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ISO Damage Standard

By:
Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Jul 30, 2019  at  at 6:00 AM
Category
Climate Change

The International Organization for Standards (ISO) promulgates a broad range of standards developed by one or more of its 163 national members and agreed to by the membership. Companies globally are encouraged to adopt these standards in their business operations and customers are encouraged to do business with companies which have adopted the standards.

The ISO 14000 family of standards “ provides practical tools for companies and organizations of all kinds looking to manage their environmental responsibilities.” The Swedish Life Cycle Center has begun development of what would become ISO Standard 14008: Monetary Valuation of Environmental Impacts and Related Environmental Aspects.

ISO Standard 14008 includes, but is not limited to, the climate impacts of companies’ operations. The standard would subsume the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC), as well as a number of other aspects of companies’ operations which are judged to have impacts on the environment and sustainability. The standard is intended to accurately reflect both the positive and negative impacts of all aspects of companies’ operations. However, many of these impacts are extremely difficult to measure and to evaluate.

Sustainability is a very broad concept which is focused on 17 sustainable development goals. However, it is a difficult and time-consuming process to estimate, no less measure, the impacts of a specific company’s operations on each of these 17 sustainability goals. However, the adoption of ISO Standard 14008 would essentially require that the analyses be conducted and their results used to modify company operations.

However, the SCC is an indication of the technical limitations and economic risks associated with such international standards. For example, the values suggested for the SCC vary widely; and, the value selected for an analysis, or a regulation, or a law can have significant economic impacts on companies affected by the standard. There are competent studies which assert that the current SCC is negative; that is, the emissions of carbon dioxide are having a net positive effect on the environment. Some studies suggest that the positive effects would continue for the foreseeable future.

There is scant data on the current environmental impacts of incremental atmospheric CO2; and, there is no data on the potential future impacts. NASA’s analysis of the “Greening of the Globe” suggests that the primary contributor to the greening is the result of increased atmospheric CO2. Other studies have concluded that increased atmospheric CO2 has improved the efficiency with which many plants, including many food crops, use the water available to support their growth and productivity.

The concerns regarding the future SCC are based on unverified climate models, uncertain estimates of climate sensitivity and feedbacks, and prospective Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs).

There is also scant data available regarding the other environmental impacts of other aspects of companies’ operations. Therefore, the proposed standard would be based largely on expert estimates of current and projected future effects, again based largely on unverified models. While this might represent a reasonable basis for “recommendations” or “guidelines”, it hardly seems appropriate for an international standard which might be codified in regulation or law.