The costs of achieving climate targets and the sources of uncertainty

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 to identify research priorities.

This article is available on the publisher’s website via restricted access.


PBL Authors
Detlef van Vuuren Kaj-Ivar van der Wijst Maarten van den Berg Andries Hof
Other authors
Stijn Marsman
Chris Jones


Publication title
The costs of achieving climate targets and the sources of uncertainty
Publication date
23 March 2020
Publication type
Publication language
Nature Climate Change
Product number