July 14, 2020: GAO shows carbon cost maneuvering

The Trump Administration has revised the metrics used to measure the social cost of carbon to further deregulations. While this itself is not news, the GAO has revealed these efforts to manipulate cost-benefits analysis leading to more deregulation.

The General Accounting Office (GAO), non-partisan investigative agency for Congress, released a report that shows the revised model with its vaunted seven times reduction in carbon cost was based on changing two metrics: 1. only factoring damages within the United States instead of globally which ignores all the US assets and personnel abroad and 2. changing an economic measure, the discount rate, in a way that puts more value on future benefits and so reduces rationale for paying costs today.

Further the GAO report states an executive order from 2017 disbanded an interagency working group charged with developing social cost of carbon estimates and discarded that group’s guidance and cost estimates.

“Without identifying a federal entity or entities to be responsible for addressing the National Academies’ recommendations, including monitoring scientific research and ensuring that updates to the federal estimates consider such research, the federal government may not be well-positioned to ensure agencies’ future regulatory analyses are using the best available science,” GAO wrote.