Preparing for catastrophic climate change

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Abstract

We study optimal adaptation to climate change when the harmful consequences of global warming are associated with uncertain occurrence of abrupt changes. The adaptation policy entails the accumulation of a particular sort of capital that will eliminate or reduce the catastrophic damage of an abrupt climate change when (and if) it occurs. The occurrence date is uncertain. The policy problem involves balancing the tradeoffs between the (certain) investment cost prior to occurrence and the benefit (in reduced damage) that will be realized after the (uncertain) occurrence date. For stationary economies the optimal adaptation capital converges monotonically to a steady state. In most cases, investment begins immediately. However, if the initial adaptation capital exceeds a pre-specified threshold level, which lies above the optimal steady state, investment is delayed while the capital stock decreases (due to depreciation) and commences only when it reaches this threshold level. For growing economies the optimal adaptation capital stock approaches the maximal economic level above which further accumulation is ineffective. © 2012 Springer-Verlag Wien.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-239
JournalJournal of Economics
Volume110
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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