Evaluating the Role of Prices and R&D in Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions
CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE (U S CONGRESS) WASHINGTON DC
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Several important human activities most notably the worldwide burning of coal, oil, and natural gas are gradually increasing the concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and, in the view of many climate scientists, are gradually warming the global climate. That warming, and any long-term damage that might result from it, could be reduced by restraining the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately limiting them to a level that stabilized atmospheric concentrations. The magnitude of warming and the damages that might result are highly uncertain, in part because they depend on the amount of emissions that will occur both now and in the future, how the global climate system will respond to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and how changes in climate will affect the health of human and natural systems. The costs of restraining emissions are also highly uncertain, in part because they will depend on the development of new technologies. From an economic point of view, the challenge to policymakers is to implement policies that balance the uncertain costs of restraining emissions against the benefits of avoiding uncertain damages from global warming or that minimize the cost of achieving a target level of concentrations or level of annual emissions. Researchers have studied the relative efficacy as well as the appropriate timing of various policies that might discourage emissions of carbon dioxide referred to as carbon emissions in the rest of this paper, which makes up the vast majority of greenhouse gases, and restrain the growth of its atmospheric concentration. This paper presents qualitative findings from that research, which are largely independent of any particular estimate of the costs or benefits of reducing emissions. The papers conclusions are summarized below.
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