I hate to bring this up for fear of adding, in whatever small way, to the hype, but … the 2007 IPCC report has not, I repeat, has not been discredited as riddled with errors. Not even a little bit. Not even close.

Yes, two small errors have been found, one about the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are melting and the other about the share of the Netherlands that is currently below sea level. Allowing these errors into the final text of the report certainly represents a failure in the IPCC’s reviewing and proofreading process.

Here’s what’s getting missed when Fox News and even NPR talk about the errors: The IPCC report is thousands of pages long. The results of each volume are summarized, and those summaries are again summarized ad nauseam until the whole thing is distilled into a 20-page policymaker summary report. That summary report is further digested into the one or two numbers that make it into the media, usually the expected average annual temperature change and sea-level rise by 2100.

Some of the information in the full IPCC reports is fundamental, an enormous set of facts and modeling assumptions that come together in these final media-friendly results. But most of the information in the IPCC report is not fundamental, and changing any part of it would have no effect on those final results.

The errors about Himalayan glaciers and Netherlands geography are problems of this latter type: They are not fundamental, and they do not affect the policymaker summary report or the few facts that reach a wider public audience.

For a clear and detailed accounting of errors, real and imagined, in the IPCC report, see this post on RealClimate. For a lighter explanation, try Tom Toles.

My colleague Frank Ackerman, head of the Climate Economics Group here at SEI-U.S., has an excellent guest post today on TripleCrisis about how important it is that the EPA not under-price carbon. (Check out my posting from yesterday on the same topic: The lower their chosen price on carbon, the less pollution control seems justified.)

Here’s an excerpt of his argument:

Every $1 per ton of CO2 is about a penny per gallon of gasoline, so $5 per ton would be a trivial price incentive of 5 cents a gallon. At $50 per ton, or 50 cents a gallon, you’d start to notice. An increase of $500 per ton, or $5 per gallon, would put us in the realm of gas prices in many European countries where people buy smaller cars and use public transportation a lot more than we do.

$500, though, isn’t in the running. In the September proposal, EPA offered a range of values from $5 to $56. It sounds to me like the high end was included to mollify critics, while the low end is what EPA’s economists prefer.

Read the full post here. To learn more about the “social cost of carbon,” what’s wrong with the EPA’s approach, and how it’s likely to shape EPA motor vehicle regulations, read Frank’s critique of proposed EPA regulation here.

Just about every climate policy has something to do with the price of carbon dioxide emissions. A carbon tax is just a price the emitter pays for each ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Under cap-and-trade or cap-and-dividend allowance systems, a limit is placed on carbon emissions, and a market forms to buy and sell the right to emit; this market sets a price on carbon. Similarly, the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act rests on a type of carbon price known as the social cost of carbon (SCC).

It sounds obscure and technical, I know, but with climate legislation stalled in Congress, the EPA regulatory actions could be the only U.S. climate policy that we see for a long time. So it’s worth a little of our time and brain cells to figure out just what the SCC means and why we should care.

The dollar figure put on the SCC will determine just how much regulation actually takes place. The EPA will look, in traditional cost-benefit-analysis style, at the cost of complying with a regulation in comparison to the SCC. If complying with the regulation costs more per ton than the SCC, the EPA won’t require it. If it costs less, it will. A high SCC means lots of regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (think: higher fuel-efficiency requirements on cars, tighter emissions requirements for power plants). A low SCC means little or no regulation.

The EPA’s method of calculating the SCC is troubling and, perhaps, the subject of another blog posting. Suffice it to say, the figure is fairly arbitrary, based on a bunch of value judgments that need a lot closer examination by a wider public. The first EPA regulations that will depend on the SCC are part of a “rulemaking” regarding cars and light trucks – a process that has been more or less invisible to the general public. Once an SCC becomes part of an established regulation, it will become that much easier for the value set to be propagated to further regulations, citing precedent.

The EPA has the power to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and I’m hoping that they’ll use this power for good by setting a high SCC. Unfortunately, their proposed rulemaking does not support this hope – its SCC is small, and the justification given for this value is weak.

If you’re interested in the more technical details, check out Frank Ackerman of SEI-U.S.’s critique of the EPA rulemaking.