Economics of tipping the climate dominoes

Derek Lemoine, Christian P. Traeger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Greenhouse gas emissions can trigger irreversible regime shifts in the climate system, known as tipping points. Multiple tipping points affect each other's probability of occurrence, potentially causing a domino effect. We analyse climate policy in the presence of a potential domino effect. We incorporate three different tipping points occurring at unknown thresholds into an integrated climate-economy model. The optimal emission policy considers all possible thresholds and the resulting interactions between tipping points, economic activity, and policy responses into the indefinite future. We quantify the cost of delaying optimal emission controls in the presence of uncertain tipping points and also the benefit of detecting when individual tipping points have been triggered. We show that the presence of these tipping points nearly doubles today's optimal carbon tax and reduces peak warming along the optimal path by approximately 1 °C. The presence of these tipping points increases the cost of delaying optimal policy until mid-century by nearly 150%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-519
Number of pages6
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 27 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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