Sustainability Reads: August 25- August 31

Government Auditors Say ‘Social Cost of Carbon’ Is by the Book
After a growing push from Republican lawmakers in the U.S., the social cost of carbon (SCC) was audited by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The SCC is a complex calculation administered by an inter-agency team of bureaucrats to assess the long-term costs of carbon pollution. The audit results confirmed that the SCC, even in its increase of 50% in 2013, was calculated accordingly since it “used consensus-based decision-making”; “relied on existing academic literature and methods”; and “took steps to disclose limitations and incorporate new information.” This is good news as the administration continues to use SCC to inform climate action. By John H. Cushman Jr.at InsideClimate News.

The U.N.’s latest report on climate change is terrifying
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) draft report does reiterate much on what we already know- climate change is happening, the effects will be widespread, and we need to do something about it. However, the language used is stronger in an attempt to get the world to react and take action. Specifically, as noted by NY Times, the report ‘highlights the urgency of the risks likely to be intensified by continued emissions of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon dioxide released by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.’ However, good news is that efforts to reduce emissions have been successful on the local and regional levels. By Sara Bernard on Grist.org.

America’s Data Centers Consuming and Wasting Growing Amount of Energy
Great piece drawing attention to the growing electricity use by U.S. data centers, which stood at 91 billion kwh in 2013. If the recommendations outlined in this paper are followed, electricity use could be reduced by 40% and save U.S. businesses $3.8 billion a year. The recommendations: 1.) Adoption of a simple server utilization metric such as the average utilization of the server central processing unit(s) (CPU). This would help resolve one of the biggest efficiency issues in data centers: underutilization of servers; 2.) Alignment of incentives between decision-makers through a review of contractual agreements to ensure financial rewards for efficiency best practices are included; and 3.) Disclosure of data center energy and carbon performance to drive behavioral changes across the industry. By NRDC.

Cutting Emissions Pays for Itself
MIT researchers published a comprehensive assessment of the effects of climate policy on the economy, air pollution, and the cost of health problems related to air pollution on CO2 reduction policies. Cutting carbon has already been associated with lower levels of asthma and other health concerns, but this study illustrates the cost savings through avoided medical care and saved sick days from the improved air quality. The researchers found that ‘savings from avoided health problems could recoup 26 percent of the cost to implement a transportation policy, but up to 10.5 times the cost of implementing a cap-and-trade program’. This research is very valuable and should assist policy makers in cost-benefit analyses of climate policies. Article by Audrey Resutek via MIT News.

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