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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Incorporating climate uncertainty into estimates of climate change impacts

  • Author(s): Burke, M
  • Dykema, J
  • Lobell, DB
  • Miguel, E
  • Satyanath, S
  • et al.

© 2015 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Quantitative estimates of the impacts of climate change on economic outcomes are important for public policy. We show that the vast majority of estimates fail to account for well-established uncertainty in future temperature and rainfall changes, leading to potentially misleading projections. We reexamine seven well-cited studies and show that accounting for climate uncertainty leads to a much larger range of projected climate impacts and a greater likelihood of worst-case outcomes, an important policy parameter. Incorporating climate uncertainty into future economic impact assessments will be critical for providing the best possible information on potential impacts.

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