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Checking The Price Tag On Catastrophe: The Social Cost Of Carbon Under Non-Linear Climate Response

  • Megan Ceronsky
  • David Anthoff
  • Cameron Hepburn
  • Richard S.J. Tol

    ()

    (Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin)

Research into the social cost of carbon emissions — the marginal social damage from a ton of emitted carbon — has tended to focus on “best guess” scenarios. Such scenarios generally ignore the potential for low-probability, high-damage events, which are critically important to determining optimal climate policy. This paper uses the FUND integrated assessment model to investigate the influence of three types of non-linear climate responses on the social cost of carbon: the collapse of the thermohaline circulation; the dissociation of oceanic methane hydrates; and climate sensitivities above “best guess” levels. We find that incorporating these impacts can increase the social cost of carbon by a factor of 20. Furthermore, our results suggest that the exclusive focus on thermohaline circulation collapse in the non-linear climate response literature is unwarranted, because other potential non-linear climate responses appear to be significantly more costly.

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File URL: http://www.fnu.zmaw.de/fileadmin/fnu-files/publication/working-papers/catastrophewp.pdf
File Function: First version, 2005
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Paper provided by Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University in its series Working Papers with number FNU-87.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2005
Date of revision: Aug 2005
Handle: RePEc:sgc:wpaper:87
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  1. Gjerde, Jon & Grepperud, Sverre & Kverndokk, Snorre, 1999. "Optimal climate policy under the possibility of a catastrophe," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3-4), pages 289-317, August.
  2. Tol, Richard S.J., 2005. "Emission abatement versus development as strategies to reduce vulnerability to climate change: an application of FUND," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(05), pages 615-629, October.
  3. Tol, Richard S. J., 2001. "Equitable cost-benefit analysis of climate change policies," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 71-85, January.
  4. Martin L. Weitzman, 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 1-19, February.
  5. 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.
  6. Baranzini, Andrea & Chesney, Marc & Morisset, Jacques, 2003. "The impact of possible climate catastrophes on global warming policy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(8), pages 691-701, June.
  7. Kolstad, Charles D., 1994. "George Bush versus Al Gore : Irreversibilities in greenhouse gas accumulation and emission control investment," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(9), pages 771-778, September.
  8. 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.
  9. P. Link & Richard Tol, 2011. "Estimation of the economic impact of temperature changes induced by a shutdown of the thermohaline circulation: an application of FUND," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 104(2), pages 287-304, January.
  10. P. Michael Link & Richard S.J. Tol, 2004. "Possible Economic Impacts of a Shutdown of the Thermohaline Circulation: an Application of FUND," Working Papers FNU-42, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Apr 2004.
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