New Report Finds Costs of Climate Change Impacts Often Underestimated

Flooding in Port Arthur, Texas during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. (Credit: Click to Enlarge.

Climate economics researchers have often underestimated – sometimes badly underestimated – the costs of damages resulting from climate change.  Those underestimates occur particularly in scenarios where Earth’s temperature warms beyond the Paris climate target of 1.5 to 2 degrees C (2.7 to 3.6 degrees F).

That’s the conclusion of a new report written by a team of climate and Earth scientists and economists from the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.  It’s a conclusion consistent with the findings of numerous recent climate economics studies.

Once temperatures warm beyond those Paris targets, the risks of triggering unprecedented climate damages grow.  However, because the rate and magnitude of climate change has entered uncharted territory in human history, the temperature thresholds and severity of future climate impacts remain highly uncertain, and thus difficult to capture in climate economics models.  Put simply, it’s difficult to project the economic impacts resulting from circumstances which are themselves unprecedented.

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