Republicans in Congress are hoping to prevent any consideration of the true cost of carbon emissions during environmental reviews by the federal government, thereby stymying efforts to calculate the true monetary impact of climate change.
National Journal's Ben Geman first flagged a tucked away provision in the so-called Rapid Act, a bill ostensibly meant to streamline the regulatory process, that explicitly bars considering the cost of carbon emissions when making environmental decisions.
The House was slated to begin the legislation just hours after Pope Francis, who has called on global leaders to tackle climate change, addressed a joint session of Congress.
On page 27 of a 32 page bill, the Rapid Act prohibits the consideration of the “social cost of carbon” during any environmental review by a federal agency.
The EPA defines the social cost of carbon, or SCC, as “an estimate of the economic damages associated with a small increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, conventionally one metric ton, in a given year.” The dollar figure, “represents the value of damages avoided for a small emission reduction (i.e. the benefit of a CO2 reduction).”
A product of the combined efforts of 12 government offices or agencies, the SCC seeks to assign a dollar value to carbon emissions as the notion of a carbon footprint gains wider traction, helping people and governments better measure and quantify the environmental and economic impact of fossil fuel reliance.
Republicans have long been suspicious of the SSC but a 2014 Government Accountability Office investigation found that the processes and methods used to arrive at the figure are honest.
But Republicans still find cause to remain hostile towards the SSC, as a recent U.S. government study concluded that the true social cost of carbon could actually be six times higher than the value the US currently uses to guide regulations.
Still, a 2014 Brookings Institute study found that thus far, weighing the social cost of carbon tipped the scales in favor of a different policy in only about one in every eight rule-making scenarios.
Far from acting as a stand-in carbon tax, the social cost of carbon simply considers the cost of damages as a result of carbon emissions like greater flood risks or loss of crops due to increased droughts.