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Temperature variability implies greater economic damages from climate change

Date and Time

Tuesday 10/27/2020 10:30AM to 12:00PM EDT
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Virtual Seminar
Washington, DC 20460


Contact: Carl Pasurka, 202-566-2275 (PASURKA.CARL@EPA.GOV)

Presenter:  Raphael Calel (McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University)

Description:  A number of influential assessments of the economic cost of climate change rely on just a small number of coupled climate-economy models. A central feature of these assessments is their accounting of the economic cost of epistemic uncertainty—that part of our uncertainty stemming from our inability to precisely estimate key model parameters, such as the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity. However, these models fail to account for the cost of aleatory uncertainty—the irreducible uncertainty that remains even when the true parameter values are known. We show how to account for this second source of uncertainty in a physically well-founded and tractable way, and we demonstrate that even modest variability implies trillions of dollars of previously unaccounted for economic damages. These extra damages have only a modest effect on the social cost of carbon, since mitigation has almost no effect on variability at the margin, but instead points to the conclusion that investments in adaptation would have much larger benefits than previously believed.