Comprehensive evidence implies a higher social cost of CO2

The social cost of carbon dioxide (SC-CO2) measures the monetized value of the damages to society caused by an incremental metric tonne of CO2 emissions and is a key metric informing climate policy. Used by governments and other decision-makers in benefit–cost analysis for over a decade, SC-CO2 estimates draw on climate science, economics, demography and other disciplines. However, a 2017 report by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) highlighted that current SC-CO2 estimates no longer reflect the latest research. The report provided a series of recommendations for improving the scientific basis, transparency and uncertainty characterization of SC-CO2 estimates. Here we show that improved probabilistic socioeconomic projections, climate models, damage functions, and discounting methods that collectively reflect theoretically consistent valuation of risk, substantially increase estimates of the SC-CO2. Our preferred mean SC-CO2 estimate is $185 per tonne of CO2 ($44–$413 per tCO2: 5%–95% range, 2020 US dollars) at a near-term risk-free discount rate of 2%, a value 3.6 times higher than the US government’s current value of $51 per tCO2. Our estimates incorporate updated scientific understanding throughout all components of SC-CO2 estimation in the new open-source Greenhouse Gas Impact Value Estimator (GIVE) model, in a manner fully responsive to the near-term NASEM recommendations. Our higher SC-CO2 values, compared with estimates currently used in policy evaluation, substantially increase the estimated benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation and thereby increase the expected net benefits of more stringent climate policies.
© The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Nature, 2022, available online at: . Keywords: social cost; carbon dioxide; Greenhouse Gas Impact Value Estimator (GIVE) model.
Rennert, K., Errickson, F., Prest, B.C. et al. Comprehensive evidence implies a higher social cost of CO2. Nature 610, 687–692 (2022).