The ‘Social Cost of Carbon’ Is the Most Historic Climate Change Decision Yet

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The Daily Beast; August 30, 2016

One of the most significant court cases about climate change was decided this month by a federal appeals court in Chicago. Given that it was steeped in the enervating context of refrigerator regulations, you may have missed it. But amid the stultifying discussions of compressors and insulation foam was a crucial advance in our nation’s belated attempts to forestallglobal climate catastrophe.

It all comes down to a new phrase: the Social Cost of Carbon.

Here’s why it’s important. By law, government agencies—in this case, the Department of Energy—are often required to show that the benefits of a proposed regulation exceed the costs. Sometimes this is straightforward: If it costsindustry $100 million to prevent pollution that will do only $10 million in damage, the government (usually) can’t force them to do it. 

Sometimes it’s downright Solomonic. If that pollution regulation can save a single life, is that worth $100 million in industry costs? You might say yes, but usually, the government says no. In fact, we “price lives” all the time—by requiring some safety protections but not others, by building roads the way we do, and in a thousand other ways.

But what about climate change? The costs of a particular regulation—in this case, covering refrigerators—are sometimes easy to assess. But how do you capture the “benefits” of preventing cataclysmic climate change?

The Business Case for Environmental Sustainability

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Business Law Today; January 2015

A corporation’s main objective, and many would agree, legal obligation, is to make money and maximize profits for its shareholders, but should more be asked or required of today’s successful businesses? For an ever increasing segment of society, the answer without a doubt is “yes.” The concept, commonly referred to as corporate social responsibility (CSR), extends beyond compliance with legal mandates or even charitable donations and good deeds. CSR advocates believe a company has a clear duty of care to all stakeholders connected to or impacted by a company’s operation. 

A number of green issues are emerging as key components in a more global initiative to hold corporations socially, and if possible, financially responsible for their actions and inactions. Sustainable development, as a critical component of CSR, takes into account social, economic, environmental, and natural resource issues potentially affected by business. With growing awareness worldwide of environmental concerns, the CSR component of sustainability is focused on environmental sustainability. Environmental sustainability generally addresses how the needs of the present can be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs with emphasis on protection of natural resources and the environment.