Trapped between two tails

Trading off scientific uncertainties via climate targets

Derek M Lemoine, Haewon C. McJeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Climate change policies must trade off uncertainties about future warming, about the social and ecological impacts of warming, and about the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We show that laxer carbon targets produce broader distributions for climate damages, skewed towards severe outcomes. However, if potential low-carbon technologies fill overlapping niches, then more stringent carbon targets produce broader distributions for the cost of reducing emissions, skewed towards high-cost outcomes. We use the technology-rich GCAM integrated assessment model to assess the robustness of 450 and 500 ppm carbon targets to each uncertain factor. The 500 ppm target provides net benefits across a broad range of futures. The 450 ppm target provides net benefits only when impacts are greater than conventionally assumed, when multiple technological breakthroughs lower the cost of abatement, or when evaluated with a low discount rate. Policy evaluations are more sensitive to uncertainty about abatement technology and impacts than to uncertainty about warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number034019
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

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Climate
Uncertainty
Carbon
Costs and Cost Analysis
warming
carbon
climate
Technology
cost
Costs
discount rate
Climate Change
social impact
ecological impact
Gas emissions
Greenhouse gases
Climate change
trade-off
niche
greenhouse gas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this

Trapped between two tails : Trading off scientific uncertainties via climate targets. / Lemoine, Derek M; McJeon, Haewon C.

In: Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 8, No. 3, 034019, 2013.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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