Climatologist: ‘Social Cost of Carbon’ Is ‘Surrogate for National Carbon Tax’

By Barbara Hollingsworth | November 27, 2013 | 2:15pm EST

Dr. Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. (GIT)

( – The White House is seeking public comment on an updated policy that requires federal agencies to calculate “the social cost of carbon” (SCC) when  promulgating new federal rules and regulations.

But Georgia Institute of Technology climatologist Judith Curry says SCC is nothing but “a surrogate for a national carbon tax.”

SCC is defined as “the future monetized value of emissions reductions in each year,” so any regulation that reduces future carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions gets an SCC credit that reduces, on paper, its true cost.

In a Nov. 1st post on the Office of Management and Budget blog, Howard Shelanski, administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said that the revised SCC - which he said “represents the best available science and data on the economic impacts on society of climate change” - has been set at $37 per metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) for 2015, down from the $38 per metric ton estimate released in May.

The latest revision to the May 2013 “Technical Support Document” instructs federal agencies to “incorporate the social benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions into cost-benefit analyses of regulatory actions that impact cumulative global emissions.” Those impacts are defined as including, but not limited to, “changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damages from increased flood risk, and the value of ecosystem services due to climate change.” (See Technical Support Document, revised.pdf)

“Rigorous evaluation of costs and benefits is a core tenet of the rulemaking process. It is particularly important in the area of climate change, which is already imposing tangible costs through impacts that include an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise,” Shelanski wrote.

One problem: there hasn’t been any CO2-driven global warming in 17 years. And the current “pause” may extend another 20 years, according to a paper Curry published a in September with Dr. Marcia Wyatt in the peer-reviewed journal Climate Dynamics.

Their research identified a natural 300-year-old climate “stadium wave” cycle that explains why 138 computer models all failed to predict that the Earth’s temperature would remain flat since 1996. (See Curry, Wyatt paper.pdf)

“The growing divergence between climate model simulations and observations raises the prospect that climate models are inadequate in fundamental ways,” Curry said. But these are the same models that Shelanski refers to as “the best available science.”

“Uncertain T. Monster is not pleased,” Curry responded. “Anyone taking seriously the White House’s SCC numbers needs to go back to kindergarten.”

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