IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Uncertainty in climate change modelling: can global sensitivity analysis be of help?


  • Barry ANDERSON
  • Emanuele BORGONOVO
  • Marzio GALEOTTI
  • Roberto ROSON


The complexity of integrated assessment models (IAMs) prevents the direct appreciation of the impact of uncertainty on the model predictions. However, for a full understanding and corroboration of model results, analysts might be willing, and ought to identify the model inputs that influence the model results the most (key drivers), appraise the relevance of interactions and the direction of change associated with the simultaneous variation of the model inputs. We show that such information is already contained in the data set produced by Monte Carlo simulations and that it can be extracted without additional calculations. Our discussion is guided by an application of the proposed methodologies to the well-known DICE model of William Nordhaus (2008). A comparison of the proposed methodology to approaches previously applied on the same model shows that robust insights concerning the dependence of future atmospheric temperature, global emissions and current carbon costs and taxes on the model’s exogenous inputs can be obtained. The method avoids the fallacy of a priori deeming the important factors based on sole intuition.

Suggested Citation

  • Barry ANDERSON & Emanuele BORGONOVO & Marzio GALEOTTI & Roberto ROSON, 2012. "Uncertainty in climate change modelling: can global sensitivity analysis be of help?," Departmental Working Papers 2012-18, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
  • Handle: RePEc:mil:wpdepa:2012-18

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Borgonovo, E. & Gatti, S. & Peccati, L., 2010. "What drives value creation in investment projects? An application of sensitivity analysis to project finance transactions," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 205(1), pages 227-236, August.
    2. Richard S.J. Tol, 2011. "The Social Cost of Carbon," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 3(1), pages 419-443, October.
    3. David Anthoff & Richard Tol, 2013. "The uncertainty about the social cost of carbon: A decomposition analysis using fund," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 117(3), pages 515-530, April.
    4. Baker, Erin & Solak, Senay, 2011. "Climate change and optimal energy technology R&D policy," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 213(2), pages 442-454, September.
    5. Borgonovo, E., 2010. "Sensitivity analysis with finite changes: An application to modified EOQ models," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 200(1), pages 127-138, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Simon Dietz & Anca N. Matei, 2013. "Is there space for agreement on climate change? A non-parametric approach to policy evaluation," GRI Working Papers 136, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Barry Anderson & Emanuele Borgonovo & Marzio Galeotti & Roberto Roson, 2014. "Uncertainty in Climate Change Modeling: Can Global Sensitivity Analysis Be of Help?," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 34(2), pages 271-293, February.
    2. S. Cucurachi & E. Borgonovo & R. Heijungs, 2016. "A Protocol for the Global Sensitivity Analysis of Impact Assessment Models in Life Cycle Assessment," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 36(2), pages 357-377, February.
    3. Zhang, Hong & Jin, Gui & Zhang, Zhengyu, 2021. "Coupling system of carbon emission and social economy: A review," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 167(C).
    4. Richard S.J. Tol, 2021. "Estimates of the social cost of carbon have not changed over time," Working Paper Series 0821, Department of Economics, University of Sussex Business School.
    5. Marchioni, Andrea & Magni, Carlo Alberto, 2018. "Investment decisions and sensitivity analysis: NPV-consistency of rates of return," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 268(1), pages 361-372.
    6. Havranek, Tomas & Irsova, Zuzana & Janda, Karel & Zilberman, David, 2015. "Selective reporting and the social cost of carbon," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 394-406.
    7. Mier, Mathias & Weissbart, Christoph, 2020. "Power markets in transition: Decarbonization, energy efficiency, and short-term demand response," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
    8. Carlo Alberto Magni & Stefano Malagoli & Andrea Marchioni & Giovanni Mastroleo, 2020. "Rating firms and sensitivity analysis," Journal of the Operational Research Society, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 71(12), pages 1940-1958, December.
    9. Sihvonen, Matti & Pihlainen, Sampo & Lai, Tin-Yu & Salo, Tapio & Hyytiäinen, Kari, 2021. "Crop production, water pollution, or climate change mitigation—Which drives socially optimal fertilization management most?," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 186(C).
    10. Delavane B. Diaz, 2015. "Integrated Assessment of Climate Catastrophes with Endogenous Uncertainty: Does the Risk of Ice Sheet Collapse Justify Precautionary Mitigation?," Working Papers 2015.64, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    11. Shumilov, Andrei, 2021. "Анализ Неопределенности В Интегрированных Моделях Климата И Экономики: Обзор Литературы [Uncertainty analysis in integrated assessment models of the economics of climate change: a literature survey," MPRA Paper 110171, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Richard S. J. Tol, 2021. "Estimates of the social cost of carbon have increased over time," Papers 2105.03656,, revised Aug 2022.
    13. Richard S J Tol, 2018. "The Economic Impacts of Climate Change," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 12(1), pages 4-25.
    14. Magni, Carlo Alberto & Marchioni, Andrea, 2019. "Performance measurement and decomposition of value added," MPRA Paper 95258, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Zimmer, Anne & Koch, Nicolas, 2017. "Fuel consumption dynamics in Europe: Tax reform implications for air pollution and carbon emissions," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 22-50.
    16. Charlie Wilson & Céline Guivarch & Elmar Kriegler & Bas Ruijven & Detlef P. Vuuren & Volker Krey & Valeria Jana Schwanitz & Erica L. Thompson, 2021. "Evaluating process-based integrated assessment models of climate change mitigation," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 166(1), pages 1-22, May.
    17. Elisabeth J. Moyer & Mark D. Woolley & Nathan J. Matteson & Michael J. Glotter & David A. Weisbach, 2014. "Climate Impacts on Economic Growth as Drivers of Uncertainty in the Social Cost of Carbon," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(2), pages 401-425.
    18. Lint Barrage, 2020. "Optimal Dynamic Carbon Taxes in a Climate–Economy Model with Distortionary Fiscal Policy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(1), pages 1-39.
    19. Ben Ayara, Amine & Cho, Seong-Hoon & Clark, Christopher & Lambert, Dayton & Armsworth, Paul, 2016. "Spatial and Temporal Variation in the Optimal Provision of Forest-based Carbon Storage," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Boston, Massachusetts 236005, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    20. Magni, Carlo Alberto & Marchioni, Andrea & Baschieri, Davide, 2022. "Impact of financing and payout policy on the economic profitability of solar photovoltaic plants," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 244(C).

    More about this item


    OR in Environment; Robustness and Sensitivity; Climate change; Global sensitivity analysis; Integrated Assessment Modelling;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q50 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - General
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mil:wpdepa:2012-18. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: DEMM Working Papers The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask DEMM Working Papers to update the entry or send us the correct address (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.