Hitting U.N. temperature targets could save global economy $30 trillion

The sun setting over Mount Mutis Nature Reserve in West Timor, Indonesia. CIFOR/Nanang Sujana
10 July 2018

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — Meeting the strictest climate change targets laid out in the U.N. Paris Agreement will help the global community save about $30 trillion in damages, according to a recent assessment.

Based on an analysis of 50 years of data, researchers determined that the benefits of meeting the targets would outweigh the costs of cutting emissions.

These economic benefits would extend to most of the word’s nations and to 90 percent of the population.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, assess the economics of restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — a key commitment of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Research shows that economies typically decline as global temperatures increase, with extreme heat, drought, climate-driven migration, flooding, rising sea levels and other factors putting a damper on robust growth.

With this in mind and using 40 global climate models, researchers measured the economic yields of hitting the toughest Paris climate target. The paper assessed the annual average temperature and growth in Gross Domestic Product from 165 countries between 1960 and 2010.

Most nations, representing 90 percent of global population, would benefit economically from keeping global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the researchers found. This includes almost all of the world’s poorest countries, as well as the three of the biggest economies – the United States (which pulled out of the Paris climate agreement last year), China and Japan.

Already there is a narrow threshold to limit temperature rise below 1.5C, according to the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of leading scientists.

To hit these temperature targets, renewable energy, fossil fuel reduction, lowering population growth, and carbon capture have been among the strategies put forward. But these approaches come with their own caveats. A recent report also warned about a possible “carbon bubble’” driven financial crisis due to reduced demand for fossil fuels.

But the consequences of the world essentially over-heating are dire. A landmark study from the University of East Anglia, the James Cook University and the World Wildlife Fund predicted catastrophic loss of plant and animal life if carbon emissions cuts are not made and temperatures continue to increase.

Vital ocean life would also be endangered as oceans warm and currents change. As the Nature study highlights, those economic costs would have an adverse impact on the world’s most vulnerable people.

“Not accounting for abatement costs, our results suggest that 1.5 degrees global warming is ‘likely’ to result in substantial economic benefits relative to 2 degrees Celsius, with foregone damages probably in the tens of trillions of
dollars and 59 percent of countries ‘virtually certain’ to benefit,” the authors of the Nature study concluded.

“Given that most of these countries feature large populations or high poverty rates or both, our results suggest that achieving more stringent mitigation targets will probably generate a net global benefit, with particularly large benefits for the poorest populations.”

 

RESOURCES

Large potential reduction in economic damages under UN mitigation

11 takeaways from the draft UN report on a 1.5C global warming limit

Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C

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