The social cost of carbon


We know it. We would have to pay a lot more to pollute — or to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gases, it depends. But, whatever the social cost, the reality of daily life always ends up imposing itself. A brief overview of a tough week for the environment. And even worse for global warming.

Always difficult to calculate in the consensus, the global social cost of the emission of a ton of CO2 could be at least four times higher than that currently attributed to it, underlines a study published Thursday in the journal Nature by a group of economists and climate experts.

And we are only talking here about one of the components of GHGs. Last year, a group of experts mandated by the American government evaluated this “social cost of carbon” at US$51 per tonne; this study indicates that its real cost would rather be US$185 per ton.

These results lead to “a complete revision” of the bases currently used by the neighboring government, the main author of the study, Kevin Rennert, of the Resources for the Future center, told Agence France-Presse on Thursday. The main sectors where the cost has been revised upwards are health – “to better take into account the rise in mortality rates due to rising temperatures” – and the impacts on the agricultural sector.

Here and there, we are very far from the mark.

In Canada, the Ottawa update of the pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution assumes that the price will increase by $15 per tonne per year, rising to $65 in 2023 and reaching $170 in 2030 On the emissions market on the European Carbon Exchange, the energy broker Capitole Énergie points out that the price per tonne, converted into US dollars, remains between 80 and 90 $US. And with the massive use of coal-fired power plants in Europe to offset the shock of Russian gas supply, it should exceed US$90 or even US$100 in the medium term, he predicts.

Record concentration of GHGs

Meanwhile, the latest data from the United States Oceanic and Atmospheric Observation Agency (NOAA) released this week indicates that atmospheric concentrations of climate-changing GHGs in 2021 have reached unprecedented levels. .

CO concentration2 averaged 414.7 parts per million (ppm) last year, 2.3 ppm more than in 2020. A record since measurements began.

Even more worrying are the methane levels, at 1896 parts per billion (ppb), which also set a new mark. “The 16.9 ppb increase recorded for 2021 was the fastest observed since the early 1980s, when a more stringent measurement regime was initiated. Methane levels are currently about 162% higher than pre-industrial levels. Based on NOAA observations, scientists estimate that the amount of methane emitted in 2021 was 15% higher than in the period 1984-2006.

The records come as major economies dramatically stepped up support for the production and consumption of coal, oil and natural gas last year.

Many countries are struggling to balance long-standing commitments to remove inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and measures to protect households from soaring energy prices, reads a jointly signed analysis by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency, published on 28 August.

It shows that overall public support for fossil fuels in 51 countries around the world, representing 85% of the world’s total energy supply, nearly doubled from US$362.4 billion in 2020 to US$697.2 billion. billion in 2021.

In G20 economies, total support for fossil fuels rose from $147 billion to $190 billion, up 29%. “Producer support alone has reached levels the OECD has never seen before in its monitoring activities, rising to $64 billion in 2021 — almost 50% more year-on-year. annual and 17% more than in 2019 “, can we read there.

Is it any wonder, then, that the G20 climate talks held on Wednesday in Bali failed to produce a joint communiqué, against the backdrop of the economic and geopolitical impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? This meeting was intended as a prelude to the G20 summit in November, which Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend, Agence France-Presse recalled.

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