How do Catastrophes Factor into our Calculations?
Posted by jab12004 on April 20, 2009
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of including the probability of a catastrophic climate event when calculating the costs and benefits of climate change. Even if the probability is very small, the sheer devastation of such an event can factor into climate estimates. Other models can have tipping points, where once a certain temperature is reached, a chain reaction is triggered which can accelerate CO2 release. I am in no way an expert on models that deal with each of these phenomena, but I did recently see a piece of news which disturbed me greatly.
The article titled “Forests could flip from sink to source of CO2: study” link discussed findings by “35 of the world’s top forestry scientists”
If temperatures climb even further, the consequences could be devastating, according to the report by the Vienna-based International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO).
“The current carbon-regulating functions of forests are at risk of being lost entirely unless carbon emissions are reduced drastically,” said Alexander Buck, IUFRO’s deputy director and coordinator of the report.
“With a global warming of 2.5 C (4.5 F) compared to pre-industrial times, the forest ecosystems would begin to turn into a net source of carbon, adding significantly to emissions from fossil fuels and deforestation,”
While estimates of devastation due to large temperature increases are not new, these recent warnings are still very scary. A lot of the carbon loss will be in the tropics, an area which captures almost 20% of total carbon emissions according to the article.
This recent finding brings a few questions to mind. First, as another tipping point is identified, how do we account for it in our cost/benefit analysis of climate policy? Hopefully results such as these will highlight the growing importance of Domestic and International climate agreements.
My second question is about forestry offsets. Do they not lose some of their value if they might eventually release the CO2 they were supposed to be offsetting?