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1 The Economics of Climate Change: Costs and Benefits of Reducing GHG Emissions Maureen Cropper University of Maryland and Resources for the Future August.

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Presentation on theme: "1 The Economics of Climate Change: Costs and Benefits of Reducing GHG Emissions Maureen Cropper University of Maryland and Resources for the Future August."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 The Economics of Climate Change: Costs and Benefits of Reducing GHG Emissions Maureen Cropper University of Maryland and Resources for the Future August 26th 2010

2 2 Motivation “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” (IPCC 2007) Policy Questions: At what level should atmospheric CO2 be stabilized? What are the costs of reducing GHG emissions from Business as Usual? What are the benefits of doing this?

3 3 Likelihood (in %) of exceeding a temperature increase at equilibrium Source: Hadley Centre: From Murphy et al. 2004 Stabilisation level (in ppm CO 2 e) 2°C3°C4°C5°C6°C7°C 45078183100 500964411310 550996924721 65010094582494 750100998247229

4 4 Objectives of the Talk Costs of mitigation –Explain what factors drive estimates of the costs of mitigation and why estimates differ –How costly is it to stabilize at 450 v. 550 ppm Benefits of mitigation –Overview of state of benefits estimation –How benefits vary geographically Balancing costs v. benefits –How to deal with timing issues, uncertainty? What does this imply about the optimal stabilization level?

5 5 Sources of GHG Emissions, 2000

6 6 What Determines Fossil Fuel Emissions? Emissions ≡ Population x (GDP per capita) x (Energy/GDP) x (CO2/Energy) Policies to reduce emissions must reduce: –Energy per unit of GDP (become more energy efficient) –Carbon intensity of energy (switch from coal to gas; fossil fuels to renewables and nuclear) Carbon tax or explicit policies needed to promote move to a low carbon economy

7 7 How Economists Model Mitigation Costs “Top-down” computable general equilibrium models –Divide the world into economically important regions –Model demand and supply for commodities in all sectors of the economy Estimate costs of mitigation by imposing a worldwide carbon tax Tax causes substitution of low for high carbon fuel; cost of doing this represents cost of mitigation

8 8 What Determines the Cost of Reaching 550 ppm? Ease of substituting energy for other inputs Ease of substituting low-carbon for high- carbon fuels Assumptions about rate of technical progress Business-as-Usual Concentrations of GHGs

9 9 Costs of Meeting Various CO2 Targets Source: den Elzen et al. (2007) Pathways: default (black), delayed (red) and early action (green) ; Envelopes (set of grey lines)

10 10 What Are the Benefits of Reducing GHG Emissions? Stabilizing at 550 ppm implies: –24% chance of temperature change > 4° C –7% chance of temperature change > 5° C What does this mean in terms of impacts? Following graph shows possible impacts by sector Also danger of “tipping points” – positive feedbacks that would cause rapid temperature change

11 11 Projected impacts of climate change 1°C2°C5°C4°C3°C Sea level rise threatens major cities Falling crop yields in many areas, particularly developing regions Food Water Ecosystems Risk of Abrupt and Major Irreversible Changes Global temperature change (relative to pre-industrial) 0°C Falling yields in many developed regions Rising number of species face extinction Increasing risk of dangerous feedbacks and abrupt, large-scale shifts in the climate system Significant decreases in water availability in many areas, including Mediterranean and Southern Africa Small mountain glaciers disappear – water supplies threatened in several areas Extensive Damage to Coral Reefs Extreme Weather Events Rising intensity of storms, forest fires, droughts, flooding and heat waves Possible rising yields in some high latitude regions

12 12 Sectors for Which Impacts Have Been Studied Agriculture Forestry Coastal infrastructure Energy –Supply & Demand Water –Supply & Demand Health impacts –Malaria –Malnutrition –Heat Stroke, floods Species loss Ecosystem changes Climate Disamenities

13 13 Projections of Surface Temperatures for Three IPCC Scenarios

14 14 Climate Change Damages Best studied sectors are market sectors— agriculture, forestry, energy, water, coastal infrastructure Damages in developing countries—especially low latitude developing countries—are often a larger percent of GDP than in high income countries To compare with global costs of mitigation, need to aggregate benefits of mitigation across countries How this is done has a big impact on results: –Aggregate by GDP or population?

15 15 The damages of climate change with increasing global temperatures

16 16 How to Balance Costs and Benefits? Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) –Model (a) impact of emissions on temperature; (b)damages of temperature on GDP and (c) costs of mitigating emissions –Path of emissions chosen to maximize present discounted value of utility of per capita GDP Key Integrated Assessment Models –Nordhaus DICE/RICE models –Tol FUND model –Hope PAGE model

17 17 What Drives IAM Results? Key factors affecting the optimal reduction in GHG emissions are: –Shape of the aggregate damage function Steeper in Nordhaus (DICE) and Hope (PAGE) models than in Tol (FUND) model –Impact of emissions/atmospheric concentrations on temperature Measured by “Climate Sensitivity: - impact on mean global temperature of a doubling of CO2 –Discount rate used to express future damages and costs in present value terms

18 18 Importance of Uncertainty & Risk Aversion Impact of atmospheric CO2 on temperature uncertain –Climate sensitivity = impact on temperature of a doubling of atmospheric CO2 from pre-industrial levels –95% confidence interval = 2.5°C – 5.4°C Nordhaus and Tol Integrated assessment models treat this parameter as certain; Hope does not Allowing for risk aversion decreases optimal level at which to stabilize CO2

19 19 Importance of Discounting Future costs and damages associated with GHG emissions expressed in present value terms –The present value of $1 received 50 years from now is the amount I must invest today to have $1 in 50 years –At 4.5%, this is 11 cents; at 1.4% this is 50 cents Cost of mitigation begin today, whereas major climate damages occur in the future Lower discount rates imply more mitigation –Should discount rate reflect market opportunities or ethical concerns?

20 20 The Discounting Controversy Nordhaus: Use market interest rates (approximately 4.5%) Stern/Hope: Use a discount rate that reflects how we weight the preferences of future generations v. ourselves –Allowing for the fact they will be better off –Discount rate approximately 1.4% Next slide shows results of Nordhaus model, which are conservative given –Choice of discount rate –Use of expected values

21 21 Mitigation Benefit and Cost Estimates Relative to No Mitigation – Nordhaus DICE Model Benefits (Reduced Damages) Abatement Costs Benefits Minus Costs $ Trillion (US 2005)$Trillion Nordhaus/DICE Optimal5.242.163.08 GHG Concentration Limits 420 ppm12.6027.20-14.6 560 ppm6.573.902.67 700 ppm5.242.163.08 Note: Yale DICE model: Runs set to max. the value of net economic consumption, assuming complete implementation efficiency and universal participation. Source: Wheeler (2007)

22 22 What Can We Conclude About Costs and Benefits? Conservative estimates suggest that costs of stabilizing CO2e at 550 ppm passes the benefit cost test Allowing for uncertainty about climate sensitivity and risk aversion would increase the benefits of a 550 ppm target –So would lowering the discount rate If this is the case, why are we doing so little?

23 23 Problems in Reaching an International Agreement Reducing GHGs is a global public good –If one country reduces, all countries benefit –Individual countries have an incentive to “free ride” Benefits of avoiding climate change occur in the future, and most benefits accrue to developing countries Developing countries argue that they are not responsible for the majority of the stock of GHGs And, their emissions are very low on a per capita basis

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