Explore the newest iteration of The Wilderness Society's Federal Lands Emissions Accountability Tool (FLEAT), which shows the cumulative and annual social cost of carbon under various discount rate assumptions through 2030.
The ultimate cost of climate change will be borne by future generations -- but we can estimate that cost today. Using a mathematical calculation called the social cost of carbon (SCC) we can quantify, in dollars, the long-term damage caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Estimates of the SCC can vary significantly depending on the discount rate and the decision to include global or only domestic impacts. A discount rate is how economists measure the value of money over time—the tradeoff between what a dollar is worth today and what a dollar would be worth in the future. A higher discount rate places less value on future damages caused by climate change and results in a lower SCC. Similarly, including only domestic rather than global impacts fails to take into consideration the impact U.S. emissions have on other countries or the impact other countries’ emissions have on the U.S., and significantly reduces SCC estimates. Economic experts recommend including global impacts and using a discount rate no higher than 3%.
The graphic shows how the assumptions used by the Trump Administration significantly underestimate the SCC compared to what economic experts recommend.