• A personal note on IGBP and the social sciences

    Humans are an integral component of the Earth system as conceptualised by IGBP. João Morais recalls key milestones in IGBP’s engagement with the social sciences and offers some words of advice for Future Earth.
  • IGBP and Earth observation:
    a co-evolution

    The iconic images of Earth beamed back by the earliest spacecraft helped to galvanise interest in our planet’s environment. The subsequent evolution and development of satellites for Earth observation has been intricately linked with that of IGBP and other global-change research programmes, write Jack Kaye and Cat Downy .
Published: April 1, 2009
First published in IGBP's Global Change Newsletter Issue 73, April 2009

Economic impacts of ocean acidification: costs and savings

Hermann Held
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
PO Box 601203
14412 Potsdam, Germany
Features |
The Ocean in a High-CO2 World: Science highlights from the symposium
Stringent mitigation of further carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions seems more feasible now that the costs have been projected as relatively low. Transforming the worldwide energy system to meet a 450 ppm CO2-equivalent target would cost only 0.5% to 2% of the GDP, our global gross domestic product [1], [2], [3]. At the same time, the findings of the ocean acidification community add to the overall conclusion that CO2 impacts have been under-estimated in the past. Both of these observations imply sharper emission cuts than had been foreseen.

With the estimate of a potential development of carbon markets and international agreements to cap CO2 emissions, a price tag can now be assigned to the acidification-driven degradation of the ocean’s large capacity to absorb CO2. The ocean’s current carbon uptake may soon represent an annual subsidy to the global economy of about 0.1 to 1% GDP. However, any fraction of the ocean’s uptake leads to degradation through ocean acidification, which in the future would imply an economic loss in proportion to the damage this causes, thus adding another slice to the overall costs of CO2 emissions.

The upcoming years will witness a heated debate on the adequate mix of mitigation technologies, such as sub-seabed CO2 sequestration or massive-scale deployment of solar thermal power, in view of costs and risks. The ocean acidification community could supply some of the necessary metrics for a rational discourse on how to judge the risks of CO2 leakage after sub-seabed CO2 sequestration against the benefits from reduced atmospheric CO2 concentration.

1. Edenhofer, O., Carraro, C., Köhler J. and Grubb M. (Guest eds.): 2006, Endogenous technological change and the economics of atmospheric stabilization. The Energy Journal: Special Issue (27)

2. Knopf, B., Edenhofer, O., Turton, H., Barker, T.. Scrieciu, S., Leimbach, M., Baumstark, L., Kitous, A. Report on first assessment of low stabilisation scenarios, Report for EU Project ADAM, July 2008

3. Edenhofer, O., Knopf, B. et al. (2009) The economics of low stabilisation: exploring its implications for mitigation costs and strategies. The Energy Journal, Special Issue, 2009. in preparation.

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