Environmental Notes - March 2021

Arguably, the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) is one of our society’s most important numbers. The SCC is used in all climate decisions and will now be considered in all significant governmental decisions and federal actions. How this number will be recalculated is the subject of fierce debate. Politico recently noted that “A high cost of carbon would make it easier for the administration to justify expensive or restrictive regulations as it works to green the economy - spend this money now, because it will cost a lot more later if we don’t. Set the price too high and the economy might not react well. It’s classic cost-benefit stuff, but big.”

The SCC was the foundation of the Obama Administration’s Climate Strategy. These values were calculated to attribute global cost and benefits to each ton of CO2 emissions. These costs and benefits drove efforts like the Clean Power Plan that sought to retire all existing coal-fired electric generating units or force installation of costly and potentially technically probative retrofits like carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). The application of SCC is not limited to rulemaking, it can be applied to almost all government decisions and actions.

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