Climate Change Skepticism in the Face of Catastrophe

Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 12-112/VIII

36 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2012 Last revised: 7 Nov 2014

Date Written: November 6, 2014


Despite overwhelming scientific evidence for man-made climate change, many people remain skeptical. While this phenomenon of `climate-skepticism' prevents implementation of environmental policies around the globe, it is ignored in economic models of climate change. In this paper I fill this gap by modeling policymakers with varying levels of skepticism facing a climate change catastrophe. I calculate optimal emission and consumption paths for various levels of belief in man-made climate change to explore the true cost of climate skepticism. My findings are as follows. First of all, I find that when facing catastrophic climate change even a completely skeptical policymaker (believing there is zero probability that climate change is connected to CO2 emissions) will not choose a path leading to unbounded climate change and emissions. Second, I find significant losses due to climate change resulting from skepticism if emission-driven climate change is real. Lastly, I find that moderate levels of skepticism will still allow for significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Keywords: climate change, uncertainty, skepticism, catastrophic damages, hazard

JEL Classification: Q54, Q58

Suggested Citation

Kagan, Mark, Climate Change Skepticism in the Face of Catastrophe (November 6, 2014). Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 12-112/VIII. Available at SSRN: or

Mark Kagan (Contact Author)

VU University Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, ND North Holland 1081 HV

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