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U.S. Government Watchdog Probes Trump’s Downgrade of Social Cost of Carbon Accounting

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is probing the Trump administration’s decision to downgrade the official estimate of the social cost of carbon, an important climate benchmarking tool originally introduced under President Barack Obama.

“The Obama administration championed the measurement of carbon emissions through determining its social cost as a way to estimate the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” The Hill recalls. In 2016, the U.S. placed that cost at US$42 per ton by 2020. Now, the Trump administration says it should be pegged as low as $1 per ton.

The GAO’s review of the downgrade was requested last December by seven Democratic senators, including Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

“Carbon pollution is triggering big changes,” Whitehouse said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s threatening our homes and businesses with stronger storms and rising seas. It’s sparking bigger wildfires and longer droughts, and killing our crops. And it’s warming and acidifying our ocean waters, displacing our fisheries. These changes all come with a price tag—and we ought to know what that price will be,”

In that light, Trump’s decision to “undermine the social cost of carbon in our policy-making is a bad one,” he added. “This report will help us learn just how bad, and show how states and other countries are using the social cost of carbon to measure the risks they see from climate change.”