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Rapid climate change: an overview for economists

Published Online:pp 63-76https://doi.org/10.1504/IJGE.2009.026492

The possibility of future rapid climatic changes is a pressing concern amongst climate scientists. For example, an abrupt collapse of the ocean's Thermohaline Circulation (THC) would rapidly cool the northern hemisphere and reduce the net global primary productivity of vegetation, according to computer models. It is unclear how to incorporate such low-probability, high-impact events into the development of economics policies. This paper reviews the salient aspects of rapid climate change relevant to economists and policy makers. The main scientific certainties and uncertainties are clearly delineated, with the aim of guiding economics goals and ensuring that they retain fidelity to their scientific underpinnings.

Keywords

rapid climate change, global warming, greenhouse effect, thermohaline circulation, THC, climate feedbacks, tipping points, economics, climate policy, green economics