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Economics and policy issues in climate change /

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Global climate change has emerged as one of today's most challenging and controversial policy issues. In this significant new contribution, a roster of premier scholars examines economic and social aspects of that far-reaching phenomenon. Although the 1997 "summit" in Kyoto focused world attention on climate, it was just one step in an ongoing process. Research by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been ongoing since 1988. An extensive IPCC Working Group report published in 1995 examined the economic and social aspects of climate change. In this new volume, eminent economists assess that IPCC report and address the questions that emerge. The result is a reasoned, cogent look at the realities of climate change and some methods (and difficulties) of dealing with them.William Nordhaus's introduction establishes the context for this book. It provides basic scientific background, reviews the IPCC's activities, and explains the genesis of the project. Subsequent contributions fall into two categories. Early chapters review analytical issues critical to social and economic understanding of climate change. For example, Granger Morgan looks at how typical decisionmaking frameworks relate to this topic. Other chapters in this section discuss discounting and intergenerational equity, the possible role of cost-benefit analysis, and the institutional architecture needed to address the problem effectively. A second set of chapters address specific economic questions surrounding climate-change policy. For example, John Weyant and Tom Kram look at the costs of slowing climate change. Weyant agrees with the IPCC that the economic cost is high, relative to other economic and environmental policies. There is tremendous uncertainty in these estimates, however, and different approaches to modeling -- economic, engineering, and social-psychological -- yield very different interpretations and prognoses. In another chapter, Robert Mendelsohn examines the costs of not slowing climate change. What impacts can we expect, how might they vary among different nations and regions, and how likely are we to encounter catastrophic results?

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