Global well-being may peak in 2065 if emissions are not controlled

Thursday 30 October 2014

Average global well-being may peak in 2065 if CO2 emissions are not tightly controlled, according to a new sustainability indicator created by ANU experts.

In an article in Ecological Economics, Dr Jack Pezzey of the Fenner School of Environment and Society and Dr Paul Burke of Crawford School of Public Policy write that if emissions are controlled to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, average global well-being - measured as typical human consumption minus warming damage - should be sustainable over the next century.

“Our modified climate-economy model shows that well-being keeps growing, but only if we control carbon emissions. If they are uncontrolled, the future will be much bleaker,” Pezzey said.

In around 2065 the rising costs of uncontrolled climate damage could, for the first time, outweigh the ability of technical progress to keep improving well-being, the study found.

“Overall living standards have improved remarkably since the Industrial Revolution. But our study shows that uncontrolled climate change could one day stop that,” Burke said.

“If we cut emissions aggressively, one big risk to our ability to sustain rising well-being would be removed.”

The findings use Pezzey and Burke’s new indicator of how well society maintains its human-made and natural assets, a measurement including the benefit of technological progress, the cost of population growth, and a much higher cost of current CO2 emissions.

 “I hoped that by building a single, hybrid indicator of global sustainability that carefully tempered optimism with pessimism we could answer the big question of whether our current global well-being is sustainable”, Pezzey said.

“Much about predicting our planetary future will always remain a matter of belief, but our results give qualified support to both optimistic and pessimistic views about sustainability, depending crucially on what is done about climate change,” he added.

Read a piece by Dr Jack Pezzey on The Conversation: http://theconversation.com/why-uncontrolled-climate-change-may-be-an-ult...

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