Gernot Wagner

Elizabeth T. Burns, Jane A. Flegal, David W. Keith, Aseem Mahajan, Dustin Tingley, and Gernot Wagner. 11/1/2016. “What do people think when they think about solar geoengineering? A review of empirical social science literature, and prospects for future research.” Earth's Future. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Public views and values about solar geoengineering should be incorporated in science-policy decisions, if decision makers want to act in the public interest. In reflecting on the past decade of research, we review around 30 studies investigating public familiarity with, and views about, solar geoengineering. A number of recurring patterns emerge: (1) general unfamiliarity with geoengineering among publics; (2) the importance of artifice versus naturalness; (3) some conditional support for certain kinds of research; and (4) nuanced findings on the “moral hazard” and “reverse moral hazard” hypotheses, with empirical support for each appearing under different circumstances and populations. We argue that in the coming decade, empirical social science research on solar geoengineering will be crucial, and should be integrated with physical scientific research.

Robert E. Kopp, Rachael Shwom, Gernot Wagner, and Jiacan Yuan. 7/2016. “Tipping elements and climate-economic shocks: Pathways toward integrated assessment.” Earth's Future. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The literature on the costs of climate change often draws a link between climatic ‘tipping points’ and large economic shocks, frequently called ‘catastrophes’. The phrase ‘tipping points’ in this context can be misleading. In popular and social scientific discourse, ‘tipping points’ involve abrupt state changes. For some climatic ‘tipping points,’ the commitment to a state change may occur abruptly, but the change itself may be rate-limited and take centuries or longer to realize. Additionally, the connection between climatic ‘tipping points’ and economic losses is tenuous, though emerging empirical and process-model-based tools provide pathways for investigating it. We propose terminology to clarify the distinction between ‘tipping points’ in the popular sense, the critical thresholds exhibited by climatic and social ‘tipping elements,’ and ‘economic shocks’. The last may be associated with tipping elements, gradual climate change, or non-climatic triggers. We illustrate our proposed distinctions by surveying the literature on climatic tipping elements, climatically sensitive social tipping elements, and climate-economic shocks, and we propose a research agenda to advance the integrated assessment of all three.

Gernot Wagner

Gernot Wagner

Research Associate, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Lecturer, Environmental Science and Public Policy
Associate, Harvard University Center for the Environment

Gernot Wagner is a research associate at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, a lecturer on Environmental Science and Public Policy, and an associate at the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

He wrote Climate Shock, joint with Harvard’s Martin Weitzman and published by Princeton University Press (2015), a 2015 Top 15 Financial Times McKinsey Business Book; and But will the planet notice? (Hill & Wang/Farrar Strauss & Giroux, 2011).

Gernot served as economist at the Environment Defense Fund (2008 – 2016), most recently as its lead senior economist (2014 – 2016) and member of its Leadership Council (2015 – 2016). He taught energy economics as adjunct associate professor at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (2011 – 2015) and at NYU Stern School of Business (2016).

Gernot Wagner and Richard J. Zeckhauser. Working Paper. “Confronting Deep and Persistent Climate Uncertainty.” Harvard Kennedy School, Faculty Research Working Paper Series, 16-025, 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Deep-seated, persistent uncertainty is a pernicious feature of climate change. One key parameter, equilibrium climate sensitivity, has eluded almost all attempts at pinning it down more precisely than a ‘likely’ range that has stalled at 1.5–4.5°C for over thirty-five years.

The marginal damages due to temperature increase rise rapidly. Thus, uncertainty in climate sensitivity significantly raises the expected costs of climate change above what they would be if the temperature increases were known to be close to a mean value 3.0°C. The costs of this uncertainty are compounded given that the distribution of possible temperature changes is strongly skewed toward higher values.