Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | The US would suffer some of the biggest costs of climate change

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |

tragically common —

The exact cost estimates vary, but the US consistently ranks near the top.


Hexbyte - Tech News - Ars Technica | Satellite view of a hurricane.
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Hurricane Florence the morning of Sept. 12 as it churned across the Atlantic in a west-northwesterly direction with winds of 130 miles an hour.

Climate change is a classic tragedy of the commons: every country acting in its own self-interest contributes to depleting a joint resource, making the world worse for everyone. If you’ve ever lived with bad roommates, the concept will be easy to grasp. The social cost of carbon (or SCC) is a way to put a price tag on the result of that tragedy, quantifying just how much climate change will cost the world over the coming generations.

But a paper in Nature Climate Change this week tries to bring the cost closer to home by estimating what the SCC could be for each different country. These new calculations point to a wide range of different cost possibilities but with a few consistent messages: the cost is likely to be higher than previous estimates; the US will be one of the worst-hit countries; and many of the countries contributing the least to the problem will be slammed regardless.

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Transparency, uncertainty, and rigor

The concept of SCC has been around for a long time, with a huge range of different ways to calculate it. Because it’s impossible to know for sure what the future holds, those estimates end up with quite different outcomes depending on the assumptions they make. For instance, it’s impossible to know for sure what economic growth will be, and so different educated guesses about that will lead to different SCC estimates.

That kind of uncertainty led to a recent National Academy of Sciences report that recommends three important qualities that estimates of SCC should prioritize. Estimates should be transparent, making it easy to see what assumptions went into the calculations; they should be scrupulous about explaining where the uncertainty lies and what the range of estimates looks like; and they should focus on basing their estimates on high-quality science.

Katharine Ricke and her colleagues took this advice seriously, providing a new estimate with open materials so that others can dive into the weeds and check their work. They focused on building their estimate on the best available data and on carefully showing how uncertainty about the future affects the results.

Those uncertainties are pervasive. There’s the

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