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Falling Short of Paris Targets Will Cost $600 Trillion by 2100, New Study Shows

The world’s governments will miss out on US$600 trillion in economic activity by the end of the century if they stay on their present path for carbon emission reductions, rather than setting and meeting tougher targets consistent with the 2015 Paris agreement, according to a paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

“Every country in the world would be economically better off if all could agree to strengthen their commitments on the climate crisis through international cooperation,” The Guardian writes, citing the new research led by scientists from the Beijing Institute of Technology. “But if countries go no further than their current CO2 pledges—which are too weak to meet the goals of the Paris agreement, and would lead to dangerous levels of global heating—then they face steep economic losses.”

Those losses will hit $800 trillion by 2100 if countries fail to meet their current, tepid Paris targets, the researchers found.

“Combating climate change is not a matter for one country. It requires collective action and cooperation from all countries around the world,” said study co-author Biying Yu. “Let’s work together and save ourselves.”

The study team “calculated the potential benefits by including the social welfare aspects of cutting emissions and of economic growth, which gives more weight than some other models to developing countries with large populations of poor and vulnerable people,” The Guardian explains. “They found that better international cooperation on emissions would lead to better outcomes for such people, who are likely to be worst affected by climate breakdown.”

While all countries see long-term gains from emission reductions, “such a strategy has greater benefits for developing countries with high emissions, such as India, Indonesia, Nigeria. and China, than for developed countries such as the U.S. and the EU in the medium term,” the UK-based paper adds.

“Early and quick action will provide a better chance to close the widening emissions gap, even though a large amount of abatement cost would occur in the short term,” the study states.

The new research lands at a time when fossils, automakers, airlines, and other industries are lobbying governments to water down or roll back their climate commitments in light of the economic crash brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, The Guardian notes. While this year’s UN climate conference has been postponed due to the global health crisis, countries are still supposed to submit tougher carbon reduction targets for the next decade by the end of this year.

Friends of the Earth UK climate campaigner Rachel Kennerley said the report shows the need for the world’s wealthiest countries to amp up their carbon reduction plans, adding that the “fair and right thing to do” is to rebalance budgets and deliver emergency assistance to poorer nations. 

“If we don’t pay now, this is the kind of bill that, like a person ignoring a credit card statement, will only multiply in time,” she said. “And it’s the kind of expenditure that repays multiple benefits and should really be seen as a smart investment. As if stopping climate change isn’t enough, it will deliver a better quality of life for more people around the world, faster.”

“The literature overwhelmingly shows the economic benefits of serious mitigation efforts exceed the costs in the long run,” Columbia University climate and energy economist Noah Kaufman told CBS News. “We could implement highly cost-effective mitigation policies that would reduce emissions at a very low cost. But we’ve lacked the political will to do so.”