Metrics for aggregating the climate effects of different emissions: a unifying framework

Tol, Richard S J, Berntsen, Terje K, O'Neill, Brian C, Fuglestvedt, Jan S and Shine, Keith P (2012) Metrics for aggregating the climate effects of different emissions: a unifying framework. Environmental Research Letters, 7 (4). 044006. ISSN 1748-9326

Full text not available from this repository.


Multi-gas approaches to climate change policies require a metric establishing 'equivalences' among emissions of various species. Climate scientists and economists have proposed four kinds of such metrics and debated their relative merits. We present a unifying framework that clarifies the relationships among them. We show, as have previous authors, that the global warming potential (GWP), used in international law to compare emissions of greenhouse gases, is a special case of the global damage potential (GDP), assuming (1) a finite time horizon, (2) a zero discount rate, (3) constant atmospheric concentrations, and (4) impacts that are proportional to radiative forcing. Both the GWP and GDP follow naturally from a cost–benefit framing of the climate change issue. We show that the global temperature change potential (GTP) is a special case of the global cost potential (GCP), assuming a (slight) fall in the global temperature after the target is reached. We show how the four metrics should be generalized if there are intertemporal spillovers in abatement costs, distinguishing between private (e.g., capital stock turnover) and public (e.g., induced technological change) spillovers. Both the GTP and GCP follow naturally from a cost-effectiveness framing of the climate change issue. We also argue that if (1) damages are zero below a threshold and (2) infinitely large above a threshold, then cost-effectiveness analysis and cost–benefit analysis lead to identical results. Therefore, the GCP is a special case of the GDP. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change uses the GWP, a simplified cost–benefit concept. The UNFCCC is framed around the ultimate goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. Once a stabilization target has been agreed under the convention, implementation is clearly a cost-effectiveness problem. It would therefore be more consistent to use the GCP or its simplification, the GTP.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > Economics
Subjects: A General Works
Depositing User: Richard Tol
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2013 08:11
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2013 08:11
📧 Request an update