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Estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon: Background and Results from the RICE-2011 Model

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  • William D. Nordhaus

Abstract

A new and important concept in global warming economics and policy is the social cost of carbon or SCC. This concept represents the economic cost caused by an additional ton of carbon-dioxide emissions or its equivalent. The present study describes the development of the concept as well as its analytical background. We estimate the SCC using an updated version of the RICE-2011 model. Additional concerns are uncertainty about different aspects of global warming as well as the treatment of different countries or generations. The most important results are: First, the estimated social cost of carbon for the current time (2015) including uncertainty, equity weighting, and risk aversion is $44 per ton of carbon (or $12 per ton CO2) in 2005 US$ and international prices). Second, including uncertainty increases the expected value of the SCC by approximately 8 percent. Third, equity weighting generally tends to reduce the SCC. Finally, the major open issue concerning the SCC continues to be the appropriate discount rate.

Suggested Citation

  • William D. Nordhaus, 2011. "Estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon: Background and Results from the RICE-2011 Model," NBER Working Papers 17540, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17540
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    1. David Pearce, 2003. "The Social Cost of Carbon and its Policy Implications," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(3), pages 362-384.
    2. Tol, Richard S. J., 2005. "The marginal damage costs of carbon dioxide emissions: an assessment of the uncertainties," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(16), pages 2064-2074, November.
    3. Tol, Richard S. J., 2008. "The Social Cost of Carbon: Trends, Outliers and Catastrophes," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 2, pages 1-22.
    4. Samuel Fankhauser & Richard Tol & DAVID Pearce, 1997. "The Aggregation of Climate Change Damages: a Welfare Theoretic Approach," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 10(3), pages 249-266, October.
    5. Michael Greenstone & Elizabeth Kopits & Ann Wolverton, 2011. "Estimating the Social Cost of Carbon for Use in U.S. Federal Rulemakings: A Summary and Interpretation," NBER Working Papers 16913, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Anthoff, David & Tol, Richard S.J., 2010. "On international equity weights and national decision making on climate change," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 14-20, July.
    7. Hope, Chris & Maul, Philip, 1996. "Valuing the impact of CO2 emissions," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 211-219, March.
    8. Anthoff, David & Hepburn, Cameron & Tol, Richard S.J., 2009. "Equity weighting and the marginal damage costs of climate change," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 836-849, January.
    9. Fankhauser, Samuel & Tol, Richard S.J. & Pearce, David W., 1998. "Extensions and alternatives to climate change impact valuation: on the critique of IPCC Working Group III's impact estimates," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(01), pages 59-81, February.
    10. Nordhaus, William, 2007. "Alternative measures of output in global economic-environmental models: Purchasing power parity or market exchange rates?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 349-372, May.
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    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H87 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - International Fiscal Issues; International Public Goods
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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