Energy & Environment

GAO to look into Trump’s reduction of carbon social costs

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A government watchdog has agreed to review the Trump administration’s method for calculating the social cost of carbon, including examining the decision to drop the rate as first determined during the Obama’s administration.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) will review how the federal government, states and other nations place value on the social cost of carbon — a measure that assigns a dollar amount to the potential future harm caused by carbon pollution.

A GAO spokesman said the work is underway but no completion date is yet scheduled.


Seven Democratic senators, including Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), first requested the investigation last December.

“Carbon pollution is triggering big changes. It’s threatening our homes and businesses with stronger storms and rising seas. It’s sparking bigger wildfires and longer droughts, and killing our crops. And it’s warming and acidifying our ocean waters, displacing our fisheries. These changes all come with a price tag – and we ought to know what that price will be,” Whitehouse said Wednesday in a statement.

“The president’s decision to undermine the social cost of carbon in our policymaking is a bad one. This report will help us learn just how bad, and show how states and other countries are using the social cost of carbon to measure the risks they see from climate change. I’m glad to see this study is moving forward.”

The Obama administration championed the measurement of carbon emissions through determining its social cost as a way to estimate the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2016, the Obama administration determined the social cost of carbon to be an estimated $42 per ton by 2020.

More recently, the Trump administration, under its review of the Clean Power Plan, says the estimated cost should be as low as $1 per ton.

The Trump administration has regularly pushed back on environmental regulations linking climate change to U.S. carbon pollution and has initiated regulatory roll-backs making it harder to measure carbon this way.

Trump signed an executive order in March 2017 that disbanded an interagency working group tasked with determining the annual social cost of carbon.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s website’s page on the social cost of carbon was taken down; only archived versions remains.

Tags Climate change Dianne Feinstein Gao Obama administration Sheldon Whitehouse social cost of carbon Trump administration

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