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Economists Greatly Underestimate Climate Risks, Researchers Say
The economic models policymakers rely upon greatly underestimate the economic risks posed by climate change, according to a policy brief released Monday by experts from the Environmental Defense Fund, Harvard University and London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), an LSE press release reported.
The paper, published in Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, urged the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to improve how it explains the results of economic models as it works on its Sixth Assessment Report to be published between 2021 and 2022, in order to bridge the gap between the projected scientific and economic impacts of global warming.
"These discrepancies between the physical and the economic impact estimates are large, and they matter. However, physical impacts are often not translated into monetary terms and they have largely been ignored by climate economists," the paper's authors, Thomas Stoerk of the Environmental Defense Fund, Gernot Wagner of the Harvard University Center for the Environment and Bob Ward of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and Grantham Research Institute at LSE, wrote.
For example, the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report found that risks associated with "global aggregate," or economic, impacts were only moderate for up to three degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels, while risks associated with threats to species and habitats, extreme weather, threats to developing nations and the poor and "large-scale high-impact events" were reported to be high.
One of the reasons for this discrepancy, the paper found, was that the economic models used did not adequately account for the possibility of "tipping points" that can make economic and climate outcomes suddenly much worse, especially if global temperatures rise by more than two degrees Celsius.
The Dynamic Integrated Climate–Economy (DICE) model, for instance, projects that global economic output would only fall by 10 percent if the world warmed by six degrees Celsius. However, research cited in the paper found that, when the possibility of passing physical tipping points was used to introduce a more extensive "damage function" into the model, global output was predicted to fall by 50 percent in a six-degree warmer world.
"Thus climate policy recommendations based on the current framework seriously underestimate the economic value of climate damages," the paper concluded.
The paper urged the IPCC to, first, "strengthen its focus on decision making under uncertainty," and second "focus on estimating how the uncertainty itself affects economic and financial cost estimates of climate change."
The researchers directly flagged their paper in a letter to the co-chairs of the IPCC Working Group II, professor Hans-Otto Pörtner and professor Debra Roberts.The current warning comes little over a week after one of the first studies to consider the economic benefits of honoring the Paris agreement's stricter goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius found that doing so could save the world economy $20 trillion.
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Tropical forests globally are being lost at a rate of 61,000 square miles a year. And despite conservation efforts, the global rate of loss is accelerating. In 2016 it reached a 15-year high, with 114,000 square miles cleared.
At the same time, many countries are pledging to restore large swaths of forests. The Bonn Challenge, a global initiative launched in 2011, calls for national commitments to restore 580,000 square miles of the world's deforested and degraded land by 2020. In 2014 the New York Declaration on Forests increased this goal to 1.35 million square miles, an area about twice the size of Alaska, by 2030.
By Cheryl Leahy
Do you think almond milk comes from a cow named Almond? Or that almonds lactate? The dairy industry thinks you do, and that's what it's telling the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
For years, the dairy industry has been flexing its lobbying muscle, pressuring states and the federal government to restrict plant-based companies from using terms like "milk" on their labels, citing consumer confusion.
By Jeremy Deaton
A driver planning to make the trek from Denver to Salt Lake City can look forward to an eight-hour trip across some of the most beautiful parts of the country, long stretches with nary a town in sight. The fastest route would take her along I-80 through southern Wyoming. For 300 miles between Laramie and Evanston, she would see, according to a rough estimate, no fewer than 40 gas stations where she could fuel up her car. But if she were driving an electric vehicle, she would see just four charging stations where she could recharge her battery.
Fire Continues at Texas Petrochemical Plant as Company's History of Violations Gets Renewed Scrutiny
By Andrea Germanos
A petrochemical plant near Houston continued to burn for a second day on Monday, raising questions about the quality and safety of the air.
The Deer Park facility is owned by Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), which said the fire broke out at roughly 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Seven tanks are involved, the company said, and they contain naptha, xylene, "gas blend stocks" and "base oil."
"It's going to have to burn out at the tank," Ray Russell, communications officer for Channel Industries Mutual Aid, which is aiding the response effort, said at a news conference. It could take "probably two days" for that to happen, he added.
The hillsides dyed orange with poppies may look like something out of a dream, but for the Southern California town of Lake Elsinore, that dream quickly turned into a nightmare.
The town of 66,000 people was inundated with around 50,000 tourists coming to snap pictures of the golden poppies growing in Walker Canyon as part of a superbloom of wildfires caused by an unusually wet winter, BBC News reported. The visitors trampled flowers and caused hours of traffic, The Guardian reported.
A controversial pesticide test that would have resulted in the deaths of 36 beagles has been stopped, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the company behind the test announced Monday. The announcement comes less than a week after HSUS made the test public when it released the results of an investigation into animal testing at Charles River Laboratories in Michigan.
"We have immediately ended the study that was the subject of attention last week and will make every effort to rehome the animals that were part of the study," Corteva Agriscience, the agriculture division of DowDupont, said in a statement announcing its decision.