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The Social Cost of Carbon: Counting the Costs of Climate Change and the Benefits of Cutting Carbon Pollution

Last November the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) solicited comments on the administration’s social cost of carbon (SCC) calculations. Today, as the extended comment period closes, the Union of Concerned Scientists filed joint comments with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Institute for Policy Integrity (Policy Integrity), and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in support of the SCC. The current SCC value is an important start for measuring the benefits of cutting carbon pollution. At $37 per metric ton of CO2 in 2015 (2007 dollars, using a 3% discount rate), it is also almost certainly an underestimate of the costs of climate change and can be improved in the future. Read More

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Grimm-Cassidy Bill Seeks to Gut Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reforms

In an extraordinary turnabout, House members seem set to abandon bedrock principles of fiscal conservatism by voting on a bill to undermine the Biggert-Waters flood insurance reforms. Those reforms would have put the highly-indebted National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in a more solvent position, benefiting taxpayers who have been footing the growing bill for costs of flooding. They would have also helped shine a light on the growing risks and costs of development along parts of our coasts threatened by sea level rise, storm surge, and flooding. Read More

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Early Wildfire Season in New Mexico Starts as U.S. Considers New Funding Sources to Fight Extreme Wildfires

I experienced very dry conditions in the mountains of northern New Mexico a few weeks back. I spoke with someone who travels to Taos nearly every winter and this was the least snow he could remember. The fire risk sign said “low” in the surrounding forests, but if more snow did not come soon I suspected those signs would start nudging to the yellow and red colors that warn of fire risk. Unfortunately, fires have already erupted in New Mexico this February. Some officials say that if 2014 continues to be the sixth year in a row with drier-than-average conditions on New Mexico’s Rio Grande, this would be the longest dry stretch since before the Rio Grande river gauges existed. Read More

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“Courage, Creativity, and Boldness” — A 2030 Target for California Climate Action

Midway through 2014’s very weird winter it might be easy for those of us who understand the need for urgent action on climate change to feel discouraged. A do-nothing Congress is virtually certain not to make progress on climate policy (or much else) any time soon, and international progress also seems chronically stalled. But there has been some good news recently out of the west. Read More

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CVS, Tobacco, and Aligning Companies’ Actions with Their Sustainability Brands on Climate Change

This week I am at the GreenBiz Conference, an annual meeting of leaders in sustainable business, many from the world’s top companies. One of the discussion topics that keeps coming up is values—specifically, the need to align company operations with their corporate values around sustainability. But what does this mean in practice? Read More

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Palm Oil: From Plantation to Peanut Butter

A couple of years ago, as I waited for my morning coffee to brew and my toast to, er, toast, I was reading the label of my peanut butter jar and had my entire organic, fair trade world thrown for a loop when I saw that my peanut butter contained palm oil. Read More

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Overreliance on Natural Gas: Risky for the Climate and the Economy

In last week’s State of the Union (SOTU) address, President Obama reiterated his support for climate science by unequivocally stating “The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” He also should be commended for highlighting the urgency of the problem as local communities are already experiencing damaging and costly climate impacts like drought, wildfires, heat waves, and coastal flooding.

But the President’s enthusiasm for increasing natural gas production and use as an important climate solution missed the mark. And like his climate action plan speech at Georgetown University last June, the President highlighted the economic benefits of increasing U.S. natural gas production, while failing to mention the economic risks of an overreliance on natural gas. Read More

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President Obama’s State of the Union: the Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Missing

President Obama covered a wide range of issues in last night’s State of the Union speech, with much of it focused on the need for more aggressive action on issues like economic inequality, unemployment, education and training. But he also addressed several of the issues that UCS works on directly, especially climate change and energy. Read More

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The Biggert-Waters Act: Fix It, Don’t Abandon It

As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, the Senate is gearing up to vote on delaying the reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) mandated by the Biggert-Waters Act. With rising sea levels increasing the risk of coastal flooding and the NFIP’s debt mounting (over $24 billion currently), it’s time for senators to find a sensible middle ground that protects both local communities and taxpayers. Read More

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Climate Change and Nuclear Power

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently received by email an open letter by four nuclear scientists and engineers—Andrew C. Kadak, Richard A. Meserve, Neil E. Todreas, and Richard Wilson—titled “Nuclear Power’s Role in Responding to Climate Change.” Below we look at some of their arguments. Read More

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