Climate Impact Equity Lens (CIEL)

Staff: Stanton, E.A. ; Bueno, R. ; Davis, M.
Date: 2011-12
Client/Funder: SEI Research Innovation Fund (NOVA)

There will be both gainers and losers from unchecked greenhouse gas emissions: for some, the benefits received from the use of fossil fuels outweigh the negative effects of climate damages (the "net gainers"), while for others damages outweigh benefits (the "net losers"). The current literature of climate-economics modeling tends to obscure these important differences in the distribution of costs and benefits both within and between countries with its focus on average possible outcomes over large areas or populations.

The Climate Impact Equity Lens (CIEL, pronounced "see-el") is a new and innovative approach to calculating and reporting climate damages that shines a spotlight on disparate impacts on individuals. Its key insight is the presentation of climate impacts not as global or national averages, but rather for archetypal individuals. CIEL results are presented and compared for individuals facing low, medium and high damages in both high-income and low-income countries. This approach removes the obscuring layer created by aggregating across large groups with wide distributions of circumstances.

CIEL addresses two questions: What can we learn by approaching climate impacts at the level of the individual, rather than national or global averages? And how do modeling choices affect climate-economics results? Modeling choices studied in CIEL include how far out into the future we model; whether to use the most likely damage values instead of less likely, but more serious possible damages; and how we measure our gains from greenhouse gas emissions.

CIEL is unique in the field of climate economics. By incorporating key elements from ethics and climate science, this project will pave the way for a new interdisciplinary approach to distributional analysis of climate and greenhouse gas emissions impacts.

Related Publication(s):
Real People, Real Impacts: The Climate Impact Equity Lens
Real People, Real Impacts: The Climate Impact Equity Lens (Policy Brief)
The CIEL Backgrounder: Understanding the Climate Impact Equity Lens