In order to avoid dangerous levels of climate change and crossing irreversible tipping points in the future, the price of carbon should be increased by up to 200%, according to a new study.
Researchers from the Universities of Exeter, Zurich, Stanford and Chicago have urged policymakers not to discount the damages from future climate tipping points. The study, which has been published the journal Nature Climate Change, argues that the prospect of future tipping points should greatly increase the amount we are willing to pay now to limit climate change.
The research concluded that the cost of carbon emissions now should be increased by between 50 and 200% and setting a correspondingly high tax would trigger a reduction in emissions, therefore limiting climate change.
Using a model, the researchers found that the likelihood of human activities pushing the climate system past a tipping point increases from 2.5% in 2050 to almost 50% in 2200. They argue that policymakers should take this into consideration.
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Professor Tim Lenton, from geography at the University of Exeter, said, “Our results support recent suggestions that the costs of carbon emissions used to inform policy are being underestimated.
“We are calling on policymakers to respond the prospect of triggering future climate tipping points by applying the brakes now and putting a high price on carbon emissions before its too late. The additional carbon tax that our model recommends can be thought of as an insurance premium levied on society to delay irreversible damages in the future.”
The study looked at a number of different tipping points, including the collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, irreversible melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet and dieback of the Amazon rainforest.
A separate study recently argued that increasing the price of carbon in the EU ten-fold would likely have an “extremely limited” impact on the economy, despite claims that it could harm businesses.
Photo: Martin Nikolaj Bech via Flickr