Climate change will ultimately cost humanity $100,000 per ton of carbon, scientists estimate

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According to new research from UChicago scientists, the costs of carbon emissions will far outpace what we see in our lifetimes. In the above data visualization still, dark red areas indicate a 2.76-inch rise from 1992 to 2014. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Economists frequently try to estimate the societal cost of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but few of their projections go beyond the year 2100—far short of the millennia it takes for the climate changes from burning carbon to ultimately subside.

Two geoscientists and a philosopher from the University of Chicago wanted to take a much longer view on the matter. Their new estimate for an “ultimate cost of carbon” to humanity, published in the journal Climatic Change, came out closer to $100,000 per ton of carbon—a thousand times higher than the $100 or less routinely calculated for the cost to our generation.
“What we wanted to get with this calculation is a better sense of the burden we’re placing on future generations,” said Prof. David Archer, a computational climate scientist and author of several well-known books and online classes on climate change. “This is not intended to be a realistic calculation of the present-day value of costs, but …

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