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Cumulative carbon emissions and economic policy: in search of general principles

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  • Simon Dietz, Frank Venmans

Abstract

We exploit recent advances in climate science to derive a surprisingly simple model of efficient climate policy. The model yields closed-form solutions for optimal peak warming, optimal emissions along the transition to peak warming and optimal carbon prices, with and without a temperature constraint that is consistent with the UN Paris Agreement. We draw five conclusions. First, optimal peak warming has an elasticity of one or more with respect to several parameters that are highly uncertain. This implies optimal peak warming is itself highly uncertain. Second, even if optimal peak warming is high, optimal transient warming over the coming centuries is not. The transition is slow, because of the stock-flow nature of CO2-induced warming. Third, the optimal carbon price grows faster than output this century and the possibly unexpected reason for this is the saturation of carbon sinks, a well-known physical property of the climate system hitherto absent from economic models. Fourth, the optimal carbon price under a binding temperature constraint comprises the social cost of carbon, plus a Hotelling premium. If we take account of damages, then we should abate emissions more quickly than if we simply meet the temperature constraint at the lowest abatement cost. Fifth, when the objective is to minimise abatement costs alone, the optimal carbon price follows the simple Hotelling rule, not various kinds of augmented Hotelling rule, as in previous work. Again this comes from taking into account the effects of saturating carbon sinks, as well as not over-estimating thermal inertia in the climate system.

Suggested Citation

  • Simon Dietz, Frank Venmans, 2017. "Cumulative carbon emissions and economic policy: in search of general principles," GRI Working Papers 283, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
  • Handle: RePEc:lsg:lsgwps:wp283
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    Cited by:

    1. Rick Van der Ploeg & Simon Dietz & Armon Rezai & Frank Venmans, 2020. "Are economists getting climate dynamics right and does it matter?," Economics Series Working Papers 900, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    2. Frederick Ploeg & Armon Rezai, 2019. "Simple Rules for Climate Policy and Integrated Assessment," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 72(1), pages 77-108, January.
    3. Rick Van der Ploeg & Armon Rezai, 2019. "Stranded Assets In The Transition To A Carbon-Free Economy," Economics Series Working Papers 894, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    4. Robert J. R. Elliott & Ingmar Schumacher & Cees Withagen, 2020. "Suggestions for a Covid-19 Post-Pandemic Research Agenda in Environmental Economics," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 76(4), pages 1187-1213, August.
    5. Reyer Gerlagh & Roweno J.R.K. Wan, 2018. "Optimal Stabilization in an Emission Permits Market," CESifo Working Paper Series 6950, CESifo.
    6. Sandra Gschnaller, 2020. "The Albedo Loss from the Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and the Social Cost of Carbon," ifo Working Paper Series 332, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
    7. Larry S. Karp & Christian P. Traeger, 2018. "Prices versus Quantities Reassessed," CESifo Working Paper Series 7331, CESifo.
    8. Hambel, Christoph & Kraft, Holger & van der Ploeg, Frederick, 2020. "Asset diversification versus climate action," CEPR Discussion Papers 14863, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. van der Ploeg, Frederick & Rezai, Armon, 2020. "The risk of policy tipping and stranded carbon assets," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 100(C).
    10. Rick Van der Ploeg & Christoph Hambel & Holger Kraft, 2020. "Asset Pricing and Decarbonization: Diversification versus Climate Action," Economics Series Working Papers 901, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    11. Frederick Ploeg, 2018. "The safe carbon budget," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 147(1), pages 47-59, March.
    12. Malik Curuk & Suphi Sen, 2018. "Climate Policy and Resource Extraction with Variable Markups and Imperfect Substitute," ifo Working Paper Series 278, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
    13. Reyer Gerlagh & Veronica Lupi & Marzio Galeotti, 2018. "Family Planning and Climate Change," CESifo Working Paper Series 7421, CESifo.
    14. Francesca Diluiso & Barbara Annicchiarico & Matthias Kalkuhl & Jan C. Minx, 2020. "Climate Actions and Stranded Assets: The Role of Financial Regulation and Monetary Policy," CEIS Research Paper 501, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 22 Jul 2020.
    15. Niko Jaakkola & Antony Millner, 2020. "Nondogmatic Climate Policy," NBER Working Papers 27413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Inge van den Bijgaart & Mauricio Rodriguez, 2020. "Closing Wells; Fossil Exploration and Abandonment in the Energy Transition," CESifo Working Paper Series 8453, CESifo.
    17. Lucas Bretschger, 2020. "Getting the Costs of Environmental Protection Right," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 20/341, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies

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