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The Social Cost of Carbon

Pam Sornson

Posted on May 21, 2019 15:02

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No matter where you are in the U.S., you will certainly be affected - eventually - by climate change, and some corners of the country will be more affected than others. Some folks will experience a direct impact, such as the loss of a home due to extreme weather. Others will feel the effects indirectly, through higher food or utility prices. Accepting that the science is correct, no one will avoid the coming calamity.

The conjunction of technology and science now provides methodologies for collecting and analyzing volumes of environmental data to identify how, if at all, the current levels of GHG's in the atmosphere are affecting the climate. Data pools gathered over the past two hundred years show the relative consistency of the chemistry of the atmosphere over eons, with CO2 and other gas levels remaining fairly steady, even if the time period measured was in the thousands or hundreds of thousands of years.

The reliability of those measuring standards is extrapolated these days to accurately measure shorter-term changes in the environment. Those measurements reveal that, like in the U.S., while all regions of the planet will experience changes due to global warming, some regions will experience more devastation and loss than others.

How the world handles those damages depends, in part, on where those damages occur and what those countries do to combat those changes. In most cases, the impetus to do something about climate change is driven by the anticipated cost of the losses expected because of its force. Ergo, countries that have the highest risk of loss stand to gain the most benefit by doing something about the challenge. Science calls that cost-factor data point the  'social cost of carbon,' (SCC) and it's driving climate policy-making in virtually every country in the world.

Unfortunately, at least one model shows that the U.S. is second from the top in terms of most losses, following only India, in terms of most expected damage and loss due to climate change. Measuring the value of climate change-related damage at a rate of U.S. dollars per metric tonne of emitted CO2 (tCO2), India's economic burden of carbon pollution will rise to $86 tCO2, with the U.S. second at $48. Saudi Arabia ($47), Brazil and China (both $24) round out the top five countries that will suffer the most. (On a happier note, the overwhelming majority of countries will experience an economic impact of less than $10/tCO2; that figure, however, may suggest a less-than-dedicated focus on CO2 emission reductions is acceptable in those regions.)  

Tragically, the US is also suffering from an even bigger threat these days: the continued ignorance of its federal government on the whole climate change challenge. The conclusions of this study are in direct conflict with the ‘loss estimates’ of the U.S. EPA, which asserted in 2017, that the country would experience a SCC of between $1 and $6. With propaganda like this in the world, it’s likely that those people most likely to suffer because of climate change are also the ones who will have done the least to prevent it.

Pam Sornson

Posted on May 21, 2019 15:02

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