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Climate mitigation will save us trillions in the long run, probably

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Economically, the global economy would be better off if we limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century — rather than 2°C above, according to US researchers. They combined historical data with socioeconomic projections to assess the economic damage associated with different levels of future warming. They found that keeping warming to 1.5°C has a 75 per cent chance (relative to the 2°C target) of reducing the economic damage brought on by climate change — even in the large economies of the US, China and Japan. An accompanying comment piece notes that the validity of this approach has been intensely debated in the economics community, but that the authors have been clear about the limitations of their study.

Journal/conference: Nature

Organisation/s: Stanford University, USA

Funder: The Erol Foundation (https://www.erolfoundation.org/).

Media Release

From: Springer Nature

Meeting Paris climate goal could bring substantial economic benefits 

The global and country-specific economic impacts of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100 are quantified in Nature this week. The study suggests that meeting the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal by the end of the century instead of the more common 2 degrees Celsius target is likely to yield considerable economic benefits — potentially saving more than 20 trillion US dollars.

Achieving the ambitious Paris Agreement climate goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels will require substantial investment in mitigation efforts. Understanding what, if any, economic benefits may arise from meeting the goal is thus necessary to inform decisions about whether or how to pursue the target.

Marshall Burke and colleagues combine historical data with national-level climate and socioeconomic projections to assess the economic damages associated with different levels of future warming. They estimate that by the end of the century, there is a 75 per cent chance that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would reduce economic damages relative to 2 degrees Celsius, and a 60 per cent chance that these benefits would exceed 20 trillion US dollars globally. They also find that 71 per cent of countries — including the three largest economies (the USA, China and Japan) and representing 90 per cent of the global population — have a 75 per cent chance of experiencing reduced economic damages at 1.5 degrees Celsius, with poorer countries benefiting most.

The authors caution that the approach is subject to various uncertainties, and factors such as abrupt changes in extreme events, including large-scale sea-level rise, or economic growth rates could affect the impacts of a warming climate. Nonetheless, the findings suggest that achieving the 1.5 degrees Celsius target is likely to reduce economic damages, while there is a strong possibility that failing to meet the 2 degrees Celsius target would increase damages substantially, perhaps by more than 15 per cent of global economic output.

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