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Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  257 ratings  ·  37 reviews
How knowing the extreme risks of climate change can help us prepare for an uncertain future

If you had a 10 percent chance of having a fatal car accident, you'd take necessary precautions. If your finances had a 10 percent chance of suffering a severe loss, you'd reevaluate your assets. So if we know the world is warming and there's a 10 percent chance this might eventually
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published February 22nd 2015 by Princeton University Press (first published February 1st 2015)
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Daniel I get your irony, but just playing along with this, it's natural to be doubtful of climate science because, more than likely, everyone around you beha…moreI get your irony, but just playing along with this, it's natural to be doubtful of climate science because, more than likely, everyone around you behaves as if climate science is not true. Furthermore, virtually every movie, TV show, sporting event, etc. glorifies burning fossil fuels.

If climate science is real, then the remaining "carbon allowance" (the amount of greenhouse gases humans can "safely" emit) is so small that your globally equitable individual share is less than two tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. For comparison, the average USA citizen emits about ten times that much. A wealthy person could easily emit 50 times that much. For most people in the world, their personal contributions to climate change are more a function of their incomes than anything else. The more money people have, the more greenhouse gases they dump into the atmosphere.

If climate science is true, then nothing like the typical USA lifestyle is possible.

For example, according to ExxonMobil, even in the year 2040 (25 years from now), 90% of transportation energy will still come from fossil fuels. Yet we need to make a 90% across-the-board cut in our greenhouse gas emissions RIGHT NOW. Even among environmentalists, you won't see many who call for an immediate 90% cut in motorized transportation. But if we actually believed climate science is true, that's one of the many difficult things we'd be doing.

For most people, facts and evidence do not primarily determine what is true to them. What matters most is what they see other people doing. And what virtually everybody is doing right now is betting their biosphere that climate change is bunk.

However, if you read a few dozen books that cover the facts and evidence for climate change, you'll realize there probably has never been a bigger disconnect between society and scientific reality than there is right now on climate change.(less)

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Dec 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: energy
There Is No Expedient to which a Man Will Not Resort to Avoid the Real Labor of Thinking

[Through my ratings, reviews and edits I'm providing intellectual property and labor to Inc., listed on Nasdaq, which fully owns and in 2014 posted revenues for $90 billion and a $271 million loss. Intellectual property and labor require compensation. Inc. is also requested to provide assurance that its employees and contractors' work conditions meet the highest health a
John Kaufmann
May 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: climate-change
This book talks a lot about probabilities and risk. It would be way over the head of lay readers trying to get a handle on climate change or climate economics. But it also had nothing new for those of us who are pretty knowledgeable about climate change (I worked in the energy/climate field for many years). So I don't know who the audience for this book should be. In addition, I thought it was very unclear in where it was going; the last chapter summarized the main thesis, but it was too little ...more
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
Disclaimer: This book was given to me for free by Netgalley in exchange for a review.

I think that this book is a necessary read, and books like it as well.

It mostly focuses on environment and economics. There was a heavy emphasis placed on that saving the environment should not lie on the shoulders of individuals people nor individual countries but as a collective community. The problem, as the author has stated, is finding a practical and economical way to make each country reduce and possibly
Keith Akers
Jul 19, 2016 rated it liked it
The start of the book was good: climate change is both urgent and difficult. The topic was quite relevant: we need to address the problem of climate change through economic measures, somehow. But I lost interest in this book about halfway through, due to a combination of things that weren’t (in my opinion) explained that well, plus lack of sympathy with the basic ideas and assumptions. These assumptions were not defended, and the authors seemingly are completely oblivious that they are even bein ...more
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is rather short, only 152 pages and then a ton of notes. But the content is very valuable to serious students of the climate crisis in a couple of ways. First, the authors explain the economics of the situation- why misguided market forces are driving us towards atmospheric carbon levels of 700 ppm in the year 2100, a situation that will benefit nobody. They explain that carbon pricing is the best solution. Second, they explain in depth the market forces that surround the concept of "g ...more
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Climate Shock is a concise presentation of the economic consequences of climate change. The authors present climate change as a risk management issue, discuss the real vs. perceived risk of the those consequences, and how policymakers respond. Geoengineering is also discussed as an option of last resort (both financially and environmentally.) The book concludes with a discussion of individual action vs. policy change, and how the former is futile without the latter.

Very accessible read, with rel
Mark Valentine
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I appreciate the direct, dry, honest writing here. Wagner & Weitzman identify the fearsome foursome of anthropogenic climate disruption: it's global, it's long-term, it's irreversible, and it's uncertain. The final one, uncertainty, is the worst because we still do not know how bad it will be.

Further, the authors present why geoengineering methods might have appeal but their effects will not be the solution to climate disruption--it will merely be a means of treating the symptoms.

I also apprec
Jeanne Boyarsky
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This 241 page book is really only 152 pages of text. There is *a lot* of endnotes and bibliography. The main text was a preface, 7 chapters and an epilogue. And one of those chapters (#2) was more of a glossary - it defined terms in alphabetical order.

Despite that, the book was actually a good read. It gives an overview of the problem. There is a lot on probability and best (350 ppm)/worst (700 ppm)/most likely case. Along with comparisons to the insurance industry. It was readable with "camels
Ben Walker
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great look at the economics of Climate Change. I enjoyed it. My four takeaways:
-$40/ton of CO2 is the current US estimate. It's probably too low (at least by a third).
-There's a 10% chance of ending life as we know it if we get to 700 ppm. It's a lognormal probability distribution
-Economic models use discounts rates around 4%. That is too high. 1.4% has also been used, but I'd prefer to see something closer to negative 1%.
-Low beta: when the market is bad, the return is good. Climate change w
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
On your left, you see a series of long articles about climate change disguised as a non-fiction book.

This is not a bad thing, not necessarily at least. It doesn't bore you, doesn't make you want to just ditch it and go live the rest of your life, but it does make you wonder if you would give it 28 bucks. It is very informative, including historical events for example as well as the thing it is actually about, and I appreciate how sincere the writing style is. Overall, I liked it, and I would rec
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Depressing but informative like his last book on chemical- Exposed. And shows what a rogue state the U.S. with regard to both climate change and toxics, compared with the rest of the world.

The conclusion he reaches was obvious ten years ago - that market-based cap and trade was a system to be gamed and that we just need to tax carbon if we are serious.

We really really need political change on this issue. Not just hope.
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Like a few reviewers have said, this book felt like a collection of essays and papers edited for continuity. Not particularly bad and there was a thread to follow, I also felt like the book had a good noise to signal ratio so I do recommend reading it.

I learned a few things from this book, most notably the risk assessments and what those risks mean with what we know now and that unknown unknowns exist (there's quite a few). They explained what we know and what we don't clearly and without boggin
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
I highly recommend you do not read this book. It's core is an argument for a carbon tax, which keeps getting repeated in different forms, ad nauseum. Wrapped around this are a few basic facts about global warming, a long glossary, a huge amount of footnotes, a short epilogue on some actions you can take (vote, stop flying, divest). There is also an interesting section on "crowding out" which is where there are only so many "good" actions one can commit- and that some people recycle but fly, whic ...more
Oliver Thomas
Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the refresher on basic climate maths - a scary reminder of why I decided to work on energy and climate change to begin with. You'd also struggle to find a book as well-written as this that better articulates the classic economist response to rising emissions: put a price on carbon and we can all go home. This is presented as self-evident rather when I'd argue it is anything but - certainly necessary, but not sufficient. Serious discussion of politics sorely lacking. I enjoyed the creat ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an OK book with two main points. Carbon should be taxed and we shouldn't engage in geoengineering. (Although, from my perspective, industrialization is geoengineering our planet.) I didn't realize the extent that instead of taxing carbon many nations actually subsidize fossil fuels. Also, the point that the potential "unknown unknowns" increase the need for action was interesting. The comparison to taking out insurance on low probability events was a good one, and I thought convincing. I ...more
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the book's title advertises its main theme as the *economic* consequences of climate change, it primarily deals with the collective action problems associated with responding to this issue. This wasn't what I was expecting when I purchased this book to read, but it still ended up being fairly compelling. Wagner and Weitzman do a decent job of breaking down the obstacles associated with tackling climate change, including the uncertainty of its likelihood and impact, the challenge of gett ...more
Fine overview, nice to have all the basic economic ideas about climate change in one spot. The authors provide a good overview of the science, including what's still unpredictable. Then they explain the economics of how we might cope with it. There's more here on geoengineering (e.g., shooting sulfur into the atmosphere to counteract the effects of global warming) than I would have expected, largely because they think it will be cheap enough that someone will have a financial incentive to do it ...more
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: climate model-builders
Recommended to Stephen by: Miranda
Not about climate science but about making decisions of the utmost importance under the utmost uncertainty. Explains different methods of pricing carbon, examines pros and cons of geoengineering. Does not go as much as I'd have liked into utility of a carbon tax. Makes a big point that the future price of carbon should not be discounted more than 2% at the most, but alas I could not get understand why. I want this on my shelf of climate reference books. Extensive end notes are a plus.
Jess Sohn
Oct 04, 2018 rated it did not like it
I could only get halfway through before giving up on this. I'm pretty disappointed and surprised by how annoyed I was since I agree with the premise! The authors are economists, not writers, and fail to organize their thoughts into a clearly digestible narrative, and instead scatter paragraph length sections of unconvincing ideas or inscrutable figures and graphs (with question marks for figures!) in a random fashion.

I'll be attempting Naomi Klein's book on the same subject next.
David Zerangue
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics, science
This is not a bad book, but it is not great, either. It is rather short. You can tell it is an amalgamation of various papers because each chapter presents in a very unique way. There is nothing overly revealing in this book. However, the topic is valid and the approach is sound. Sometimes dry. Sometimes entertaining. Always sobering.
Jackson Long
While the first chapter is a bit overwhelming, the rest of the book is well-paced and easy to digest. If you think climate change is a big problem that's going to be hard to tackle, you won't find yourself challenged very often, but it will sharpen your toolkit and try to put numbers behind this chaotic science.
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
While the book offers an in depth analysis of global warming with facts and figures, storyline is loose and leaves wondering of the logical sequence of sections. Feels more like reading a scientific paper than an scientific journalism book.
Joe Kurtek
May 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Thought the book was like Cliffnotes covering the climate crisis of Global Warming. I wanted something to dig my teeth into a little more, this really didn’t offer that. But, ultimately, can’t blame that on the book, that was its purpose. Just didn’t really love it.
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Couldn't even finish it. I was reading Lab Girl at the same time and could hardly pay attention to this one because it was not engaging at all.
Was expecting more...

A bit of a mess, I am afraid. Clearly written in a rush and would have needed more time and effort.
Nick DeFiesta
Apr 12, 2020 rated it liked it
climate through a neoliberal economic lens. great if you want bloodless discussions on asset pricing and discount rates
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read it because I saw that the authors were recommended as foremost climate economists. There were a few main points that I understood and made sense: the uncertainty and impossibility of forecasting how long we have before life on earth as we know it becomes impossible; how to forecast or estimate costs of various means of mitigation; geoengineering may be the least costly method but results are unpredictable and most importantly, rogue practitioners could greatly endanger everyone and would ...more
Martin Rowe
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Written with brio, wit, and some passion, this short, punchy (if somewhat repetitive) book is an excellent primer for the non-specialist on the risks of doing nothing or not enough about climate change and on how we might statistically and economically evaluate the various responses--political, economic, technological, and personal--to the inevitable disruptions that climate change will pose in the near, medium-term, and long-term future. They offer a timely and much-needed reminder that environ ...more
Jul 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Gernot Wagner is the lead senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, a member of the adjunct faculty at Columbia and a research associate at the Harvard University’s Kennedy School. Martin L. Weitzman is a Professor of Economics at Harvard University. In Climate Shock, the authors apply risk management and economic analysis tools to the issue of climate change.

Wagner and Wietzman start off by describing the huge scale and complexity of the climate change challenge writing that: “Climat
Mar 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book examines climate change and global warming using the tools of risk management and economic analysis. The result is shocking, as the title implies. Basically stated, the possibility of global catastrophe is probable by the year 2100 if we continue on our present course. Even a 10 percent probability of disastrous climate change is not something that a sane person would want to risk, and this is exactly what many scientists forecast. And that is the low end of the forecast! A 30 percent ...more
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Gernot Wagner is an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund. He teaches at Columbia and graduated from both Harvard and Stanford. He doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t drive, and knows full well the futility of his personal choices.

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