According to a new report from the Economics for Equity and the Environment Network, the estimated cost to society per ton of CO2 released into the atmosphere may be 45 times higher than previously estimated by the federal government.
The study found the true cost of those emissions to be far beyond the $21 per ton derived by the federal government.
The figure, commonly known as the “social cost of carbon,” is used by federal agencies when weighing the costs and benefits of emissions-cutting regulations, such as air conditioner efficiency standards and greenhouse gas emissions limits for light trucks.
A truer value, according the Economics for Equity and the Environment Network, an umbrella organization of economists who advocate for environmental protection, could be as high as $900 per ton—equivalent to adding $9 to each gallon of gas. Viewed another way, with the U.S. emitting the equivalent of close to 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually, the higher figure suggests that avoiding those emissions could save the nation $5.3 trillion annually, one-third of the nation’s economic output.*
A second, separate report released July 12 buttressed the argument, finding that the government routinely underestimates the benefits of avoiding climate change when conducting cost-benefit analysis on regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Rather than discussing the debt burden we’re going to leave behind for our grandchildren, we should be discussing the environmental catastrophe that awaits them. We should be discussing how our lack of spending on infrastructure and green energy will make their lives that much more difficult.
The economic costs of doing nothing will, in the future, dwarf our current fiscal problems in their severity.