The findings of a new study involving researchers from IIASA, Princeton and several other institutions looked into the question of how much the current generation should invest in reducing carbon emissions for the benefit of future generations.
Their findings support the climate targets of the Paris Agreement.
The study, published in Nature Communications, helps answer this question by quantifying whether reducing carbon emissions that will have global benefits in the future also improves air quality now.
Preventing many of the human health burdens that result from air pollution would be a powerful positive incentive to act sooner rather than later.
The results show that it is economically sound to quickly and dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions given the immediate and significant human health benefits.
The findings also support the climate targets prescribed by the Paris Climate Agreement in cost-benefit terms.
The model combines the cost of reducing emissions with the potential health ‘co-benefits’ or synergies of climate policy, which have traditionally been excluded in the cost-benefit models that estimate how much the world should pay to reduce carbon emissions.
When put together, the researchers find immediate net benefits globally from climate policy investments.
“Increasingly, we are finding that it is important to consider public health impacts in analyses of climate change decision making. We’ve built these considerations directly into this new model to see how the cost-benefit calculation changes when these impacts are accounted for. If we include the health benefits, the model tells us to reduce our emissions much more quickly than it would otherwise,” explains lead co-author Noah Scovronick of Emory University.
The results provide an economic vindication of the Paris Agreement targets for limiting temperature rise: If improved air quality and better health are included in the analysis, then a target of 2°C is economically defensible.
This is because the health benefits resulting from air pollution reductions significantly outweigh any near-term costs, especially in developing regions.
Prior economic studies on this issue did not support such a strict climate target.