The costs of achieving climate targets and the sources of uncertainty

D. P. van Vuuren, Kaj-Ivar van der Wijst, Stijn Marsman, Maarten van den Berg, Andries F. Hof, Chris D. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Effective climate policy requires information from various scientific disciplines. Here, we construct a metamodel from climate and integrated assessment models that assesses the emissions budget, costs and uncertainty sources of achieving temperature targets. By calibrating to the model-based literature range, the metamodel goes beyond the parametric uncertainty of individual models. The resulting median estimates for the cumulative abatement costs (at 5% discount rate) for 2 °C and 1.5 °C targets are around US$15 trillion and US$30 trillion, but estimates vary over a wide range (US$10–100 trillion for the 1.5 °C target). The sources determining this uncertainty depend on the climate target stringency. Climate system uncertainty dominates at high warming levels, but uncertainty in emissions reductions costs dominates for the Paris Agreement targets. In fact, costs differences between different socio-economic development paths can be larger than the difference in median estimates for the 2 °C and 1.5 °C targets. This simple metamodel helps to explore implications of scenario uncertainty and identify research priorities. Costs of achieving climate targets are uncertain. A metamodel estimates the median costs of limiting warming to 2 °C and 1.5 °C to be US$15 trillion and US$30 trillion. Uncertainty in emissions reductions costs dominates at these levels; climate system uncertainty dominates at higher warming levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-334
Number of pages6
JournalNature Climate Change
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Climate
  • Climate change
  • Socioeconomic scenarios
  • change mitigation


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