PerspectiveEconomics

What's the damage from climate change?

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Science  30 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6345, pp. 1330-1331
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan5201

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Summary

Questions of environmental regulation typically involve trade-offs between economic activity and environmental protection. A tally of these trade-offs, put into common monetary terms—that is, a cost-benefit analysis (CBA)—has been required for significant regulations (e.g., those having an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more) by the U.S. government for more than four decades (13). Ethical debate over the role of CBA is at least as old as the requirement itself (4), but the practical reality is that it pervades government policy-making. If estimates of environmental impacts and valuation are absent or questionable, the case for environmental protection is weakened. This is why the estimates of climate change damages reported by Hsiang et al. on page 1362 of this issue (5) are particularly important.