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Responding to threats of climate change mega-catastrophes

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

Abstract

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, the authors present a qualitative analysis of three options for mitigating the risk of climate mega-catastrophes - drastic abatement of greenhouse gas emissions, development and implementation of geoengineering, and large-scale ex ante adaptation - against the criteria of efficacy, cost, robustness, and flexibility. They discuss the composition of a sound portfolio of initial investments in reducing the risk of climate change mega-catastrophes.

Suggested Citation

  • Kousky, Carolyn & Rostapshova, Olga & Toman, Michael & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2009. "Responding to threats of climate change mega-catastrophes," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5127, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5127
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    Cited by:

    1. Baptiste Perrissin Fabert & Etienne Espagne & Antonin Pottier & Patrice Dumas, 2012. "The “Doomsday” Effect in Climate Policies. Why is the Present Decade so Crucial to Tackling the Climate Challenge?," Working Papers 2012.62, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    2. Güssow, Kerstin & Proelss, Alexander & Oschlies, Andreas & Rehdanz, Katrin & Rickels, Wilfried, 2010. "Ocean iron fertilization: Why further research is needed," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 911-918, September.
    3. Benjamin Jones & Michael Keen & Jon Strand, 2013. "Fiscal implications of climate change," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 20(1), pages 29-70, February.
    4. Ian W. R. Martin & Robert S. Pindyck, 2015. "Averting Catastrophes: The Strange Economics of Scylla and Charybdis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(10), pages 2947-2985, October.
    5. Rickels, Wilfried & Rehdanz, Katrin & Oschlies, Andreas, 2012. "Economic prospects of ocean iron fertilization in an international carbon market," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 129-150.
    6. Toman, Michael, 2014. "The need for multiple types of information to inform climate change assessment," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(3), pages 469-485, December.
    7. Dovern, Jonas & Harnisch, Sebastian & Klepper, Gernot & Platt, Ulrich & Oschlies, Andreas & Rickels, Wilfried, 2015. "Radiation Management: Gezielte Beeinflussung des globalen Strahlungshaushalts zur Kontrolle des anthropogenen Klimawandels," Kiel Discussion Papers 549/550, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    8. John E. Bistline, 2015. "Fat-Tailed Uncertainty, Learning, And Climate Policy," Climate Change Economics (CCE), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 6(02), pages 1-21.
    9. Gary D. Libecap & Richard H. Steckel, 2011. "Climate Change: Adaptations in Historical Perspective," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present, pages 1-22, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Olivier STERCK, 2011. "Geoengineering as an alternative to mitigation: specification and dynamic implications," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2011035, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    11. Rickels, Wilfried & Rehdanz, Katrin & Oschlies, Andreas, 2009. "Accounting aspects of ocean iron fertilization," Kiel Working Papers 1572, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Climate Change Mitigation and Green House Gases; Climate Change Economics; Science of Climate Change; Hazard Risk Management; Transport and Environment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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