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Responding to Threats of Climate Change Mega-Catastrophes

  • Kousky, Carolyn


    (Resources for the Future)

  • Rostapshova, Olga
  • Toman, Michael
  • Zeckhauser, Richard

There is a low but uncertain probability that climate change could trigger “mega-catastrophes,” severe and at least partly irreversible adverse effects across broad regions. This paper first discusses the state of current knowledge and the defining characteristics of potential climate change mega-catastrophes. While some of these characteristics present difficulties for using standard rational choice methods to evaluate response options, there is still a need to balance the benefits and costs of different possible responses with appropriate attention to the uncertainties. To that end, we present a qualitative analysis of three options for mitigating the risk of climate mega-catastrophes—drastic abatement of greenhouse gas missions, development and implementation of geoengineering, and large-scale ex ante adaptation— against the criteria of efficacy, cost, robustness, and flexibility. We discuss the composition of a sound portfolio of initial investments in reducing the risk of climate change mega-catastrophes.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-09-45.

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Date of creation: 17 Nov 2009
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-09-45
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