Climate models underestimate costs to future generations

Apr 08, 2014
This is Thomas Sterner, professor of environmental economics at the University of Gothenburg. Credit: The University of Gothenburg

Future generations will have to pay more for today's carbon emissions than what governments across the world currently understand. The climate models used by policymakers around the world to estimate the economic and social costs of CO2 emissions have to be improved according to Thomas Sterner, professor of Environmental Economics at the School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, and six other scientists in the prestigious journal Nature.

The seven scientists behind the article, due to be published April 10, conclude that the reports by the UN serve an important function in setting the agenda for . Yet the most important role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is to inform the global political discussion on how the harm caused by climate change should be handled.

Thomas Sterner, expert on policy instruments to reduce , is a Coordinating Lead Author of one key chapter on policy instruments in the Working Group III of the Fifth Assessment Report of the UN (IPCC) that is scheduled to be presented on Sunday 13 April in Berlin.

'Our purpose with this article in Nature is to discuss models that will enable us to calculate a necessary minimum level for the global environmental damage of emitting an additional ton of carbon dioxide. This cost is very relevant given the attempts of the White House to raise the so-called social cost of carbon in the U.S. to 37 dollars per ton. All U.S. authorities (such as the Departments of Energy or Transport) must take this cost into account in calculations of investments in roads and energy supply,' says Sterner.

The social cost of carbon correspond to the money saved when damages due to climate change are avoided as a result of the countries of the world undertaking policy that leads to reduced emissions of CO2.

'Sweden has already gone further than what the U.S. is discussing, since we have a CO2 tax of about USD 150 per ton, or SEK 1 per kilo, of CO2 emissions from transports and energy,' says Sterner.

The article in Nature is entitled Improve Economic Models of Climate Change. The authors point to several weaknesses of the most commonly used . However, they write that the models are useful, notwithstanding the significant uncertainties – since they do provide a minimum level and thus enable politicians to reduce the effects of climate change to some extent.

Also, the authors continue, modelers, economists and natural scientists must leave their ivory towers and cooperate with each other in order to identify research gaps and weaknesses, with a view to continuously improve their models. Economic climate models need to be updated more often to keep up with new research findings. If this is not done, the damage caused by CO2 emissions will be underestimated also in the future, which means that political decision-making around the world will continue to underestimate the true economic effects of .

Explore further: UN climate report: Pricing of CO2 emissions critical

More information: www.nature.com/news/global-war… imate-change-1.14991

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User comments : 12

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mememine69
2.1 / 5 (11) Apr 08, 2014
Climate change scientists have done to science what witch burners did for religion.
TegiriNenashi
1.7 / 5 (12) Apr 08, 2014
Used sales car salesman tells us there is special today-only promotion, putting a novel spin on it: "Think of your children!".
Caliban
4 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2014
If this is not done, the damage caused by CO2 emissions will be underestimated also in the future, which means that political decision-making around the world will continue to underestimate the true economic effects of climate change.


Unfortunately, the "political climate" in which we exist provides a very strong disincentive for assigning an accurate cost from global warming to future generations.

The disincentive is commonly known as "not getting elected".

Climate change scientists have done to science what witch burners did for religion.


Climate Science has done for politicians what witch burners did for, well --witches.
3432682
2.2 / 5 (10) Apr 08, 2014
The IPCC modelers ought to work on the temperature models, not the cost models. Temperature models have grossly overestimated temperature rise. There is very little likelihood that the models are correct. The temperature models also have poor ability to simulate past history. It seems that the basis of global warming theory is incorrect.
buggrthat
5 / 5 (7) Apr 08, 2014
I find it hard to believe that the Denialists would think there is any point to posting their lies and stupidity here.
Egleton
5 / 5 (5) Apr 09, 2014
The trouble is that we cannot ignore the paid trolls because of the fundamentals of propaganda that the lie must be repeated often to become common truth.
I wonder if we have the technology yet to generate artificial trolls?
So- yes the planet is still warming. No- It hasn't gone into another Ice Age.
runrig
5 / 5 (7) Apr 09, 2014
The IPCC modelers ought to work on the temperature models, not the cost models. Temperature models have grossly overestimated temperature rise. There is very little likelihood that the models are correct. The temperature models also have poor ability to simulate past history. It seems that the basis of global warming theory is incorrect.


Wrong. The models are merely quantifying error bounds for temperature. They cannot predict the slope but only provide an envelope within which the graph will lie.
This is simply because they use ensemble techniques and if any internal variance were signaled in any one model member the averaging on the ensemble removes it.
Take away the ENSO cycle in particular (not included in the models explicitly as the length of the cycle is variable/unpredictable) and the models are doing just fine thank you.
no fate
4.7 / 5 (3) Apr 09, 2014
The IPCC modelers ought to work on the temperature models, not the cost models. Temperature models have grossly overestimated temperature rise. There is very little likelihood that the models are correct. The temperature models also have poor ability to simulate past history. It seems that the basis of global warming theory is incorrect.


The temperature model factors into the cost model. The cost model is an extrapolation based on the collective ramifications we could face as a result if the predictive ability of the temperature model is valid. The "theory" of global warming is sound, how the earth is reacting/will react is the question mark.
Moebius
5 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2014
If climate change wipes out much of future generations (and it will), that drastically lessens the cost right?
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2014
Climate models like the 'models of doom' from the Club of Rome fail.
How many of the AGW socialists are worried about national debts and too much govt spending?
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2014
"But if
Limits
has had a broad and
sympathetic readership, it has also had
vociferous critics. The most carefully
argued rebuttal came from a group at
the University of Sussex in England;
their critique,
Models of Doom
, is longer
than the book it evaluates. The econ
-
omist William D. Nord
haus wrote a
blistering review;
the mathematician
David Berlinski was snide and mock
-
ing. Vaclav Smil later dismissed the
whole enterprise as
"an exercise in
misinformation and obfuscation." "
" But when a mathematical or scientific argument is
brought forward to justify taking such a painful and troubling action, standards
of rigor will surely be set very high.
In an unpublished paper on the
testing of system dynamics models,
Forrester and a student wrote:
"The
ultimate objective of validation is trans
-
ferred confidence in a model's useful
-
ness as a basis for policy change." That
has yet to happen for World3. "
http://www.americ...2-05Haye
howhot2
5 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2014
Climate models like the 'models of doom' from the Club of Rome fail.
How many of the AGW socialists are worried about national debts and too much govt spending?

We could always tax the 0.001% and outlaw Cayman Islands bank accounts that host billions of dollars in hidden tax revenue stolen from the USA by illegal means. That would probably take care of the national debt several times over.