Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Social Cost of Carbon

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Christopher Kellett, University of Newcastle, is speaking on "The Social Cost of Carbon - Mitigating Global Warming Whilst Avoiding Economic Collapse via Optimal Control for Carbon Pricing". He went through a mathematical model of the climate and the economy. Such models have a checkered history, going back to "Limits to Growth" (1972). Professor Kellett made some useful comments as to how reasonable how assumptions underlying such models. However, assumptions from engineering and control theory may not be applicable when what is being modeled is human behavior. As an example, Professor Kellett questioned if carbon reduction could be made very rapidly, given the time taken to install new plant and equipment. However, reductions can also be made due to human behavior, where for example, a small increase in price can lead to people using less energy and therefore causing less emissions, within days.

Two factors suggest that  Professor Kellett's work will be more valuable than previous efforts: he has a healthy skepticism as to the accuracy of such models and the model produces plausible prices for carbon (US$22.90 to US$65.10 tonnes of carbon dioxide).

There is a paper:

Weller, S. R., Hafeez, S., & Kellett, C. M. (2015). Estimates of the social cost of carbon using climate models derived from the CMIP3 ensemble. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Steven_Weller/publication/274392763_Estimates_of_the_social_cost_of_carbon_using_climate_models_derived_from_the_CMIP3_ensemble/links/55656c2a08aec4b0f4859bcf.pdf

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