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Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change: A Literature Review

Listed author(s):
  • Stéphanie Jamet


  • Jan Corfee-Morlot


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    Climate change is expected to have significant implications for the world economy and, more broadly, for many areas of human activity. The purpose of this review is twofold. First, it is to summarise current estimates of the impacts of climate change and to explain how these estimates are built in order to identify the main sources of uncertainty and approximation affecting them. Second, the paper discusses how this uncertainty should influence policymaker?s decisions. A main conclusion of the review is that there are large uncertainties, which are not fully reflected in existing estimates of global impacts of climate change in monetary units. Nonetheless, despite these uncertainties, policy action may be justified, provided that policies are cost-effective, even if the marginal cost of GHG emissions mitigation exceeds the marginal damage of one additional ton of carbon. This is because two features of the impacts of climate change tilt the balance in favour of action: their irreversibility, and the risk that they are extreme. Évaluer les impacts du changement climatique : Une revue de la littérature Le changement climatique devrait avoir des conséquences importantes sur l'économie mondiale et, plus généralement, sur un large éventail d'activités humaines. L'objectif de cette revue est double. D?une part, il s'agit de résumer les estimations récentes des impacts du changement climatique et d'expliquer comment ces estimations sont obtenues afin d'identifier les principales sources d'incertitude et d'approximation qui les entourent. D'autre part, la façon dont cette incertitude devrait influencer les décisions des responsables politiques est discutée. L'une des conclusions principales de cette revue est qu'il existe un grand nombre d'incertitudes autour des impacts du changement climatique qui ne sont pas pleinement reflétées dans les estimations des impacts globaux exprimés en unité monétaire. Néanmoins, en dépit de ces incertitudes, une politique active pourrait être justifiée, à condition que ces politiques soient efficaces au regard des coûts, même si le coût marginal de réduction des émissions des gaz à effet de serres est supérieur au coût marginal d'une tonne additionnelle de carbone. Ce résultat provient de deux caractéristiques des impacts qui inclinent la balance en faveur de l'action : leur irréversibilité et le risque qu'ils soient extrêmes.

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    Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 691.

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    Date of creation: 03 Apr 2009
    Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:691-en
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