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EPA: Stop Ignoring the 'Social Cost of Carbon'

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Sponsor: The Rainforest Site

The health and security of future generations depends on leaders recognizing the Social Cost of Carbon!

The US Environmental Protection Agency defines the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) as "an estimate of the economic damages associated with a small increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, conventionally one metric ton, in a given year1."

This metric was developed to help the EPA compare long-term costs from coastal flooding and the effects of climate-warming carbon dioxide with the economic cost of a reduction in burning fossil fuels, which is responsible for most of that CO22.

The SCC helps federal agencies form policy that protects current and future Americans, and agencies to better quantify the weight of their decisions when evaluating policies that affect greenhouse gas emissions3.

Since the development of the uniform estimate in 2010, federal agencies have used the social cost of carbon to analyze the impacts of roughly 100 federal actions that impact greenhouse gas pollution, from car and truck emissions standards, to mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plants to efficiency standards to household appliances3.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the value of climate pollution mitigation efforts from three recent vehicle rulemakings at between $78 billion and $1.2 trillion4.

When the SCC was rescinded in 2017, it put a much lower value on the impact of increases in carbon5.

The Clean Power Plan at the time put the social cost of carbon at around $45 per ton, the Trump Administration placed it between $1 and $6 per ton6. This reduction highly underestimates our collective impact on climate change, and has been met with strong resistance.

Judges around the country are calling for the Federal government to consider the full SCC in new developments, from construction of new interstate pipelines in the Southeast7, to expanding coal mines in Montana8.

Taking the SCC out of policymaking has only reduced accountability and transparency while creating regulatory confusion. Weakening or eliminating it conceals the true costs of carbon pollution, incorrectly skewing the analysis and biasing decision-making away from crucial climate safeguards.

A robust social cost of carbon is essential for good government, it's an important foundation for good decision-making, based on long-standing, common-sense economic principles.

The SCC represents our collective responsibility as Americans to be good stewards of planet Earth. Sign the petition below and demand the EPA restore the Social Cost of Carbon Calculation developed in 2010.

More on this issue:

  1. Stephen Newbold, Charles Griffiths, Chris Moore, Ann Wolverton, and Elizabeth Kopits, United States Environmental Protection Agency (August 2010), "Working Paper: The "Social Cost of Carbon" Made Simple."
  2. Andrew Revkin, ProPublica (24 August 2017), "Trump's attack on social cost of carbon could end up hurting his fossil fuel push."
  3. Environmental Defense Fund (2021), "The true cost of carbon pollution."
  4. United States Environmental Protection Agency (19 January 2017), "The Social Cost of Carbon."
  5. Mark N. Templeton, Forbes (7 July 2020), "Fighting With Trump Over The Real 'Social Cost Of Carbon'."
  6. Sierra Club Et Al. v, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Respondent Duke Energy Florida, LLC, Et Al. (22 August 2017), "United States Court of Appeals decision."
  7. Matthew Brown, The Associated Press (4 February 2021), "Judge orders US officials to weigh coal mine's climate costs."
  8. Howard Shelanski and Maurice Obstfeld, the White House of President Barack Obama (2 July 2015), "Estimating the Benefits from Carbon Dioxide Emissions Reductions."
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The Petition:

To the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,

The removal of the Social Cost of Carbon from EPA policymaking has reduced the accountability of our government and now highly underestimates our collective responsibility as a country for the acceleration of the current climate crisis.

It took an extensive, rigorous process to arrive at the original Social Cost of Carbon estimate in 2010. The Interagency Working Group included representatives from all relevant executive branch agencies, from the Department of Agriculture to the Council of Economic Advisors relying on the latest peer-reviewed science and economics available.

The process allowed for repeated public comment as well as input from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

A robust social cost of carbon is essential for good government. It's an important foundation for good decision-making, based on long-standing, common-sense economic principles. Just three of the Environmental Protection Agency's recent vehicle rulemakings saved between $78 billion and $1.2 trillion by reducing carbon emissions.

The social cost of carbon is also essential for future generations as we face a climate crisis that science has proven is worsened by increased carbon emissions.

The current calculation of the social cost of carbon fails to consider the impact of anything outside the physical borders of the United States, and ignores nearly two decades of scientific research. It makes it harder for our leaders to implement crucial climate safeguards we already need.

I demand you recalculate the Social Cost of Carbon as defined by the 2010 uniform estimate.


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