The U.S. government could be drastically underestimating how much climate change is going to cost us, according to a study published by Stanford researchers in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The researchers concluded that the Obama Administration is using a Social Cost of Carbon estimate that may be just one-sixth of the true cost—and that the true cost is high enough to justify aggressive measures for lowering emissions enough to limit global temperature rise to the 2 degrees Celsius that scientists tell us is the threshold for averting catastrophic climate change.
The Social Cost of Carbon is an official estimate of how much economic damage will be caused per metric ton of carbon emitted into our atmosphere—damages like lower crop yields and higher healthcare costs. It is used by the EPA and other federal agencies to calculate the benefits of policies intended to improve energy efficiency, lower emissions, and combat climate change. It is also often used to justify not taking action if the proposed action would cost more than the damage it is intended to mitigate.
The Obama Administration raised its official estimate of the economic cost of a metric ton of CO2 from $21 to $37 in November 2013. Even back then, however, many experts challenged that estimate as far too low.
According to the team at Stanford, that estimate was way too low—they calculate the true Social Cost of Carbon as $220 per metric ton.
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