Climate economics support for the UN climate targets
Journal article, 2020

Under the UN Paris Agreement, countries committed to limiting global warming to well below 2 °C and to actively pursue a 1.5 °C limit. Yet, according to the 2018 Economics Nobel laureate William Nordhaus, these targets are economically suboptimal or unattainable and the world community should aim for 3.5 °C in 2100 instead. Here, we show that the UN climate targets may be optimal even in the Dynamic Integrated Climate–Economy (DICE) integrated assessment model, when appropriately updated. Changes to DICE include more accurate calibration of the carbon cycle and energy balance model, and updated climate damage estimates. To determine economically ‘optimal’ climate policy paths, we use the range of expert views on the ethics of intergenerational welfare. When updates from climate science and economics are considered jointly, we find that around three-quarters (or one-third) of expert views on intergenerational welfare translate into economically optimal climate policy paths that are consistent with the 2 °C (or 1.5 °C) target.


Martin C. Hänsel


Moritz A. Drupp

Münchener Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wirtschaftswissenschaft - CESifo GmbH

University of Hamburg

Daniel Johansson

Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Frikk Nesje

University of Oslo

Heidelberg University

Christian Azar

Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Mark C. Freeman

University of York

Ben Groom

London School of Economics and Political Science

University of Exeter

Thomas Sterner

University of Gothenburg

Nature Climate Change

1758-678X (ISSN) 1758-6798 (eISSN)

Vol. 10 8 781-789

Subject Categories

Energy Systems

Physical Geography

Climate Research



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