Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Fuzzy Math in Trump’s Climate Executive Order Will Make it Easier for the EPA to Appease Industry
Press Release

RELEASE: Fuzzy Math in Trump’s Climate Executive Order Will Make it Easier for the EPA to Appease Industry

Washington, D.C. — President Donald Trump’s March 28 energy executive order directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to review key climate rules underpinning the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. One section of the executive order that went largely unnoticed—the section nullifying the social cost of carbon, or SCC—will help pave the way for the Trump administration’s EPA to propose weakening or nullifying those climate rules altogether, including the Clean Power Plan, or CPP.

Federal agencies use the SCC—the economic cost of one ton of carbon pollution—to quantify the benefits of policies to cut that pollution, such as the Clean Power Plan. In an issue brief released today, the Center for American Progress examines the campaign by fossil fuel interests to eliminate the SCC and the potential effects of President Trump’s decision to undercut this critically important figure.

“President Trump and his allies in the fossil fuel industry live in a fantasy world where climate change imposes no economic costs,” said Alison Cassady, Director of Domestic Energy Policy at CAP. “By nullifying the SCC, President Trump is trying to make that fantasy a reality. But no amount of fuzzy math changes the facts: Climate change has the potential to exact devastating human and economic costs on the United States and the world.”

The Obama administration created an interagency working group to calculate the value for a ton of carbon pollution that all agencies could use in their cost-benefit analyses for climate-related rulemakings. The SCC value for 2017 is $39 per ton of carbon pollution in 2007 dollars. President Trump’s executive order erased that group’s work with his signature. Going forward, the EPA and other agencies will likely assume a significantly lower value for a ton of carbon pollution. This could have a real-world consequence: The EPA may not be able to demonstrate sufficient monetized benefits from cutting carbon pollution. As the agency moves to reconsider the CPP and other climate rules, the EPA could use this lack of demonstrable benefits to justify imposing weaker pollution limits or eliminating them entirely.

Click here to read the issue brief.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at or 202.481.7141.