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  • Ryan Wittler

The Wildly Important Carbon Measurement You Might Not Have Heard About

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Since 2010, the government has calculated a metric called the “social cost of carbon,” a dollar amount representing the costs associated with emitting one additional ton of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Why it matters:

According to NPR, the social cost of carbon (SCC) is used to inform trillions of dollars of federal policy, including regulations about vehicle emissions, appliance efficiency, energy infrastructure, and more.

For example, regulations limiting air pollution would use the SCC in a cost-benefit analysis comparing the total benefits of less pollution (e.g., improved health, environment, etc.) with the costs of implementing the policy (e.g., purchasing and installing new equipment).

What’s it at today:

In March, the Biden administration raised the government’s working SCC to $51 per ton, more or less bringing the U.S. back to reality after the fantasyland period corporate lobbyists and policymakers enjoyed under Trump when it dropped to as little as $1, according to Scientific American.

The updated figure is also likely being used to inform several policies in the ongoing bipartisan infrastructure debate and in the follow-up $3.5 trillion package Democrats are expected to pass with no Republican support.

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