Climate-Society Feedback Effects: Be Wary of Unidentified Connections

International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, 2021, 15(1-2): 33–93

Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 2021-21

38 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2021 Last revised: 16 Sep 2021

See all articles by Peter Howard

Peter Howard

New York University (NYU) - Institute for Policy Integrity

Michael A. Livermore

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: September 7, 2021

Abstract

Feedbacks within the climate-economy system are complex. The research analyzing the relationship between human activities and the climate is considerable, with particular focus on intra-system feedback effects: environmental tipping points, and climate-triggered social tipping points, like migration, to a lesser extent (Robert Kopp et al., 2016; Kees van Ginkel et al., 2018). Due to their cross-disciplinary nature (Angela Guerrero et al., 2018), two-way interactions between the environment and society, whereby movement in either system can trigger inter-system feedbacks (Steven Lade et al., 2013; Johanna Yletyinen et al., 2019) as humans respond to a changing environment thereby further changing the environment, have only recently received attention by a growing inter-disciplinary research community. With the aim of improving climate policy and its tools, such as the social cost of carbon, we describe these social-ecological system (SES) feedbacks and place them in the existing taxonomy for tipping points applied by mainstream climate-economy models. Drawing lessons from SES research and related interdisciplinary literatures, we discuss the value of and method by which to modify social-cost integrated assessment models (SC-IAMs), like Nordhaus’ DICE. As it is critical that climate policy include these risks to the stability of the climate-economy system, we conclude with a research agenda for the identification, quantification, and integration of climate-society feedbacks into SC-IAMs.

Keywords: Social-ecological systems; feedbacks; integrated assessment models; social cost of carbon

Suggested Citation

Howard, Peter and Livermore, Michael A., Climate-Society Feedback Effects: Be Wary of Unidentified Connections (September 7, 2021). International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, 2021, 15(1-2): 33–93, Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 2021-21, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3919178

Peter Howard

New York University (NYU) - Institute for Policy Integrity ( email )

Wilf Hall
139 MacDougal Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

Michael A. Livermore (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

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