By Jed Kim
You know the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? About a decade ago, the Obama administration tried applying that to the fight against climate change. Federal agencies were required to assess the future damages of carbon emissions as part of cost-benefit calculations — the kind they need to do before passing new regulations.
President Donald Trump has mostly rolled back the requirement, but researchers are even now working on a better way to calculate what’s known as the social cost of carbon.
At the Climate Impact Lab at the University of Chicago, researchers sit hunched around a long table in a narrow, windowless room. They’re busily scraping data to be crunched by their lab’s supercomputing cluster — a task workers have been doing for years.
Michael Greenstone, a University of Chicago economist and one of the lab’s principal investigators, said their work will help communities make responsible choices about adapting to climate change.
“What the social cost of carbon does is it provides a bright line on how much society should be willing to spend, such that the benefits from doing that are going to be greater than the cost,” Greenstone said.
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