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Climate Models Underestimate Future Costs Says Study

10.04.2014
10.04.2014 06:40 Age: 4 yrs

Costs of carbon emissions are being underestimated, but current estimates are still valuable for setting mitigation policy, say researchers in Nature.

Click to enlarge. Economic models of climate change project that resulting damage (A) will increase with future emissions and may cost several per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) with the warming expected by 2100. Uncertainties in future socio-economic, emission rates and climate impacts in a range of estimates of the social costs of carbon, which is also affected by the choice of “discount rate” used to convert future harms into today's money (B). Courtesy: Nature and the authors, Revesz et al.

 

Future generations will have to pay more for today's carbon emissions than what governments across the world currently understand. The climate models used by policymakers around the world to estimate the economic and social costs of CO2 emissions have to be improved according to Thomas Sterner, professor of Environmental Economics at the School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, and six other scientists in the prestigious journal Nature.

The seven scientists behind the article, due to be published 10 April, conclude that the reports by the UN climate panel serve an important function in setting the agenda for climate research. Yet the most important role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is to inform the global political discussion on how the harm caused by climate change should be handled.

Thomas Sterner, expert on policy instruments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is a Coordinating Lead Author of one key chapter on policy instruments in the Working Group III of the Fifth Assessment Report of the UN (IPCC) climate report that is scheduled to be presented on Sunday 13 April in Berlin.



The social cost of carbon correspond to the money saved when damages due to climate change are avoided as a result of the countries of the world undertaking policy that leads to reduced emissions of CO2.





Also, the authors continue, modelers, economists and natural scientists must leave their ivory towers and cooperate with each other in order to identify research gaps and weaknesses, with a view to continuously improve their models. Economic climate models need to be updated more often to keep up with new research findings. If this is not done, the damage caused by CO2 emissions will be underestimated also in the future, which means that political decision-making around the world will continue to underestimate the true economic effects of climate change.

Citation

Global warming: Improve economic models of climate change by Richard L. Revesz, Peter H. Howard, Kenneth Arrow, Lawrence H. Goulder, Robert E. Kopp, Michael A. Livermore, Michael Oppenheimer & Thomas Sterner published in Nature online 4 April 2014 and in the 10 April 2014 edition of Nature.

Read the article here

Source

News release from the University of Gothenburg here