, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 447-472

Sea-Level Change: The Expected Economic Cost of Protection Or Abandonment in the United States

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Abstract

Three distinct models from earlier work are combined to: (1) produce probabilistically weighted scenarios of greenhouse-gas-induced sea-level rise; (2) support estimates of the expected discounted value of the cost of sea-level rise to the developed coastline of the United States, and (3) develop reduced-form estimates of the functional relationship between those costs to anticipated sea-level rise, the cost of protection, and the anticipated rate of property-value appreciation. Four alternative representations of future sulfate emissions, each tied consistently to the forces that drive the initial trajectories of the greenhouse gases, are considered. Sea-level rise has a nonlinear effect on expected cost in all cases, but the estimated sensitivity falls short of being quadratic. The mean estimate for the expected discounted cost across the United States is approximately $2 billion (with a 3% real discount rate), but the range of uncertainty around that estimate is enormous; indeed, the 10th and 90th percentile estimates run from less than $0.2 billion up to more than $4.6 billion. In addition, the mean estimate is very sensitive to associated sulfate emissions; it is, specifically, diminished by nearly 25% when base-case sulfate emission trajectories are considered and by more than 55% when high-sulfate trajectories are allowed.