EGU2020-8332, updated on 12 Jun 2020
EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Aerosol - Climate Interactions, the Distribution of Aerosol Impacts, and Implications for the Social Cost of Carbon

Jennifer Burney1, Geeta Persad2, Jonathan Proctor3, Marshall Burke4,5,6, Eran Bendavid7, Sam Heft-Neal4,5, and Ken Caldeira2
Jennifer Burney et al.
  • 1University of California, San Diego, School of Global Policy and Strategy, San Diego CA USA (
  • 2Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Global Ecology, Stanford CA USA (
  • 3Harvard University, Center for the Environment, Cambridge MA USA (
  • 4Stanford University, Department of Earth System Science, Stanford CA USA (
  • 5Stanford University, Center on Food Security and the Environment, Stanford CA USA (
  • 6National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge MA USA (
  • 7Stanford University, School of Medicine, Stanford CA USA (

Here we demonstrate how the same aerosol emissions, released from different locations, lead to different regional and global changes in the physical environment, in turn resulting in divergent magnitudes and spatial distributions of societal impacts. Atmospheric chemistry and the general circulation do not evenly distribute aerosols around the globe, so aerosol impacts -- both direct and via interactions with the general circulation -- vary spatially. Our repeat-cycle perturbation experiment shows that the same emissions, when released from one of 8 different regions, result in significantly different steady-state distributions of surface particulate matter (PM2.5), total column aerosol optical depth (AOD), surface temperature, and precipitation. We link these changes in the physical environment to established temperature, precipitation, AOD, and PM2.5 damage functions to estimate both local and global impacts on infant mortality, crop yields, and economic growth. Because the damages associated with these aerosol and aerosol precursor emissions are strongly emission-location dependent, the marginal dollar spent on mitigation would have very different returns in different locations, both locally and globally. This has important implications for calculating a realistic social cost of carbon, since these aerosol-mediated effects are ultimately inseparable from the processes producing CO2 emissions.

How to cite: Burney, J., Persad, G., Proctor, J., Burke, M., Bendavid, E., Heft-Neal, S., and Caldeira, K.: Aerosol - Climate Interactions, the Distribution of Aerosol Impacts, and Implications for the Social Cost of Carbon, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-8332,, 2020