By Jean Chemnick
Contributing to climate change is once again expensive — at least in the eyes of the federal government.
That’s after the Biden administration on Friday raised the social cost of carbon to about $51 per ton. The figure factors into a wide variety of policy decisions including EPA regulations and government spending.
The move dramatically raises the value of carbon, which had fallen to as little as $1 under President Trump. The figure used by Biden mirrors estimates from the Obama-era, when it was $50 a ton. And it stands to go higher in January after the administration completes a comprehensive overhaul of carbon’s value.
In a post on the White House’s blog Friday, White House Council of Economic Advisers member Heather Boushey said the new figures would enable agencies to “immediately and more appropriately account for climate impacts in their decision-making while we continue the process of bringing the best, most up-to-date science and economics to the estimation of the social costs of greenhouse gases.”
The new interim figures are likely to appear in actions the Biden administration takes in its first year, including EPA draft rules for automobiles and oil and gas infrastructure, along with leasing programs and government procurement decisions. They’ll balance out the cost of regulation, arguing for more stringent efforts to address global warming.
Environmental scientists including Michael Greenstone, who co-chaired Obama’s interagency working group that constructed the social cost estimates between 2010 and 2016, say the formula should be broadened to take into account damage done to vulnerable and overburdened communities that are likely to suffer disproportionately from climate change.
Other climate economists agree.