emissions from smokestack

Measuring the real-world costs of climate change


Climate change is already impacting our everyday lives, and these changes are likely to accelerate over the next few decades, with implications for the health and welfare of communities around the world and the performance of sectors across the economy. A crucial suite of questions surrounding the ongoing and future impacts of climate change remains largely unanswered. In particular, we lack rigorous, local-level impact analyses that can enable effective and equitable decision-making. This is especially important because the nature and magnitude of climate change impacts varies widely across the world’s diverse communities and stakeholder groups.

To investigate these lingering questions, emLab researchers collaborate with members of the Climate Impact Lab, a team of economists, climate scientists, data engineers, and risk analysts developing an evidence-based, data-driven approach to quantifying the impacts of climate change. This body of work aims to enable decision-makers in the public and private sectors to understand and mitigate the risks climate change presents through smarter investments and public policy.


The Climate Impact Lab employs a first-of-its-kind, evidence-based, data-driven approach to quantify the impacts and costs of climate change, sector-by-sector and community-by-community around the world, combining historical socioeconomic and climate data to derive actionable information about the future. The approach leverages big data analytical tools to find empirical evidence of how a changing climate has impacted society by estimating the relationship between a changing climate and human well-being across eight categories: human health, labor productivity, energy demand, agriculture, manufacturing, damage to coastal infrastructure, increased social conflict and crime, and altered migration patterns.

By monetizing and aggregating these impacts, the Climate Impact Lab aims to produce the world’s first empirically derived estimate of the social cost of carbon (SCC)—the cost to society and the economy from each ton of carbon dioxide emitted. The SCC is an essential tool for incorporating climate impacts into cost-benefit analyses for policymaking, corporate planning, and investment decision-making in the US and around the world.


This work is a collaboration with the Climate Impact Lab