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Title: Consequences of equivalency metric design for energy transitions and climate change

Assessments of the climate impacts of energy technologies and other emissions sources can depend strongly on the equivalency metric used to compare short- and long-lived greenhouse gas emissions. However, the consequences of metric design choices are not fully understood, and in practice, a single metric, the global warming potential (GWP), is used almost universally. Many metrics have been proposed and evaluated in recent decades, but questions still remain about which ones perform better and why. Here, we develop new insights on how the design of equivalency metrics can impact the outcomes of climate policies. We distill the equivalency metric problem into a few key design choices that determine the metric values and shapes seen across a wide range of different proposed metrics. We examine outcomes under a hypothetical 1.5 or 2C policy target and discuss extensions to other policies. Across policy contexts, the choice of time parameters is particularly important. Metrics that emphasize the immediate impacts of short-lived gases such as methane can reduce rates of climate change but may require more rapid technology changes. Differences in outcomes across metrics are more pronounced when fossil fuels, with or without carbon capture and storage, play a larger role in energy more » transitions. By identifying a small set of consequential design decisions, these insights can help make metric choices and energy transitions more deliberate and effective at mitigating climate change.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Climatic Change
Springer Science + Business Media
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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