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Comparing Greenhouse Gases for Policy Purposes

Abstract:
In order to derive optimal policies for greenhouse gas emissions control, the discounted marginal damages of emissions from different gases must be compared. The greenhouse warming potential (GWP) index, which is most often used to compare greenhouse gases, is not based on such a damage comparison. This essay presents assumptions under which ratios of gas-specific discounted marginal damages reduce to ratios of discounted marginal contributions to radiative forcing, where the discount rate is the difference between the discount rate relevant to climate-related damages and the rate of growth of marginal climate-related damages over time. If there are important gas-specific costs or benefits not tied to radiative forcing, however, such as direct effects of carbon dioxide on plant growth, there is in general no shortcut around explicit comparison of discounted net marginal damages.

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Energy Specializations: Energy and the Environment – Climate Change and Greenhouse Gases; Energy and the Environment – Policy and Regulation

JEL Codes:
Q54 - Climate; Natural Disasters and Their Management; Global Warming
E60 - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook: General

Keywords: Greenhouse gases, Climate policy, Radiative forcing, Greenhouse warming potential (GWP)

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol14-No1-10


Published in Volume 14, Number 1 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.