Carbon Price Tag

What Is the Real Cost of a Ton of Carbon?

A new study calculates the “social cost of carbon,” giving facility managers a specific dollar amount to help in justification arguments for emission reduction strategies.    September 8, 2022

By Greg Zimmerman, senior contributing editor

Facility managers deal daily in pinning costs to things that don’t have a specific price tag attached to them. So a new study showing the specific cost of a ton of carbon should resonate pretty well. 

A new study by the journal Nature calculated the cost of one ton of carbon emissions to be $185. According to the Washington Post, that’s well more than three times the current federal estimate, which is $51 per ton. The figure represents what the study calls the “social cost” of carbon – which accounts for the economic impact of extreme weather and other expensive effects of accelerating climate change.  

In a sort of backhanded way, this is good news for facility managers. Why? Because in the past, strategies to reduce emissions were almost always tied to energy efficiency strategies. Which is good, but it doesn’t account for everything. So now when making justification arguments based on a return-on-investment basis, FMs have this new figure as a tool in their toolbelt for carbon emissions reduction strategies. 

This idea of tying a specific dollar amount to a ton of carbon is also seen by many experts as a crucial step in developing mechanisms – like cap and trade or a carbon tax – for incentivizing reduction of emissions.  

Greg Zimmerman is senior contributing editor for FacilitiesNet.com and Building Operating Management magazine. 


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