Energy Supply


  • Bob van der Zwaan

    (Policies Studies Department, Energy research Centre of the Netherlands and John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University)

  • Reyer Gerlagh

    (IVM, Vrije Universiteit)


This paper analyses the policy relevance of the dominant uncertainties in our current scientific understanding of the terrestrial climate system, and provides further evidence for the need to radically transform - this century - our global infrastructure of energy supply, given the global average temperature increase as a result of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. We investigate the effect on required CO2 emission reduction efforts, both in terms of how much and when, of our uncertain knowledge today of the climate sensitivity to a doubling in them atmospheric CO2 concentration. Also the roles of carbon-free energy and energy savings, and their evolutions over time, are researched, as well as their dependence on some of our characteristic modelling features. We use a top-down model in which there are two competing energy sources, fossil and non-fossil. Technological change is represented endogenously through learning curves, and modest but non-zero demand exists for the relatively expensive carbon-free energy resource.

Suggested Citation

  • Bob van der Zwaan & Reyer Gerlagh, 2004. "Climate Uncertainty and the Necessity to Transform Global Energy Supply," Working Papers 2004.95, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  • Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2004.95

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. McDonald, Alan & Schrattenholzer, Leo, 2001. "Learning rates for energy technologies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 255-261, March.
    2. Berry, R. Stephen & Salamon, Peter & Heal, Geoffrey, 1978. "On a relation between economic and thermodynamic optima," Resources and Energy, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 125-137, October.
    3. Richard Tol, 1999. "Spatial and Temporal Efficiency in Climate Policy: Applications of FUND," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 14(1), pages 33-49, July.
    4. Carraro, Carlo & Gerlagh, Reyer & Zwaan, Bob van der, 2003. "Endogenous technical change in environmental macroeconomics," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 1-10, February.
    5. Gerlagh, Reyer & van der Zwaan, Bob, 2003. "Gross world product and consumption in a global warming model with endogenous technological change," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 35-57, February.
    6. Chakravorty, Ujjayant & Roumasset, James & Tse, Kinping, 1997. "Endogenous Substitution among Energy Resources and Global Warming," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1201-1234, December.
    7. Goulder, Lawrence H. & Schneider, Stephen H., 1999. "Induced technological change and the attractiveness of CO2 abatement policies," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3-4), pages 211-253, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bollen, Johannes & van der Zwaan, Bob & Brink, Corjan & Eerens, Hans, 2009. "Local air pollution and global climate change: A combined cost-benefit analysis," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 161-181, August.
    2. Baker, Erin & Clarke, Leon & Shittu, Ekundayo, 2008. "Technical change and the marginal cost of abatement," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 2799-2816, November.
    3. Bob van der Zwaan & Reyer Gerlagh, 2008. "The Economics of Geological CO2 Storage and Leakage," Working Papers 2008.10, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.

    More about this item


    Global warming; CO2 emissions; Climate sensitivity; Fossil to non-fossil transition; Carbon-free power; Energy savings;

    JEL classification:

    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water
    • Q42 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Alternative Energy Sources
    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy

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