When last we joined hands around the ourenergypolicy.org campfire, roasting s’mores and singing songs of camaraderie, we told tales of one particular monster of the dark, to wit, the Obama administration analysis of the social cost of carbon, perhaps the most dishonest exercise in political arithmetic ever produced by the federal bureaucracy.
But this is the Beltway: No perfidy goes unrewarded. And so it is with the SCC, now tailor-made for the justification of rules utterly preposterous. Consider for example the Environmental Protection Agency efficiency rule for medium- and heavy trucks, part of the administration’s climate action plan; EPA has published estimates (Table VII-25) of the effects of the rule:
… by 2100… global mean temperature is estimated to be reduced by 0.0027 to 0.0065 °C, and sea-level rise is projected to be reduced by approximately 0.026 to 0.058 cm…
And then EPA arrives at the benefit/cost conclusion:
[We] estimate that these standards will result in net economic benefits exceeding $100 billion, making this a highly beneficial program.
How is it possible that a temperature effect by 2100 measured in ten-thousandths of a degree, or sea-level effects measured in thousandths of a centimeter, could yield over $100 billion in net economic benefits?
Well, actually, it’s easy, having nothing to do with the upward bias in most climate models of the effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. The dishonesties in the SCC analysis are many, but in particular by (1) using global (rather than national) benefits to drive the SCC benefit calculations, (2) refusing to apply a 7 percent discount rate to the streams of benefits and costs, despite clear direction from the Office of Management and Budget, and (3) using ozone and particulate reductions as “co-benefits” of climate policies, the administration calculates the SCC at about $36 per ton in 2015.
So the actual effects of the policies literally are irrelevant; just compute the assumed reduction in GHG emissions, multiply by $36, and voila!
Well, you say, the U.S. is only part of a (deeply dubious) international effort. OK, let’s apply the EPA’s own climate model, and think much bigger than the pikers in Paris last year. The Obama climate policy, including the pseudo-agreement with China, yields a temperature reduction by 2100 of 25 one-thousandths of a degree. A 20 percent emissions cut by China by 2030: 2 tenths of a degree. A 30 percent reduction by the rest of the industrialized world: 2 tenths of a degree. An impossible 20 percent reduction by the rest of the developing world: 1 tenth of a degree. The grand total: about half a degree, at an annual cost of 1-2 percent of global GDP, inflicted disproportionately upon the world’s poor.
Put aside the domestic wealth redistribution effect of the Obama policy: higher energy costs in red states relative to blue ones. Put aside the utter absence of actual evidence of a looming crisis. Consider instead the religious nature of the anti-“carbon” crusade: The interpretation of destructive weather as the gods’ punishment of men for the sins of Man is ancient. And just as the pagans for millennia attempted to prevent destructive weather by worshipping golden idols, so do modern environmental leftists now attempt to prevent destructive weather by bowing down before recycling bins. The more general theological stance: In the beginning, Earth was the Garden of Eden. But mankind, having consumed the forbidden fruit of the tree of technological knowledge, has despoiled it. And only through repentance and economic suffering can we return to the loving embrace of Mother Gaia.
Back to the SCC: It is the delegation of legislative powers to the regulatory agencies that has allowed such game playing in pursuit of an ideological agenda. The only means with which to restore political accountability to the regulatory process is a requirement that all regulations be approved by Congress.