The social cost of carbon (SCC) provides a monetary measure of the net global harm resulting from a small increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Conversely, it also measures the net reduction in harm (social benefit) from a decrease. Federal agencies in the United States have developed a range of estimates of the SCC, with core values that anticipate net costs of about $50 per metric ton for emissions of carbon dioxide in the next few years, rising to about $80 for mid-century emissions. These estimates embody considerable uncertainty, and multiple factors indicate the actual SCC is probably several hundred dollars per ton. Those seeking to promote sustainable improvements in human wellbeing should forgo actions that would increase atmospheric carbon dioxide—or other greenhouse gasses with equivalent effects—unless they can yield benefits that more than offset these costs.
Niemi E. G., 2017. The social cost of carbon. In Elias S. A. et al. (Eds.), Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. Book chapter (subscription required).