A warmer climate will cause droughts, floods, and sea level rise. So climate scientists say it’s vital to keep earth’s surface temperature from warming more than about three and a half degrees Fahrenheit.

Earth with thermometer

Anything more could have serious consequences to human societies, biological diversity, and our health.

A new study from scientists at MIT helps better quantify those impacts and how they will change depending on how quickly the world reduces global warming pollution. This approach provides data that allow the EPA and others to estimate the economic impact of climate change on health, transportation, and other sectors.

Monier: “Global action to limit emissions of greenhouse gases really avoids costly damages to the U.S. economy.”

Graphic of EPA summary benefits

That’s co-author Erwan Monier of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. Monier says while most studies focus on the cost of preventing climate change, the results of this study can be used to estimate the economic benefits.

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For example, the EPA concludes that by taking strong climate action, the U.S. can save at least four billion dollars by the end of the century on road maintenance alone. It’s a powerful economic argument for reducing global-warming pollution now.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media/Colleen Pellissier.
Photo: Earth graphic (copyright protected); EPA report graphic excerpt (source: EPA).

More Resources
Study provides scenarios for assessing long-term benefits of climate action
Integrated economic and climate projections for impact assessment
Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action

John Wihbey, a writer, educator, and researcher, is an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University and a correspondent for Boston Globe Ideas. Previously, he was an assistant director...