Study finds global action needed to ensure acceptable climate futures | 3/11/2019 | Staff
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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."

Researchers - Findings - Nature - Climate - Change

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.

Researchers - Window - Results - Outcomes - Window

The researchers identified a narrow window that results in tolerable outcomes. However, staying within this window requires immediate action to make the energy system carbon neutral within a few decades.

"We know that emitting carbon dioxide causes problems down the line," Keller said. "Even if we drop to zero...
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