New Paper on Addressing the Urgency of More Stringent Climate Change Policy


May 30, 2019

News Type

Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Lawrence H. Goulder, director of Stanford University’s Center for Environmental and Energy Policy Analysis and a university fellow of Resources for the Future (RFF), is the author of a new paper posted today by RFF. The paper discusses how economists can address the issue of climate change more effectively by integrating considerations of urgency in their analyses.

The new paper is Addressing the Urgency of More Stringent Climate Change Policy. In it, Dr. Goulder outlines the following three features of the climate problem:

  1. The long residence times of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.
  2. The irreversibility of important biophysical impacts related to climate change.
  3. The proximity of current atmospheric stocks of CO2 to levels that would yield very serious climate change.

He claims that these three features together imply that action to reduce emissions of CO2 is urgent.

His paper presents four ways that economists can usefully address urgency and help provide information that increases the potential for near-term climate policy action:

  1. Emphasizing the cost-savings (avoided climate damages) associated with policies with greater prospects for nearer-term implementation.
  2. Developing and applying economic models that reveal in some detail the distribution of policy impacts on important stakeholder groups. These studies would provide important information to politicians and political scientists, who can then judge political feasibility and relative prospects for near-term implementation.
  3. Offering analyses that incorporate expected cost-savings from earlier implementation in the overall cost-assessments of policy alternatives.
  4. Applying integrated assessment models in a focused way to gauge the costs of delay in policy implementation.

He concludes that a sharper focus on the costs of delay “will yield very important policy-relevant information, lead to more adequate rankings of policy costs, and enable economists to provide better guidance to policymakers struggling to address a most urgent and important environmental problem.”

Read the full paper here: Addressing the Urgency of More Stringent Climate Change Policy.

Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Its mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may differ from those of other RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals.

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