Responding to Threats of Climate Change Mega-Catastrophes

28 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by Carolyn Kousky

Carolyn Kousky

Resources for the Future

Olga Rostapshova

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Michael Toman

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

Richard J. Zeckhauser

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 1, 2009

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.

Keywords: Climate Change Mitigation and Green House Gases, Climate Change Economics, Science of Climate Change, Hazard Risk Management, Transport and Environment

Suggested Citation

Kousky, Carolyn and Rostapshova, Olga and Toman, Michael and Zeckhauser, Richard J., Responding to Threats of Climate Change Mega-Catastrophes (November 1, 2009). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 5127, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1509194

Carolyn Kousky (Contact Author)

Resources for the Future ( email )

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Olga Rostapshova

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Michael Toman

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

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Richard J. Zeckhauser

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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