Economists frequently try to estimate the societal cost of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but few of their projections go beyond the year 2100.
Economists frequently try to estimate the societal cost of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but few of their projections go beyond the year 2100—far short of the millennia it takes for the climate changes from burning carbon to ultimately subside.
Two geoscientists and a philosopher from the University of Chicago wanted to take a much longer view on the matter. Their new estimate for an “ultimate cost of carbon” to humanity, published in the journal Climactic Change, came out closer to $100,000 per ton of carbon—a thousand times higher than the $100 or less routinely calculated for the cost to our generation.
“What we wanted to get with this calculation is a better sense of the burden we’re placing on future generations,” said Prof. David Archer, a computational climate scientist and author of several well-known books and online classes on climate change. “This is not intended to be a realistic calculation of the present-day value of costs, but it’s our attempt to try to put the huge time scales into more understandable units.
“Most people are not geologists, and even for us it’s really hard to wrap your mind around how long the changes we’re making now are actually going to last.”
Continue reading at University of Chicago.
Image via NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio.