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Publications

Viewing all publications in Issue Briefs
  • A Lower Bound
    Issue Brief

    A Lower Bound

    Why the Social Cost of Carbon Does Not Capture Critical Climate Damages and What That Means for Policymakers

    January 31, 2019

    The Social Cost of Carbon, developed by the Obama-era Interagency Working Group (IWG), is the best available tool for measuring the economic damages from greenhouse gas emissions. It has been used in analysis for over 100 federal regulations that affect greenhouse gas emissions, as well as by a number of states in electricity and climate policy. Still, many significant impacts identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are difficult to quantify and so have been omitted from the IWG SCC estimates. Impacts such as increased fire risk, slower economic growth, and large-scale migration are all unaccounted for, despite their potential to cause large economic losses. Our new issue brief discusses these omissions and other variables that will influence climate outcomes. We encourage policymakers to account for this likely underestimate by viewing the SCC as a lower bound for damages.

  • How States Can Value Pollution Reductions from Distributed Energy Resources
    Issue Brief

    How States Can Value Pollution Reductions from Distributed Energy Resources

    July 20, 2018

    DERs are a growing part of the U.S. electric system and many state electric utility regulators are looking to more accurately compensate them by paying for a variety of the benefits that these resources provide. Most states are currently focusing on energy and distribution-level benefits, but this approach overlooks the environmental and public health impacts of DERs. Even though some states like California and New York have been working on analyses that include environmental attributes of DERs, few regulators have attempted a thorough evaluation of the environmental and public health benefits. Our report, Valuing Pollution Reduction, lays out a practical methodology for calculating the E value, the highlights of which are captured here. Specifically, this issue brief describes how to appropriately value environmental and public health benefits by monetizing the economic, health, and climate damages avoided emissions would have caused. State utility regulators can use the steps described here, weighing tradeoffs between accuracy and administrability, to implement their own program to holistically compensate DERs.

  • How the Trump Administration Is Obscuring the Costs of Climate Change
    Issue Brief

    How the Trump Administration Is Obscuring the Costs of Climate Change

    March 23, 2018

    When federal and state policymakers account for the impacts of climate change, they regularly use a tool called the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC). The SCC puts a dollar value on the most significant, quantifiable damages caused by each additional ton of carbon dioxide emitted. The most recent estimate of the cost is at least $51 per ton and rising over time. But now, turning its back on years of work, the Trump administration has disbanded the federal group that developed the SCC, and produced a new “interim” estimate claiming that each ton of carbon dioxide causes as little as $1 in climate damages. This issue brief describes how the Trump Administration reached this misleading number by ignoring the interconnected, global nature of our climate-vulnerable economy and obscuring the devastating effects that climate change will have on younger and future generations. Though the administration has been proposing rollbacks of environmental rules using this problematic SCC estimate as justification, we explain why federal agencies and state governments should continue using the most recent estimate by the Interagency Working Group that developed the SCC.

  • Irreplaceable: Why States Can’t Make Up for Inadequate Federal Enforcement of Environmental Laws
    Issue Brief

    Irreplaceable: Why States Can’t Make Up for Inadequate Federal Enforcement of Environmental Laws

    June 6, 2017

    Budget cuts threaten EPA’s ability to enforce federal environmental laws, and states have neither the means nor the will to substitute for it. Our issue brief on EPA enforcement explores the financial and political constraints that state regulators already face when implementing federal environmental laws and how the Trump Administration’s budget cuts would exacerbate these problems.

  • The Senate’s Midnight Rules Relief Act Would Bring Chaos, Not Relief
    Issue Brief

    The Senate’s Midnight Rules Relief Act Would Bring Chaos, Not Relief

    June 1, 2017

    The Midnight Rules Relief Act, approved by the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 17, 2017, would turn the Congressional Review Act (“CRA”) from a scalpel into a sledgehammer. Our issue brief describes how this shift in regulatory policy would allow for quick repeals of public safeguards after only 10 hours of Senate debate and prevent similar rules from being enacted in the future.