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The risk of climate ruin

Bettis, Oliver D., Dietz, Simon and Silver, Nick G. (2017) The risk of climate ruin. Climatic Change, 140 (2). pp. 109-118. ISSN 0165-0009

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s10584-016-1846-3


How large a risk is society prepared to run with the climate system? This is a question of the utmost difficulty and it admits a variety of perspectives. In this paper we draw an analogy with the management and regulation of insurance companies, which are required to hold capital against the risk of their own financial ruin. Accordingly, we suggest that discussions about how much to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases could be framed in terms of managing the risk of ‘climate ruin’. This shifts the focus towards deciding upon an acceptable risk of the very worst-case scenario, and away from how “avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” has come to be framed politically. Moreover it leads to the conclusion that, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions today and in the future, the world is running a higher risk with the climate system than insurance companies run with their own solvency.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 The Authors © CC BY 4.0
Divisions: Grantham Research Institute
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2016 14:00
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:28
Projects: ES/K006576/1
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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