The social cost of atmospheric release
© 2015, The Author(s). I present a multi-impact economic valuation framework called the Social Cost of Atmospheric Release (SCAR) that extends the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) used previously for carbon dioxide (CO2) to a broader range of pollutants and impacts. Values consistently incorporate health impacts of air quality along with climate damages. The latter include damages associated with aerosol-induced hydrologic cycle changes that lead to net climate benefits when reducing cooling aerosols. Evaluating a 1 % reduction in current global emissions, benefits with a high discount rate are greatest for reductions of co-emitted products of incomplete combustion (PIC), followed by sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and then CO2, ammonia and methane. With a low discount rate, benefits are greatest for PIC, with CO2 and SO2 next, followed by NOx and methane. These results suggest that efforts to mitigate atmosphere-related environmental damages should target a broad set of emissions including CO2, methane and aerosol/ozone precursors. Illustrative calculations indicate environmental damages are $330-970 billion yr−1 for current US electricity generation (~14–34¢ per kWh for coal, ~4–18¢ for gas) and $3.80 (−1.80/+2.10) per gallon of gasoline ($4.80 (−3.10/+3.50) per gallon for diesel). These results suggest that total atmosphere-related environmental damages plus generation costs are much greater for coal-fired power than other types of electricity generation, and that damages associated with gasoline vehicles substantially exceed those for electric vehicles.
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