An academic debate on key indicators of greenhouse gases is heating up, just as a high-profile court battle is about to begin.
Well-known economists are in conflict with the Biden administration’s approach to the social cost of carbon, which assigns a dollar value to the harm caused by 1 metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions.
As this dispute occurs, the Federal Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments tomorrow in a lawsuit filed by the Republican State Attorney General over President Biden’s plan to increase the social cost of carbon emissions.
Hana Vizcarra, a full-time lawyer with Harvard Law School’s Environmental and Energy Law Project, said: “There is a dialogue in the economic community,” in court, on key climate indicators.
The dispute began on Friday, when a group of well-known economists published a Paper exist science The magazine titled “Keeping Climate Policy Concerned about the Social Cost of Carbon”.
An economist led by Joseph Aldi, a professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and former environmental assistant to President Obama, warned against shifting the social cost of carbon in US climate policy.
“[A] They wrote that an alternative approach that shifts from using SCC and cost-benefit analysis to an evaluation policy that only focuses on costs would be misleading. “Instead of advocating for alternative methods, it is time to support efforts to update the SCC and its application in official climate policy assessments.”
This paper directly condemned the recent conclusions of two world-leading climate economists: Nicholas Stern, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment, London School of Economics, and Nobel Prize winner Professor Joseph Stiglitz At Columbia University.
In a month report, Stern, and Stiglitz wrote that the Biden government should not use SCC in cost-benefit analysis, but should use alternative methods more commonly used in the European Union and the United Kingdom (Climate line, March 9).
Under another approach, the Biden government will set a specific policy goal, such as achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and then evaluate the most cost-effective way to achieve that goal.
“For my co-author, we have strong reservations about this [approach],” Aldi said in an interview with E&E News. “We believe that it is important for the public and decision makers to understand the benefits and costs of the actions being taken, and this approach completely ignores the issue of benefits. “
In an email to E&E News, Stern retorted that he thought science The paper is “seriously defective”.
Stern asked Stiglitz further questions, saying that Stiglitz was “closer to the American discussion.” Stiglitz did not immediately accept an interview.
Carbon in court
Meanwhile, in Missouri, the legal enemy of the social cost of carbon is preparing to spend a day in court.
Judge Audrey Fleisig of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri is scheduled to hear oral arguments tomorrow Missouri v BidenAmong them, 13 Republican-led states are suing Biden for plans to increase the social cost of carbon.
Mr. Fleissig, appointed by Obama, will consider sports From the red states that asked the court to pass a preliminary injunction to block Biden’s plan.The judge will also weigh a memorandum Biden’s Justice Department urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
Under the leadership of Missouri’s Attorney General Eric Schmidt (R), 13 states initially submitted complain March(Electronic and electrical news afternoon, March 8).It challenges Biden’s legality on January 20 Executive order For climate change, it has created an inter-agency working group whose task is to recommend the temporary social cost of carbon within 30 days and the final social cost of carbon by January 2022.
The working group has approved a provisional figure of US$51 per ton. Under the leadership of former President Trump, this figure fell to $1 per ton.
The final target under Biden’s leadership may be even higher. It will be used to support cost-benefit analysis of a series of major regulations, such as the EPA’s emission standards for coal-fired power plants.
Vizcarra of Harvard Law School said she believes the state’s litigation is premature because it targets the temporary social cost of carbon, which has not yet been finalized or included in regulations.
Vizcarra said: “In order for the case to mature for judicial review, you must overcome some procedural obstacles.” “And I think it will be difficult for the attorney general to prove that this is the right time and place for the court to intervene.”
Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, refuted the notion that the complaint was premature.
“Using the’temporary values’ issued by the inter-agency working group, our office analyzed the annual emissions and found that the’social costs’ associated with these greenhouse gases amounted to billions, possibly even trillions, and these costs will be Offset federal agencies passed extensive regulations,” Nuelle said in an email to E&E News.
He said: “It’s easy to see that these’temporary values’ are a blank check handed over to federal agencies to issue regulations at will. That’s why we must take immediate action.”
In academia and courts, another debate about the social cost of carbon is whether to adjust an unstable tool called the discount rate.
Economists have used this tool for decades to predict how the value of money will fall over time due to inflation and other factors. For example, at a discount rate of 3%, today’s dollar is worth 97 cents a year later.
When formulating climate regulations, federal agencies use discount rates to express the value of avoiding future harms caused by global warming. The lower the discount rate, the greater the value of spending money today to prevent harm to future generations.
The Obama administration uses a standard 3% discount rate, resulting in a social cost of carbon of US$52 per ton. The Trump administration often relies on a discount rate of 7%, resulting in as low as $1 per ton.
Two well-known economists—Tamar Carlton of the University of California, Santa Barbara and Michael Greenstone of the University of Chicago—in a recent Paper The Biden administration should use a discount rate of 2% to justify the social carbon cost of US$125 per ton.
But in their lawsuit, the Republican Attorney General expressed concern about the “highly uncertain task of choosing the discount rate” and “speculative nature.” They added that the lower discount rate can justify the costly new climate regulations that affect every American.
They wrote: “The use of these figures will inevitably greatly expand the scope and scope of the federal government’s regulatory powers, touching all aspects of daily life.”
Matthew Cochin, Professor of Economics at Yale University School of Environment, and co-author of the paper science, Said the Biden administration seems likely to still accept a lower discount rate to support higher carbon social costs.
“People have made the moral argument that we should use a lower discount rate to pay more attention to protecting future generations,” he said. “But even if you don’t include moral arguments and just look at economic arguments, you will still get a lower discount rate.”
Vizcarra said that the Republican Attorney General may intend to use the lawsuit as a message to show that the red states are resisting Biden’s early climate initiatives.
She said that tomorrow’s oral debate “may be some grandstanding”, and the oral debate will begin in St. Louis at 1 pm local time.
Citizens can listen through the court YouTube channel.
forward from Electronics News With permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.