04 November 2009

Using Atmosphere As Toilet? Please Deposit $50

If you are emitting greenhouse gases you are probably imposing a cost on society in the range of $20 to $100 per ton of CO2 equivalent, and possibly much more.

When researchers at the New York University School of Law sent a questionnaire to 289 economists who had published at least one article on climate change in a top-rated economics journal in the past 15 years they asked: "The global 'social cost of carbon' per metric ton—i.e. the net present value of the marginal impact over time caused by the emission today of one ton of carbon dioxide‐equivalent greenhouse gasses—is most likely: _____".

They got 84 answers. The median answer was $50 per ton. The mode was $50 per ton. The average was $107 per ton (discarding the two highest answers, which were twenty times higher than the next highest).

"Perhaps the response that best captures the uncertainty regarding the damages generated by greenhouse gas emission was: 'No one knows, including me.' " But the consensus among the respondents was that there clearly is a social cost, and it is likely in the range of $20-100 per ton.

So if you are emitting greenhouse gases by driving your car or operating your coal-fired power plant, there should be a box nearby where you should deposit $50-100 or so for each ton you pass, to be sent to those who suffer harm from those emissions. Or are you one of those who feels it is OK to use other people's space as your toilet?

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