Tuesday, November 28, 2017

An Actual Price of Carbon

We've been talking about the cost of carbon on society for a long time.  Turns out it's $36 a ton, according to scientists and economists.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration has already hinted at ignoring that number.  It would be disastrous.  It's vital that the cost is realized.

By the way -- how many tons do humans pump into the air every year?  Forty billion tons.  That's billion with a B.

How much are healthy oceans and ecosystems worth? Priceless.

Don't take my word of it.  A recent op-ed by Michael Greenstone and Cass Susstein talks about the importance of keeping that number in the regulations and solutions to climate change. 


New scientific and economic evidence suggests that climate change probably poses an even greater risk than the $36 figure reflects. 

For example, the West Antarctica ice sheet appears to be retreating faster than we thought, raising the specter of multimeter sea level rise in the next century. 

Recent research also found that climate change will lead to shorter and sicker lives, primarily because of the harmful effect of more extremely hot days on health. Extreme heat is also projected to reduce worker productivity and increase energy consumption, while changes in temperature and precipitation globally are expected to increase food prices and violence. Thus, there is a strong case that if anything, the government’s estimate of the social cost of carbon should be higher than it is.

To be sure, the exact number is uncertain, and the Trump administration will make its own judgment. But a credible assessment must be based on the best science and economics, not politics. And there is no justification for a chilling investigation of civil servants who are just doing their jobs.

Ultimately, the social cost of carbon provides a necessary guidepost in decisions about how to balance costs to our economy today with the coming climate damages. Wishing that we did not face this trade-off will not make it go away.

Read the whole piece here.