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Study finds global action needed to ensure acceptable climate futures


Francisco Tutella
April 16, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ensuring a tolerable climate future, one that reduces warming while considering the costs, requires immediate global action, according to an international team of scientists.

“The study analyzes climate change as a multi-objective problem,” said Klaus Keller, professor of geosciences and an associate in the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. “Considering only a goal of tolerable temperature changes misses important aspects. One also needs to consider goals such as tolerable costs and impacts.”

The researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Nature Climate Change, used a popular climate-economy assessment model as a starting point. They improved the representations of the climate system and uncertainties — such as population growth, the cost of carbon-free technologies, and the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions — and examined 5.2 million future samples from these uncertainties.

The team defined ‘tolerable’ as a world where global mean warming at the end of the century is limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit); present value carbon abatement costs, or the costs to reduce carbon emissions, are below three percent of the gross world product; and present value climate damages are below two percent of the gross world product. These targets are consistent with climate-economic outcomes recommended by experts. The researchers found their conclusions remained consistent over a broad set of alternative definitions of tolerable. more 

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