Thursday, April 17, 2014

Climate Costs ‘May Prove Much Higher’

A house being raised against future storm surges. Costs of defending against and adapting to various climatic changes could be vastly underestimated, according to new research. (Credit: Paul Goyette/flickr) Click to enlarge.
Economists and scientists may have seriously underestimated the “social cost” of carbon emissions to future generations, according to a warning in Nature.

Social cost is a calculation in US dollars of the future damage that might be done by the emission of one metric ton of carbon dioxide as greenhouse gas levels soar and climates change, sea levels rise and temperature records are broken in future decades.

How much would society save if it didn’t emit that tonne of CO2?  One recent US estimate is $37.  Such a measure helps civil servants, businessmen and ministers to calculate the impact of steps that might be taken.

On the other hand, say Richard Revesz of New York University School of Law and US and Swedish colleagues, assumptions of cost per tonne – and these range from $12 to $64 according to various calculations – are based on models that need to be improved and extended.  The cost of climate change could be higher, for three principal reasons.
  • Flawed assumptions
  • More warming.
  • More methane.
Climate Costs ‘May Prove Much Higher’

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