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Climate Response Uncertainty and the Unexpected Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions

Author

Listed:
  • Adam Daigneault
  • Steve Newbold

Abstract

Some recent research suggests that uncertainty about the response of the climate system to atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations can have a disproportionately large influence on benefits estimates for climate change policies, potentially even dominating the effect of the discount rate. In this paper we conduct a series of numerical simulation experiments to investigate the quantitative significance of climate response uncertainty for economic assessments of climate change. First we characterize climate uncertainty by constructing two probability density functions—a Bayesian model-averaged and a Bayesian updated version—based on a combination of uncertainty ranges for climate sensitivity reported in the scientific literature. Next we estimate the willingness to pay of a representative agent for a range of emissions reduction policies using two simplified economic models. Our results illustrate the potential for large risk premiums in benefits estimates as suggested by the recent theoretical work on climate response uncertainty, and they show that the size and even the sign of the risk premium may depend crucially on how the posterior distribution describing the overall climate sensitivity uncertainty is constructed and on the specific shape of the damage function.- Submitted July, 2008; Resubmitted March, 2009

Suggested Citation

  • Adam Daigneault & Steve Newbold, 2009. "Climate Response Uncertainty and the Unexpected Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions," NCEE Working Paper Series 200806, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Mar 2009.
  • Handle: RePEc:nev:wpaper:wp200806
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    File URL: https://www.epa.gov/environmental-economics/working-paper-climate-response-uncertainty-and-expected-benefits-greenhouse
    File Function: First version, 2009
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kolstad, Charles D., 1996. "Learning and Stock Effects in Environmental Regulation: The Case of Greenhouse Gas Emissions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 1-18, July.
    2. Keller, Klaus & Bolker, Benjamin M. & Bradford, D.F.David F., 2004. "Uncertain climate thresholds and optimal economic growth," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 723-741, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert S. Pindyck, 2013. "Climate Change Policy: What Do the Models Tell Us?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 860-872.
    2. Ackerman, Frank & Stanton, Elizabeth A. & Bueno, Ramón, 2010. "Fat tails, exponents, extreme uncertainty: Simulating catastrophe in DICE," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(8), pages 1657-1665, June.
    3. Williams, Galina & Rolfe, John, 2017. "Willingness to pay for emissions reduction: Application of choice modeling under uncertainty and different management options," Energy Economics, Elsevier, pages 302-311.
    4. Alex L. Marten, 2014. "The Role of Scenario Uncertainty in Estimating the Benefits of Carbon Mitigation," NCEE Working Paper Series 201404, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Mar 2014.
    5. Pindyck, Robert S., 2012. "Uncertain outcomes and climate change policy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 289-303.
    6. Robert S. Pindyck, 2011. "Fat Tails, Thin Tails, and Climate Change Policy," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, pages 258-274.
    7. Aldy, Joseph E. & Krupnick, Alan J. & Newell, Richard G. & Parry, Ian W.H. & Pizer, William A., 2009. "Designing Climate Mitigation Policy," Discussion Papers dp-08-16, Resources For the Future.
    8. Kelly, David L. & Tan, Zhuo, 2015. "Learning and climate feedbacks: Optimal climate insurance and fat tails," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 98-122.
    9. Iverson, Terrence, 2012. "Communicating Trade-offs amid Controversial Science: Decision Support for Climate Policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 74-90.
    10. Kousky, Carolyn & Kopp, Robert E. & Cooke, Roger M., 2011. "Risk premia and the social cost of carbon: A review," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 5, pages 1-24.
    11. Joseph E. Aldy & Alan J. Krupnick & Richard G. Newell & Ian W. H. Parry & William A. Pizer, 2010. "Designing Climate Mitigation Policy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 903-934.
    12. Gerst, Michael D. & Howarth, Richard B. & Borsuk, Mark E., 2010. "Accounting for the risk of extreme outcomes in an integrated assessment of climate change," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(8), pages 4540-4548, August.
    13. repec:eee:ecolec:v:138:y:2017:i:c:p:90-98 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Hwang, In Chang & Tol, Richard S.J. & Hofkes, Marjan W., 2016. "Fat-tailed risk about climate change and climate policy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 25-35.

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