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Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis

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The need for multiple types of information to inform climate change assessment

Michael Toman
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  • Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank, 1818 H St., NW, Washington, DC 20433, USA
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Published Online: 2015-01-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jbca-2014-9005


Many critics of economic analysis of climate change impacts and response options claim that information is needed on ecosystem characteristics as well as on economic values to fully inform decisions about how climate change affects human well-being. Information on the irreversibility of impacts also is important, critics argue, because it relates to how society evaluates implications for intergenerational equity. In addition, because climate change is subject to a large degree of Knightian uncertainty, it is useful to understand both the information available for assessing climate change risks, and how individuals themselves perceive and evaluate risks. The paper discusses rationales for using these types of information as important complements to benefit-cost analysis for evaluating climate change risks and responses. Ideally such information could be available in a “dashboard” for decision makers assessing social and economic impacts, although limits on currently available information are a significant barrier to using that approach.

Keywords: benefit-cost analysis; climate change; ecosystem valuation; intergenerational equity; safe minimum standard; sustainable development; uncertainty


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About the article

Corresponding author: Michael Toman, Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank, 1818 H St., NW, Washington, DC 20433, USA, e-mail:

Published Online: 2015-01-13

Published in Print: 2014-12-01

Citation Information: Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 469–485, ISSN (Online) 2152-2812, ISSN (Print) 2194-5888, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jbca-2014-9005.

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