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More global warming will be worse for the economy, says the Copenhagen Consensus Center

Bjorn Lomborg, Copenhangen Consensus Center

Bjorn Lomborg leads the Copenhangen Consensus Center, which has concluded that more global warming will be worse for the economy. Photograph: Camera Press


Powered by article titled “More global warming will be worse for the economy, says the Copenhagen Consensus Center” was written by Dana Nuccitelli, for on Friday 24th January 2014 14.00 UTC

The Copenhagen Consensus Center (oddly, located in Massachusetts) is a think tank headed by Bjorn Lomborg that advocates for what they consider “the best ways for governments and philanthropists to spend aid and development money.” The group recently released a report that attempts to quantify the economic damage caused by various global problems, including climate change. Regarding climate change and its costs, the group states,

“Climate change is real and man-made … After year 2070, global warming will become a net cost to the world, justifying cost-effective climate action.”

The climate change section was written by Richard Tol, who is one among several economists who have developed what are known as “integrated assessment models,” which combine climate and economic modeling to estimate the costs of climate change. The Copenhagen Consensus Center climate costs report focuses on the impacts to global gross domestic product (GDP), and the results from Tol’s FUND model are illustrated in the figure below (averages are the black curves).

Economic Impacts of Climate Change

The global average, minimum and maximum total annual economic impact of climate change in the 20th and 21st century. From the Copenhagen Consensus Center report.

This figure is based on a scenario in which the average global surface temperature warms by approximately 3.6°C between 1900 and 2100, which is a scenario that would require fairly modest efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The modeled economic benefits from climate change come from factors like more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere “fertilizing” agriculture and fewer cold-related deaths. However, there’s evidence that we’re approaching the point where negative climate-related impacts on plant life offset the benefits from fertilization, and there will be more heat-related deaths in a warmer world.

In the figure above, while the annual impact on the global economy from climate change remains positive until the late 21st century, the solid black curve begins to turn downward after 2025. This means that according to this report, after that date, climate change will have less and less of an annual economic benefit, until it eventually becomes a drag on the global economy. Thus to maximize the impact on the economy, we would stabilize global temperatures at 2025 levels (about 1°C warmer than 1900).

However, we’re committed to global warming beyond 1°C from the greenhouse gases we’ve already emitted. Hence any further human greenhouse gas emissions from here on out will cost us money, according to the Copenhagen Consensus Center Report.

The report also notes that some troubling consequences are overlooked when focusing on the global average economic impact.

“Most countries benefitted from climate change until 1980, but after that the trend is negative for poor countries and positive for rich countries. The global average impact was positive in the 20th century. In the 21st century, impacts turn negative in most countries, rich and poor.”


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