UAE, KSA among top nations to suffer from social cost of carbon

Mohammed El-Said
5 Min Read

Contrary to what we used to know about the impact of climate change, a new research suggests that the developing countries are not the most affected by the phenomena. The new study revealed that rich countries such as the US, Saudi Arabia, and China, in addition to India are the most affected.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are also among the countries that are expected to suffer more than others from carbon emissions, according to the study of University of California San Diego researchers.   

Findings of the study, which recently appeared in Nature Climate Change journal, estimated country-level contributions to the social cost of carbon (SCC) using recent climate model projections, empirical climate-driven economic damage estimations and socioeconomic forecasts.

For the first time, the researchers have developed in the study a data set quantifying what the SSC— the measure of the economic harm from carbon dioxide emissions—will be for the globe’s nearly 200 countries, and the results are surprising.

Among the most-trusted contemporary estimates of SCC are those calculated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The latest figures for global costs range from $12 to $62 per metric tonne of CO2 emitted by 2020. However, the new data shows SCC to be approximately $180-$800 per tonne of carbon emissions.

The country-level SCC for the US alone is estimated to be about $50 per tonne—higher than the global value used in most regulatory impact analyses. This means that the nearly five billion metric tonnes of CO2 the US emits each year is costing the US economy about $250bn, according to the study

“The objective of the study was to calculate the SCC for every individual country. SCC is a measure of the economic impact of a marginal (small additional) emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” said Katharine Ricke, the lead author of the study and assistant professor of University of California San Diego.

Speaking to Daily News Egypt via email, Ricke added that “It is intended to help inform public decision-making, because it tells you how much you should be willing to pay to avoid making a Co2 emission. It’s conventionally calculated at the global level, but enforceable climate policy is made at the national or sub national level.”

She explained further that the country-level SCC gives us important information about the strategic challenges to global cooperation. The uncertainty analysis helps us understand what the distribution of and magnitude of climate change impacts looks like.

“We all know carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels affects people and ecosystems around the world, today and in the future. However, these impacts are not included in market prices, creating an environmental externality whereby consumers of fossil fuel energy do not pay for and are unaware of the true costs of their consumption,” added Ricke.

Ricke elaborated further, stating that “evaluating the economic cost associated with climate is valuable on a number of fronts, as these estimates are used to inform US environmental regulation and rulemakings.”

Regarding the process of estimation, the lead author informed DNE that it is a four step process: first, a socio-economic module wherein the team of researchers defined the future evolution of the economy, including emissions of CO2, without the impact of climate change and without climate policy.

Second, a climate module wherein we estimate how the earth system will respond to emissions of CO2 and other anthropogenic forces.

Third, a damages module, wherein the economic damages due to changes in the earth system are quantified.

Fourth and finally, a discounting module, wherein a time series of future damages is compressed into a single present value using social discounting.

“We estimated the economic impacts using empirical, macroeconomic damage functions-relationships between economic growth and changes in climate based on past observations. This has the advantage of capturing interactions and a multitude of small or difficult-to-identify impacts, but requires assuming that future damages will resemble those associated with temperature fluctuations in the past. It doesn’t include longer-term impacts of rising CO2 like ocean acidification or sea level rise. These will be important extensions of the model in the future,” Ricke concluded.

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Mohammed El-Said is the Science Editor for the Daily News Egypt with over 8 years of experience as a journalist. His work appeared in the Science Magazine, Nature Middle East, Scientific American Arabic Edition, SciDev and other regional and international media outlets. El-Said graduated with a bachelor's degree and MSc in Human Geography, and he is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at Cairo University. He also had a diploma in media translation from the American University in Cairo.
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