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Country-level social cost of carbon

Nature Climate Changevolume 8pages895900 (2018) | Download Citation


The social cost of carbon (SCC) is a commonly employed metric of the expected economic damages from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Although useful in an optimal policy context, a world-level approach obscures the heterogeneous geography of climate damage and vast differences in country-level contributions to the global SCC, as well as climate and socio-economic uncertainties, which are larger at the regional level. Here we estimate country-level contributions to the SCC using recent climate model projections, empirical climate-driven economic damage estimations and socio-economic projections. Central specifications show high global SCC values (median, US$417 per tonne of CO2 (tCO2); 66% confidence intervals, US$177–805 per tCO2) and a country-level SCC that is unequally distributed. However, the relative ranking of countries is robust to different specifications: countries that incur large fractions of the global cost consistently include India, China, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

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M.T. thanks M. Burke for an early discussion of these ideas and about the climate impact functions. K.R. thanks C. McIntosh and J. Moreno-Cruz for helpful discussions during the revisions of this manuscript. M.T. received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement no. 336155 (project COBHAM). L.D received funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 642147 (CD-LINKS).

Author information


  1. School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

    • Katharine Ricke
  2. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

    • Katharine Ricke
  3. RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE), Milan, Italy

    • Laurent Drouet
    •  & Massimo Tavoni
  4. Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, CA, USA

    • Ken Caldeira
  5. Politecnico di Milano, Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Milan, Italy

    • Massimo Tavoni


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M.T. conceived the study. K.R. performed the climate data analysis. L.D. replicated the economic damage functions and performed the CSCC calculations and uncertainty analysis. K.R., M.T. and L.D. analysed the results. K.R. and M.T. wrote the manuscript. All authors discussed the results and provided input on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Katharine Ricke.

Supplementary Information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary Figures 1–13, Supplementary Tables 1–6, Supplementary References

  2. Supplementary Data 1

    CSCC Database

  3. Supplementary Data 2

    CSCC Database Readme

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