The most lucrative investment in the 21st century may be the Paris climate agreement, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
If the world is able to keep global temperatures from increasing more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — the primary goal of the Paris agreement — then more than $30 trillion will be gained by economies across the globe, the report found.
These gains would come primarily from avoiding rising health care costs, productivity losses, and declining agricultural output, according to the authors.
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If temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius — the backup goal of the global pact — those gains would be wiped out.
“By the end of the century, we find the world will be about 3% wealthier if we actually achieve the 1.5C target relative to 2C target,” Marshall Burke, assistant professor at Stanford University in the US, who led the new work, told the Guardian. “In dollar terms, this represents about $30 trillion in cumulative benefits.”
Global temperatures, however, are on pace to rise more than 3 degrees Celsius, a level that will cause losses of tens of trillions of dollars compared to the 2 degree mark.
The team of researchers looked at more than 50 years of research that showed a GDP decline in most countries when temperatures rise. They then projected this data forward through more than 40 climate models.
While more than 90% of the world’s population would benefit financially from staying below a 1.5 degree Celsius rise, a few countries, including Russia, Canada, and Scandinavian countries, would benefit if the world heated up by .5 degrees Celsius, because it would improve their climates for agriculture and other industries.
Many people in Greenland, for instance, are looking forward to the economic gains of climate change because melting ice means greater access to resources.
The analysis published Wednesday could benefit from supplementary studies, according to the Guardian, because it does not factor in major environmental disruptions such as sea level rise, extreme storms, and more.
The world spent more than $306 billion on extreme weather events last year alone, and climate change is expected to make storms more frequent and severe.
Sea level rise, meanwhile, could displace billions of people by the end of the century.
The report also doesn’t factor in the health consequences of burning more fossil fuels. More than 7 million people die prematurely each year because of air pollution, and that number could rise if fossil fuels continue to be burned.
Despite these limitations, the report offers a fresh perspective on the consequences of climate change, according to the Guardian.
“Translating the impacts of climate change into economic damages is challenging,” Maximilian Auffhammer, a professor at the University of California Berkeley, told the Guardian. “Pinning down just how large the effects of climate will be on the long-term growth of GDP needs to be a high priority for future work.”
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