Getting the price right on climate (emphasis added):
As global leaders prepare to gather for the Rio+20 sustainable development summit in Brazil next week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a collection of economists from MIT and other organizations has released a report to help leaders confront the price tag associated with climate change. The publication — “Fiscal Policy to Mitigate Climate Change: A Guide for Policymakers” — details the most effective methods to reduce emissions and contain costs, namely through carbon pricing.
Until now, leaders have focused on slowing warming to 2 degrees Celsius to prevent catastrophic changes associated with climate change. Because this would mean taking drastic measures to hold emissions at about today’s levels, researchers at MIT argue that leaders should be realistic and start smaller because the time to act is quickly running out. Their research — “Emissions Pricing to Stabilize Global Climate” — is a chapter within the IMF guide.
The MIT research suggests an emissions price — organized through either a tax or cap-and-trade system — of about $20 to $40 per ton by 2020 to help the world community reach less stringent targets that would keep warming to 2.9 or 3.6 degrees Celsius.
“These less stringent targets are more realistic and reachable, and they still reduce the risk of more severe climate impacts,” Paltsev says. But, he warns, “we have never experienced such changes and do not know exactly how the Earth will respond, so the smaller the changes we make, the greater the risk of something unexpected and bad happening.”
Still, making small changes is better than not acting at all, Paltsev says, and we shouldn’t wait for technology to fix the problem for us.
“We can wait for a miracle technology, like biofuels with carbon capture and storage, to appear and become economical — allowing us to reach more stringent targets — but then we place our bets on something which may or may not materialize,” Paltsev says.
The longer the global community waits to take action, the higher the price tag could be and the less likely the world will be able to meet even less stringent targets. This could mean “unprecedented levels of damage and degradation” if current trends in production and consumption continue, United Nations Undersecretary General Achim Steiner said in a recent statement. He added, “The moment has come to put away the paralysis of indecision, acknowledge the facts and face up to the common humanity that unites all peoples.”
Well, that’s one way to deal with that pesky 2C limit — decide it’s not really a limit and that it’s OK to blow right past it to 2.9 to 3.6C.
One a slightly less snarky note, I would point out that I strongly agree with the message that even if we “can’t” keep anthropogenic warming below 2C, taking less strenuous action is still far better than zooming along a business as usual path and running up a thermal disequilibrium deficit we really don’t want our kids and grand kids to deal with.
And again, I would point out that the original 2C guideline is 2C of warming by the year 2100, with what happens after then apparently being of no concern to us back here in primitive 2012.