Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Policy Makers Should Not Discount the Damages from Future Climate Tipping Points

What is at risk if we do nothing about climate change now? (Credit: © carloscastilla / Fotolia) Click to Enlarge.
Society should set a high carbon tax now to try and prevent climate change reaching a point of no return according to a new study. 

The research, carried out by the Universities of Exeter, Zurich, Stanford and Chicago is published in the journal Nature Climate Change and shows that the prospect of an uncertain future tipping point should greatly increase the amount we are willing to pay now to limit climate change.

Depending on the economic impacts of an abrupt change in climate and how quickly this is felt, the cost of carbon emitted now increases by 50 -- 200%. Setting a correspondingly high carbon tax would trigger a reduction in carbon emissions that delays the tipping point.

The researchers developed a model to investigate how the uncertainty surrounding tipping points should influence climate policy. Based on expert input, the likelihood that human activities will push the climate system past a tipping point increases from 2.5% in 2050 to nearly 50% in 2200 in their baseline scenario.

Professor Tim Lenton from Geography at the University of Exeter said: "Our results support recent suggestions that the costs of carbon emissions used to inform policy are being underestimated.

"We are calling on policy makers to respond to the prospect of triggering future climate tipping points by applying the brakes now and putting a high price on carbon emissions before it is too late.
The potential climate tipping points considered in the study were a collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation; irreversible melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet; collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet; dieback of the Amazon rainforest; or an increase in the amplitude of the El Niño Southern Oscillation.

Read more at Policy Makers Should Not Discount the Damages from Future Climate Tipping Points

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