Climate Damages: Uncertain but Ominous, or $51 per Ton?

by Frank Ackerman | February 14, 2019

Originally published on Triple Crisis.

Second in a series of posts on climate policy. Find Part 1 here.

According to scientists, climate damages are deeply uncertain but could be ominously large (see the previous post). Alternatively, according to the best-known economic calculation, lifetime damages caused by emissions in 2020 will be worth $51 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, in 2018 prices.

These two views can’t both be right. This post explains where the $51 estimate comes from, why it’s not reliable, and the meaning for climate policy of the deep uncertainty about the value of damages.

A tale of three models

The “social cost of carbon” (SCC) is the value of present and future climate damages caused by a ton of carbon dioxide emissions. The Obama administration assembled an Interagency Working Group to estimate the SCC. In its final (August 2016) revision of the numbers, the most widely used variant of the SCC was $42 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted in 2020, expressed in 2007 dollars – equivalent to $51 in 2018 dollars. Numbers like this were used in Obama-era cost-benefit analyses of new regulations, placing a dollar value on the reduction in carbon emissions from, say, vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

To create these numbers, the Working Group averaged the results from three well-known models. These do not provide more detailed or in-depth analysis than other models. On the contrary, two ...

On Buying Insurance, and Ignoring Cost-Benefit Analysis

by Frank Ackerman | February 11, 2019
Originally published on Triple Crisis. The damages expected from climate change seem to get worse with each new study. Reports from the IPCC and the U.S. Global Change Research Project, and a multi-author review article in Science, all published in late 2018, are among the recent bearers of bad news. Even more continues to arrive in a swarm of research articles, too numerous to list here. And most of these reports are talking about not-so-long-term damages. Dramatic climate disruption and ...

Rao's Record as Regulatory Czar Raises Red Flags

by James Goodwin | February 04, 2019
Tomorrow morning, Neomi Rao, the current administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), is set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing on her nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. If confirmed, she would fill the open seat once occupied by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Administrator Rao's nomination has prompted intense media and public scrutiny of her background, and appropriately so, given the high stakes involved. ...

Flipping the Conservative Agenda

by Daniel Farber | January 31, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Conservatives, with full support from Donald Trump, have come up with a menu of ways to weaken the regulatory state. In honor of National Backward Day – that's an actual thing, in case you're wondering, and it's today – let's think about reversing those ideas. In other words, let's try to come up with similar mechanisms to strengthen protections for public health and the environment instead of weakening protections. It's an interesting experiment, if nothing ...

Regulatory Review in Anti-Regulatory Times: Congress

by Daniel Farber | January 17, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. In theory, cost-benefit analysis should be just as relevant when the government is deregulating as when it is imposing new regulations. But things don't seem to work that way. This is the second of two blog posts analyzing how costs and benefits figured in decisions during the past two years of unified GOP control of the federal government (read the first post here). Today, I focus on Congress. For the first time in history, Congress ...

Wheeler Hearing Provides Opportunity to Learn More about 'Benefits-Busting' Rule

by James Goodwin | January 15, 2019
During his tenure, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt launched multiple assaults on environmental and public health safeguards. His attacks on clean air standards and water quality regulations made so little sense in our reality that he went to the absurd and extreme lengths of creating an alternative reality to make them look legitimate. That alternative reality is rendered in the "benefits-busting" rule, which would systematically distort the analyses EPA economists conduct to assess the economic impacts of ...

How Trump Officials Abuse Cost-Benefit Analysis to Attack Regulations

by Daniel Farber | January 09, 2019
This op-ed was orignally published in the Washington Monthly. In December of 2017, Donald Trump gathered the press for a variation on a familiar activity from his real estate mogul days. Stretched between a tower of paper taller than himself, representing all current federal regulations, and a small stack labeled "1960," was a thick piece of red ribbon – red tape, if you will. The president promised that "we're going to get back below that 1960s level." With his daughter ...

The Thin Gray Line

by Daniel Farber | January 08, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. "Bureaucrat" is just another name for public servant. It has been said that a thin blue line of police protects us from the worst elements of society. But it is a thin gray line of underpaid, overworked, anonymous bureaucrats who protect society against more insidious risks – risks ranging from nuclear contamination to climate change to unsafe food. Due to Trump's government shutdown, many of these people are currently not being paid. Yet without the professionals ...

The Year Ahead

by Daniel Farber | December 31, 2018
A version of this post was originally published on Legal Planet. What are the key things to watch for in 2019 in the environmental area? Regulations. According to the Trump administration’s schedule, three big rules should be issued in March: repeal of the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS), repeal and replacement of the Clean Power Plan, and the freeze on fuel efficiency standards. This seems very ambitious to me, especially for the last two where there are major technical ...

Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories to Look Out for in 2019 (IMHO)

by James Goodwin | December 31, 2018
As I documented in my most recent post, 2018 was an active year for regulatory policy, bringing several notable controversies, milestones, and developments. For those who follow this area, 2019 promises to be just as lively and momentous. Indeed, it appears that the dynamics that spurred much of the regulatory policy-related action in 2018 – namely, the high priority that the Trump administration has placed on corrupting our system of regulatory safeguards, and the accompanying political polarization around the issue ...

CPR's 2018 Op-Eds

by Matthew Freeman | December 27, 2018
As we prepare to tie a bow on 2018, it’s worth looking back at the various op-eds CPR’s Member Scholars and staff penned over the course of the year. You can find and read every single one of them on our op-ed page. But here are some highlights for quick(er) perusal: In February, CPR’s Founding President, Tom McGarity had a piece in The American Prospect, reviewing the damage done by the GOP congressional majority by means of the Congressional Review ...

2019 Wish List for Workers’ Health and Safety

by Katie Tracy | December 26, 2018
As 2018 ends and we take stock of the developments in workers’ rights over the first half of the Trump administration, there is little forward progress to report. This administration, acting with minimal to no congressional oversight, has consistently neglected to protect America’s workers, instead rolling back and delaying numerous Obama-era regulations and safeguards, ignoring emerging hazards from climate change and new technologies, and restricting traditional inspection and enforcement in favor of self-reporting and compliance assistance.  Instead of focusing on ...

Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories of 2018 (IMHO)

by James Goodwin | December 20, 2018
While regulatory policy developments might not lead evening news broadcasts or dominate newspaper headlines, they can have an enormous impact on our day-to-day lives. Regulatory policy has been a particular hotbed of activity during the Trump administration, which swept into office determined to undermine or corrupt the institutions responsible for keeping Americans and their environment secure against unacceptable risks of harm. So, it is no surprise that 2018 was another busy year in regulatory policy. Here are 10 of the ...

By Fixing Congress, the Planned H.R. 1 Could Strengthen Public Protections, Too

by James Goodwin | December 13, 2018
Not long after their party regained control of the lower chamber in the midterm elections, House Democratic leaders unveiled their signature legislative action for the next Congress – a package of reform measures aimed at tackling some of the worst ethics abuses involving the Trump administration's top officials and members of Congress. Symbolically assigned the designation of H.R. 1 to underscore its status as the top legislative priority, the bill would do more than just restore the integrity of our ...

The New WOTUS Proposed Rule and the Myths of Clean Water Act Federalism

by Dave Owen | December 11, 2018
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog. This morning, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and EPA released a proposed new rule that would change the agencies' shared definition of "waters of the United States." That phrase defines the geographic scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.  The proposed rule would narrow the scope of federal jurisdiction, primarily in two ways.  First, it would eliminate jurisdiction for "ephemeral" streams – that is, streams where water flows only during ...

Two Years and Counting: Looking Forward

by Daniel Farber | December 10, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. In terms of regulatory policy, the second half of Trump's term is shaping up to look a lot like Obama's final two years in office. Congress won't be doing much to advance Trump's environment and energy agenda, as was the case with Obama. So, like Obama, Trump's focus will be on administrative action, particularly regulatory initiatives (or deregulatory ones, in Trump's case). The big question is how these efforts will fare in court. I want to ...

Two Years and Counting: A Historical Perspective

by Daniel Farber | December 06, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. This is the second of three posts assessing the first two years of the Trump administration. You can read the first post here. We all seem to be subscribed to the "All Trump News, All the Time" newsfeed. It may be helpful to step back a bit and compare Trump with his last Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. How do the two stack up? Bush and Trump were very different in character and style, but their ...

Two Years and Counting: Trump at Mid-Term

by Daniel Farber | December 03, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. In September 2017 – that seems so long ago! – Eric Biber and I released a report assessing the state of play in environmental issues 200 days into the Trump administration, based on an earlier series of blog posts. As we end Trump's second year, it's time to bring that assessment up to date. This is the first of three posts examining what Trump has done (and hasn't done) in terms of environment and energy. For ...

Regulatory Policy

When it comes to health, safety and the environment, executive branch enforcement of the law has become yet another arena to fight and re-fight policy battles presumably settled in Congress. In particular, regulated entities, including companies that pollute or  make potentially dangerous products, spend millions working to block, delay, and unravel such protections.

Rao's Record as Regulatory Czar Raises Red Flags

Goodwin | Feb 04, 2019 | Regulatory Policy

Flipping the Conservative Agenda

Farber | Jan 31, 2019 | Regulatory Policy

Regulatory Review in Anti-Regulatory Times: Congress

Farber | Jan 17, 2019 | Regulatory Policy
Recommended Resources:
Climate Change
Time for Real Action on Global Warming

The Center for Progressive Reform

2021 L St NW, #101-330
Washington, DC. 20036
info@progressivereform.org
202.747.0698

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2015