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Uncertainty in forecasts of long-run economic growth

P. Christensen, K. Gillingham, W. Nordhaus



Significance. This study develops estimates of uncertainty in projections of global and regional per-capita economic growth rates through 2100, comparing estimates from expert forecasts and an econometric approach designed to analyze long-run trends and variability. Estimates from both methods indicate substantially higher uncertainty than is assumed in current studies of climate change impacts, damages, and adaptation. Results from this study suggest a greater than 35% probability that emissions concentrations will exceed those assumed in the most severe of the available climate change scenarios (RCP 8.5), illustrating particular importance for understanding extreme outcomes.

Abstract. Forecasts of long-run economic growth are critical inputs into policy decisions being made today on the economy and the environment. Despite its importance, there is a sparse literature on long-run forecasts of economic growth and the uncertainty in such forecasts. This study presents comprehensive probabilistic long-run projections of global and regional per-capita economic growth rates, comparing estimates from an expert survey and a low-frequency econometric approach. Our primary results suggest a median 2010–2100 global growth rate in per-capita gross domestic product of 2.1% per year, with a standard deviation (SD) of 1.1 percentage points, indicating substantially higher uncertainty than is implied in existing forecasts. The larger range of growth rates implies a greater likelihood of extreme climate change outcomes than is currently assumed and has important implications for social insurance programs in the United States.


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (14 May 2018), 201713628, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1713628115 
Key: INRMM:14588218

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