Feds reveal data behind ‘social cost of carbon’

The White House is publishing the data behind its decision to increase the “social cost of carbon,” which is used to calculate the benefits of regulations cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The metric, which was revised upward earlier this year, has been a point of contention for the Obama administration and critics who say that it was developed in a “black box” without proper oversight.

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The technical support document the White House is releasing will be open for public comment. Officials are especially interested in hearing how the three underlying assessment models are used to calculate the cost estimates, the way the carbon cost is used in analyses of regulations’ impacts and “the strengths and limitations of the overall approach,” the White House said.

The social cost of carbon is a monetary estimate of how carbon pollution affects health, the environment, rising sea levels and a range of other factors.

“Rigorous evaluation of costs and benefits is a core tenet of the rulemaking process,” the White House’s Office of Management and Budget said in a notice. “It is particularly important in the area of climate change."

It added that the current social cost of carbon estimate "has been developed over many years, using the best science available, and with input from the public.”

In May, the White House increased the cost from about $21 per metric ton to $35. That has the effect of increasing the expected net benefits of regulations to limit carbon emissions.

The head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Howard Shelanski, announced earlier in November that it would release the technical support document.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the document once it is published in the Federal Register on Tuesday.