Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trump Efforts to Blunt Climate Tool Likely to Provoke Legal Backlash

The administration wants to weaken the “social cost of carbon” as it looks to overhaul Obama’s climate regulations.

President Trump (Credit: Photograph by Pool | Getty) Click to Enlarge.
The Trump administration faces likely legal challenges as it looks to exploit a crucial tool for evaluating the economic cost of climate change in an effort to justify plans to unravel environmental rules.

The idea behind the so-called “social cost of carbon” is that estimating the economic damages from every additional ton of greenhouse gas emissions allows regulators to more accurately assess the costs and benefits of public policies.  Michael Greenstone, previously a chief economist for Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, has called it “the most important number that you’ve never heard of.”

But in late March, President Trump issued an executive order that called for disbanding President Obama’s social cost of carbon working group, withdrawing the documents underpinning the current estimates, and directing agencies to consult 14-year-old guidelines from the Office of Management and Budget for future calculations.  The same order directed federal agencies to review a series of environmental regulations put in place under Obama, and “suspend, revise, or rescind” them "if appropriate."

The central estimated social cost of carbon now stands around $40 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, and ticks up over time.  But if federal agencies ignore or significantly reduce that figure, it could offer the administration a rosier economic cover story for dismantling the Climate Action Plan, Clean Power Plan, and mileage standards, or for signing off on controversial pipelines, fracking on federal lands, and much more.  Such changes could have substantial impacts on deployment of renewable energy sources, investment in carbon capture technologies, and research on improved vehicle efficiency.

Read more at Trump Efforts to Blunt Climate Tool Likely to Provoke Legal Backlash

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