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State of the literature on the economic impacts of climate change in the United States

James E. Neumann and Kenneth Strzepek

Abstract

This paper discusses the current literature on impacts and adaptation costs at the sectoral level. The focus is primarily the US, but includes examples on international applications that highlight key differences or other relevant demonstrations of method and data use. The paper provides an overall framework that addresses the components of economic impacts, including definitions of impacts, adaptation costs, and residual damages. The paper then focuses on understanding the current breadth and depth of the literature that exists to characterize what we know about economic sectors studied in the recent literature (agriculture, coastal resources, water resources, infrastructure, health, crime, energy, labor productivity, and ecosystems), how the methodologies differ, what the gaps and challenges are, and offers a sense of the impacts at the US national level. A new generation of impact studies, including the U.S. EPA’s ongoing Climate Impacts and Risk Analysis (CIRA) project; the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR5 Working Group II report; the U.S. National Climate Assessment; and the Risky Business Project led by the Next Generation Foundation, provide the motivation for this review. These efforts, taken together, have advanced the state of US economic impact assessment work along two critical frontiers, both of which support benefit-cost analyses of climate change: assessment of the risk and economic consequences of extreme climatic events; and assessment of ecosystem effects. Yet, the latest work also highlights gaps in the lack of comprehensive sectoral coverage; more complete incorporation of adaptation opportunities in impact assessment; and critical cross- and multi-sectoral effects that remain poorly understood.


Corresponding author: James E. Neumann, Principal, Industrial Economics, Inc., 2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140, USA, e-mail:

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