Climatic Change

, Volume 113, Issue 3, pp 897-917

The benefits of climate change mitigation in integrated assessment models: the role of the carbon cycle and climate component

  • Andries F. HofAffiliated withPBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency Email author 
  • , Chris W. HopeAffiliated withCambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
  • , Jason LoweAffiliated withMet Office, Hadley Centre, Reading University
  • , Michael D. MastrandreaAffiliated withWoods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University
  • , Malte MeinshausenAffiliated withPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne
  • , Detlef P. van VuurenAffiliated withPBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment AgencyDepartment of Geosciences, Utrecht University

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Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) are an important tool to compare the costs and benefits of different climate policies. Recently, attention has been given to the effect of different discounting methods and damage estimates on the results of IAMs. One aspect to which little attention has been paid is how the representation of the climate system may affect the estimated benefits of mitigation action. In that respect, we analyse several well-known IAMs, including the newest versions of FUND, DICE and PAGE. Given the role of IAMs in integrating information from different disciplines, they should ideally represent both best estimates and the ranges of anticipated climate system and carbon cycle behaviour (as e.g. synthesised in the IPCC Assessment reports). We show that in the longer term, beyond 2100, most IAM parameterisations of the carbon cycle imply lower CO2 concentrations compared to a model that captures IPCC AR4 knowledge more closely, e.g. the carbon-cycle climate model MAGICC6. With regard to the climate component, some IAMs lead to much lower benefits of mitigation than MAGICC6. The most important reason for the underestimation of the benefits of mitigation is the failure in capturing climate dynamics correctly, which implies this could be a potential development area to focus on.