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Responding to threats of climate change mega-catastrophes

  • Kousky, Carolyn
  • 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, 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.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5127.

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Date of creation: 01 Nov 2009
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5127
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  1. Thomas Sterner & U. Martin Persson, 2008. "An Even Sterner Review: Introducing Relative Prices into the Discounting Debate," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 2(1), pages 61-76, Winter.
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  5. Dasgupta, Susmita & Laplante, Benoit & Meisner, Craig & Wheeler, David & Jianping Yan, 2007. "The impact of sea level rise on developing countries : a comparative analysis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4136, The World Bank.
  6. Richard S. J. Tol & Maria Bohn & Thomas E. Downing & Marie-Laure Guillerminet & Eva Hizsnyik & Roger Kasperson & Kate Lonsdale & Claire Mays & Robert J. Nicholls & Alexander A. Olsthoorn & Gabriele Pf, 2006. "Adaptation to Five Metres of Sea Level Rise," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(5), pages 467-482, July.
  7. Klaus Keller & Kelvin Tan & Francois M.M. Morel & David F. Bradford, 2000. "Preserving the Ocean Circulation: Implications for Climate Policy," NBER Working Papers 7476, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Richard Zeckhauser (ed.), 1991. "Strategy and Choice," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262240335, June.
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  10. Samuelson, William & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1988. " Status Quo Bias in Decision Making," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 7-59, March.
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  14. Cass Sunstein & Richard Zeckhauser, 2011. "Overreaction to Fearsome Risks," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 48(3), pages 435-449, March.
  15. Martin L. Weitzman, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 703-724, September.
  16. Kousky, Carolyn & Cooke, Roger, 2009. "Climate Change and Risk Management: Challenges for Insurance, Adaptation, and Loss Estimation," Discussion Papers dp-09-03-rev, Resources For the Future.
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