The climate policy debate has largely shifted from science to economics. There is a well-developed consensus, at least in broad outlines, about the physical science of climate change and its likely implications. That consensus is embodied in massive general circulation models (GCMs) that provide detailed projections of average temperatures, precipitation, weather patterns, and sea-level rise.
Even the best models of physical processes, however, cannot answer the key questions about climate economics that are becoming increasingly central to policy debate: How much will it cost to stabilize the climate and avoid dangerous climate change? How should the costs be shared? Does climate protection promote or compete with economic development for lower-income countries?
Frank Ackerman is a senior economist and director of the Climate Economics Group at the Stockholm Environment Institute’s US Center (SEI-US), an independent research affiliate of Tufts University in Somerville, Massachusetts. He is a founder and steering committee member of Economics for Equity and Environment (the E3 Network) and a member scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform in Washington, D.C. He is also a senior research fellow at the Global Development and Environment Institute of Tufts University, where he led the Research and Policy Program until 2007. Liz Stanton is a senior economist with SEI-US. Ramón Bueno is a computer modeler and data analyst specializing in the economics of climate change. This article is the Stockholm Environment Institute’s Working Paper WP-US-10-03 (28 April 2010); it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.