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Preserving the Ocean Circulation: Implications for Climate Policy

  • Klaus Keller
  • Kelvin Tan
  • Francois M.M. Morel
  • David F. Bradford

Climate modelers have recognized the possibility of abrupt climate changes caused by a reorganization of the North Atlantic's current pattern (technically known as a thermohaline circulation collapse). This circulation system now warms north-western Europe and transports carbon dioxide to the deep oceans. The posited collapse of this system could produce severe cooling in north-western Europe, even when general global warming is in progress. In this paper we use a simple integrated assessment model to investigate the optimal policy response to this risk. Adding the constraint of avoiding a thermohaline circulation collapse would significantly reduce the allowable greenhouse gas emissions in the long run along an optimal path. Our analysis implies that relatively small damages associated with a collapse (less than 1 % of gross world product) would justify a considerable reduction of future carbon dioxide emissions.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7476.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7476.

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Date of creation: Jan 2000
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Publication status: published as Keller, Klaus, Kelvin Tan, François M. M. Morel, and David F. Bradford. "Preserving the Ocean Circulation: Implications for Climate Policy." Climatic Change 47, 1-2 (October 2000): 17-43.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7476
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  1. Dowlatabadi, Hadi, 1995. "Integrated assessment models of climate change : An incomplete overview," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 289-296.
  2. Maddison, David, 1995. "A cost-benefit analysis of slowing climate change," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 337-346.
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  6. Roughgarden, Tim & Schneider, Stephen H., 1999. "Climate change policy: quantifying uncertainties for damages and optimal carbon taxes," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(7), pages 415-429, July.
  7. Richels, Richard & Edmonds, Jae, 1995. "The economics of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 373-378.
  8. Manne, Alan S, 1995. "The rate of time preference : Implications for the greenhouse debate," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 391-394.
  9. Minh Ha-Duong & Michael Grubb & Jean-Charles Hourcade, 1997. "Influence of socioeconomic inertia and uncertainty on optimal CO2-emission abatement," Post-Print halshs-00002452, HAL.
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