Integrated Assessment

Climatic Change

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 337-368

First online:

Learning from integrated assessment of climate change

  • M. Granger MorganAffiliated withCarnegie Mellon University
  • , Hadi DowlatabadiAffiliated withCarnegie Mellon University

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The objective of integrated assessment of climate change is to put available knowledge together in order to evaluate what has been learned, policy implications, and research needs. This paper summarizes insights gained from five years of integrated assessment activity at Carnegie Mellon. After an introduction, in Section 2 we ask: who are the climate decision makers? We conclude that they are a diffuse and often divergent group spread all over the world whose decisions are primarily driven by local non-climate considerations. Insights are illustrated with results from the ICAM-2 model. In Section 3 we ask: what is the climate problem? In addition to the conventional answer, we note that in a democracy the problem is whatever voters and their elected representatives think it is. Results from studies of public understanding are reported. Several other specific issues that define the problem, including the treatment of aerosols and alternative indices for comparing greenhouse gases, are discussed. In Section 4 we discuss studies of climate impacts, focusing on coastal zones, the terrestrial biosphere and human health. Particular attention is placed on the roles of adaptation, value change, and technological innovation. In Section 5 selected policy issues are discussed. We conclude by noting that equity has received too little attention in past work. We argue that many conventional tools for policy analysis are not adequate to deal with climate problems. Values that change, and mixed levels of uncertainty, pose particularly important challenges for the future.