According to a study conducted in a journal of the European Geosciences Union, Earth Systems Dynamics, young people are expected to be hit with a $535 trillion (£410tn) burden if high fossil fuel emissions continue.
It is suggested that enduring delays in greenhouse gas emission reduction will lead to a “massive and expensive clean-up problem” for the younger generation.
It is stated that simply reducing emissions is not going to be enough to slow global warming to a safe level. Measures such as mass reforestation are claimed to be vital to reducing the health effects on young people in the long term.
A growing problem?
Researchers believe that if CO2 emissions begin to reduce by 2021 at a rate of 6% per year, around 150 gigatonnes of carbon would be removed from the atmosphere by 2100. Significantly, around 100 gigatonnes of this is expected to come primarily from improved agricultural and forestry practices.
However, if CO2 emissions increase by 2% per year, over 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon would need to be removed from the atmosphere by 2100. It is suggested that only a costly technical solution would be able to achieve this target.
The study reveals that the total estimated cost of technology use such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) is around $535 trillion (£410tn). It is also clear that extraction technologies have “large risks and uncertain feasibility”.
It is argued that the current 2°C global warming limit is “not sufficient” and adds that this could cause “slow” climate feedbacks. In turn, this would lead to increased melting of the Antarctic ice sheets resulting in a significant sea-level rise.
The study’s authors argue that atmospheric CO2 should be reduced to less than 350 parts per million (ppm) from current 400ppm levels.
What the experts say
Lead Author James Hansen, Professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute in the US said: “Continued high fossil fuel emissions would saddle young people with a massive, expensive clean-up problem and growing deleterious climate impacts, which should provide incentive and obligation for governments to alter energy policies without further delay.”
For further information: the study can be accessed here: Young people’s burden: requirement of negative CO2 emissions
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