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Climate policy under uncertain and heterogeneous climate damages

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Schmidt, M. G. W., Held, H., Kriegler, E., & Lorenz, A. (2013). Climate policy under uncertain and heterogeneous climate damages. Environmental & Resource Economics, 54, 79-99. doi:10.1007/s10640-012-9582-2.

We highlight that uncertainty about climate damages and the fact that damages will be distributed heterogeneously across the global population can jointly be an argument for substantially stricter climate policy even if uncertainty and heterogeneity in isolation are not. The reason is that a given climate risk borne by fewer people implies greater welfare losses. However, these losses turn out to be significant only if society is both risk and inequality averse and if climate damages are highly heterogeneous. We discuss how insurance and self-insurance of climate risk could theoretically mitigate this joint effect of uncertainty and heterogeneity and thus admit weaker climate policy. Insurance provides more efficient risk sharing and self-insurance allows strongly impacted individuals to compensate damages by increasing savings. We first use a simple analytical model to introduce the different concepts and then provide more realistic results from the integrated assessment model DICE.