NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Preserving the Ocean Circulation: Implications for Climate Policy

Klaus Keller, Kelvin Tan, Francois M.M. Morel, David F. Bradford

NBER Working Paper No. 7476
Issued in January 2000
NBER Program(s):   PE

Climate modelers have recognized the possibility of abrupt climate changes caused by a reorganization of the North Atlantic's current pattern (technically known as a thermohaline circulation collapse). This circulation system now warms north-western Europe and transports carbon dioxide to the deep oceans. The posited collapse of this system could produce severe cooling in north-western Europe, even when general global warming is in progress. In this paper we use a simple integrated assessment model to investigate the optimal policy response to this risk. Adding the constraint of avoiding a thermohaline circulation collapse would significantly reduce the allowable greenhouse gas emissions in the long run along an optimal path. Our analysis implies that relatively small damages associated with a collapse (less than 1 % of gross world product) would justify a considerable reduction of future carbon dioxide emissions.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w7476

Published: Keller, Klaus, Kelvin Tan, François M. M. Morel, and David F. Bradford. "Preserving the Ocean Circulation: Implications for Climate Policy." Climatic Change 47, 1-2 (October 2000): 17-43.

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