Climate Change Policy (12-4-06)
Climate Change has remained a hot topic on Capitol Hill since the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC)
sponsored a 1997 conference in
Japan, where the Kyoto
Protocol was drafted. Response from Capitol Hill has continuously
been against the idea of the U.S. ratifying the treaty. The Clinton
Administration was in strong support of implementing at least the
spirit of the protocol, but Congress sent a clear note that it would
not vote in favor of any actions that would harm the nation's economy.
President George W. Bush announced his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol
in 2001 and introduced an alternative approach to climate change.
Since his announcement, Congress began to hold more hearings related
to climate change science but this phase was short lived with congressional
hearings focusing mostly on the economic aspects of the climate debate.
A general history of the climate change debate is available at the
Congressional Research Service's Global
Climate Change Briefing Book.
Climate Change in the News: Lawsuit and United Nations Conference
On November 14, in San Francisco, CA, the Center for Biological
Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace file a suit against
the Bush Administration for violating the Global Change Research Act
of 1990. This law requires a national scientific assessment of climate
change and its effect on the environment every four years. The last
assessment, produced during the Clinton Administration, predicted
increased intensity of storms, floods and drought, and a two to three-fold
increase in heat-related deaths. Following this assessment, the Bush
Administration has spent $2 billion in research to produce 21 reports
from 13 different agencies. However, it has failed to generate a comprehensive
national science assessment. Environmentalists have accused the Administration
of suppressing a crucial coherent synthesis on climate change and
are asking the court to demand that the Climate Change Science Program
and Office of Science and Technology Policy produce a second national
This lawsuit comes at the end of a two-week United Nations climate
change conference in Nairobi, where international experts are collaborating
to create a global agenda for controls on greenhouse gas emissions.
Britain and other nations have urged the U.S. to reform its energy
policies and adopt limits on carbon emissions. Pressure to reform
is also coming from within the U.S. where the Supreme Court began
hearing arguments from 12 states and a coalition of environmental
groups that are suing the Environmental Protection Agency for failure
to regulate carbon emissions and comply with the Clean Air Act.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) has backed advocacy groups in its lawsuit
charging the government for not providing a national climate science
assessment required for informed and effective policy making. He stated
that it is "the right time to push Washington" on this major
AMS holds seminar on U.S. perception of climate change
On November 28, 2006, the American Meteorological Society's Environmental
Science Seminar Series held a presentation entitled "The Divide
between Values and Behavior: Exploring American Perceptions of Global
Warming and the Environment." Moderator, Anthony Socci, AMS senior
fellow, expressed hope that the two-hour seminar, featuring Dr. Anthony
Leiserowitz and Dr. Matthew Nisbet, would dispel the common myth that
if a party or individual is presented with succinct and eloquent facts,
that party or individual would come to the correct conclusion. Leiserowitz
detailed American beliefs and values about climate change and Nisbet
identified strategies for appealing to these different value systems.
Leiserowitz, research scientist at Decision Research and principal
investigator at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions
at Columbia University, presented statistics from surveys of a national
representation of adults portraying American views about climate change.
His results illustrated that Americans perceive climate change as
a moderate threat that is distant, lacks urgency and therefore, is
not a high priority. Americans generally support policies to reduce
greenhouse gases, but oppose taxes on carbon or gasoline. Certain
segments of the population react very differently to the issue of
climate change. Alarmists tend to view climate change as a catastrophically
high risk, while naysayers contend that climate change poses little
or no risk for a variety of reasons. Because public knowledge on climate
change is limited and sometimes confused, Americans often rely on
images, emotions and values to make decisions about climate change.
Therefore, Leiserowitz says, strategic images or messages that play
into certain values should be used to engage Americans on the issue
of climate change. Because different groups hold different values,
each necessitates a different strategy for presenting climate change.
Matt Nisbet, assistant professor at the School of Communications
at American University, echoed Leiserowitz's assertion that many Americans
are uninformed about global warming. These individuals, which he called
"the cognitive miserly," normally rely on heuristics to
form their opinions on issues. Because the common myth that the presentation
of facts will sway an audience does not work on this group, it is
extremely important to frame arguments on global warming effectively
and concisely in a way that appeals to the values of an audience.
Nisbet identified nine latent structures that can frame science policy
either for or against an issue. Climate change, like any other science
policy issue, could be depicted in one of nine frames - as an opportunity
for social progress, a chance for economic development, a threat like
Pandora's box, a fatalistic occurrence, a question of morality or
ethics, a scientific uncertainty, a situation resulting in public
accountability, an opening to develop an alternative solution, or
a conflict with strategies and personalities as the media often presents
In order to successfully affect an audience on any science policy
issue, including climate change, Nisbet said, one must identify which
segment of the public the audience falls into, determine which frames
resonate with this audience, develop heuristics, such as, catch phrases
or symbols, to portray this frame and identify the best communication
channel to target the public.
Seminar summaries and presentations are available at the AMS
EESI holds briefing on "Stern Review: The Economics of Climate
On November 13, 2006, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute
sponsored an informative and extremely popular briefing on "The
Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change." A flood of attendees
packed themselves into a Rayburn House conference room to hear the
highlights of this report from the United Kingdom, which compares
the economic costs of taking action to address climate change versus
those of inaction. Julian Braithwaite, Counselor for Global Issues,
Lauren Faber, Environmental Advisor, and David Thomas, First Secretary
on Energy and Environment, from the British Embassy summarized the
Braithwaite stated that the report originated from the mid-2005 international
summit on climate change. Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer,
commissioned Nicholas Stern to look at the economics of climate change.
Stern reviewed the best economic analyses already in existence and
traveled extensively to seek advice from international experts on
the topic. The 700-page report uses the economics of risk analysis
and has gone through four revisions since 2001 as scientific advances
have been made and incorporated into the study. Faber noted that the
International Panel on Climate Change released a recent report entitled
"Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change" that incorporates the
most up-to-date scientific information available.
According to Faber, the Stern Review reports about 430 ppm of carbon
dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere today, with a projected 2 ppm
rise each year, resulting in a 2-3º global temperature rise over
the next 50 years. When examining economic costs, Stern projects 5-20%
reduction in gross domestic product each year if no action to address
climate change is taken. Yet, if international efforts are made to
stabilize the atmosphere between 450 and 550 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent,
which would require a 25% decrease in emissions compared to current
levels, a 1% reduction in GDP each year would result. Therefore, for
every $1 the global economy invests in actions to mitigate climate
change, it will save $5. Faber also reported that developing countries
will experience more extreme impacts even though these countries have
contributed lowest levels of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
Thomas summarized Stern's three policy recommendations. First, Stern
insists carbon must be priced. Thomas stated that if a price on damage
in the form of trade, tax or regulation does not occur, there will
be little incentive to curb carbon emissions. Second, the global community
must be flexible in their attempt to stabilize carbon dioxide levels
with continuing research and development coupled with a five-fold
increase in technology distribution funding. A portfolio approach
that includes an array of carbon reducing strategies is necessary
because each emerging technology has its own set of risks. Third,
efficiency, awareness and education must be incorporated into any
economic strategy. The world is already locked into climate change
for the next 20-30 years, therefore, adaptation and mitigation are
Braithwaite concluded with an outline of future policy plans for
the nation. The United Kingdom will be designating a statutory emissions
target for 2050, implementing new climate change institutions, including
one in the Parliament, producing an energy white paper for government
strategy on energy policy and seeking a European Union-United States
dialogue. However, Braithwaite stated that the United Kingdom only
emits 2% of the world's carbon, therefore, "The UK is one small
part of a bigger equation to promote an international framework."
The presentations from this briefing and the complete Stern Review
are available at the EESI
American Meteorological Society's Environmental Science Seminar
Series presents "Is Global Warming Impacting, or Expected to
On October 20, 2006, the American Meteorological Society held
a series of lectures on the link between climate change and hurricane
behavior entitled "Is Global Warming Impacting, or Expected to
Impact, Hurricanes?" The seminar took place in the Russell Senate
office building and featured four meteorologists who presented key
scientific studies on possible causes for sea surface temperature
(SST) rise and how this warming affects hurricane intensity.
Dr. Jim Kossin, atmospheric research scientist for the Cooperative
Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, spoke on the importance of assessing data quality
before analyzing trends of historical hurricane activity compared
to climate. Kossin expressed confidence in the SST record throughout
the 20th century. Yet, whether the hurricane records are thorough
and consistent enough to look at the statistical relationship between
the two variables remains in question.
Kossin noted historical hurricane record inconsistencies between
pre-World War (WW) II data from observational records, post-WWII data
from aircraft reconnaissance, and post-1970 data from weather satellites.
When this data is used indiscriminately, a large climatic regime shift
appears to take place in the past half-century. However, after examination,
it is clear that much of this shift results from the 1970 launching
of the first geostationary satellite which was able to record many
more hurricanes than previous means of hurricane tracking.
In order to check the pre-1970s data, Kossin compared satellite data
from 1983-2005 with other data from the time period. An upward trend
in hurricane frequency in the Atlantic and a downward trend in the
East Pacific observed using older methods are well supported by satellite
data. However, elsewhere in the Western and Southern Pacific Ocean
as well as the Northern and Southern Indian Ocean, satellite data
does not match other data, indicating poor data quality from other
methods in those areas.
Kossin's research illustrates that rising SST cannot be the only
factor that affects hurricane activity, because SST is rising everywhere
and the East Pacific Ocean shows a decrease in hurricanes. Furthermore,
his work illustrates the need to physically understand the link between
climate and hurricane activity, because the data quality and resolution
may not be adequate enough or statistically significant to show cause
and effect correlations.
Dr. Tom Wigley, senior scientist and director of the Consortium for
the Application of Climate Impact Assessments at the National Center
for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, noted that previous
research has shown that tropical storm intensity is directly related
to SST. Wigley's concern is whether internal (natural) or external
(anthropogenic) forcing causes SST rise. By using extensive modeling
systems, Wigley has isolated anthropogenic factors on SST by running
a group of models that includes all forcing on Earth and another that
excludes natural forcing, such as the El Niño effect, volcanic
influences and solar forcing. Through the use of these models, Wigley
concluded that it is extremely unlikely that SST rise is only due
to internal factors. He attributed warming primarily to greenhouse
gases, specifically carbon dioxide.
Dr. Greg Holland, director of the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology
Division in the Earth-Sun Systems Laboratory at the National Center
for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, studies the changing
characteristics of Atlantic Ocean hurricanes because this region provides
the best hurricane data. He identified three intervals in which hurricanes
have been relatively stable, separated by sharp rises of about 50%
more cyclones and hurricanes than in the previous interval. Such changes
do not coincide with time markers that Kossin outlined and therefore,
cannot be attributed to data inconsistencies. The overall picture
shows a 100-year upward trend with a 0.7ºC rise in SST over that
Dr. Tom Delworth, senior scientist and director of the Consortium
for the Application of Climate Impact Assessments at the National
Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, remarked that
the SST record shows a long-term upward trend with multidecadal fluctuations
throughout this period. A large body of evidence suggests that warming
over the past 100 years has resulted because of anthropogenic effects,
but whether natural or anthropogenic forcing has caused warming since
the 1950s is less certain. Through the use of models, Holland has
suggested that greenhouse gases, which warm the ocean, and aerosols,
which cool the ocean, have caused the more recent fluctuations. However,
natural variability cannot be ruled out. Both Wigley and Delworth
noted that higher resolution models are necessary in order to better
clarify how human factors influence tropical storms.
During the question and answer period, Kossin addressed a question
on what actions are being taken currently to prepare the nation for
hurricanes. He outlined federal programs that aim to promote hurricane
research, including the NOAA Hurricane Research Intensity Work Group.
He also noted that the National Science Board (NSB) is preparing a
report entitled "Hurricane Warning: The Critical Need for a National
Hurricane Research Initiative" on what is needed in hurricane
research at the federal level and that related to a preliminary report
by the NSB, four Senators (Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez from Florida
and Mary Landrieu and David Vitter from Lousiana) introduced a bill
entitled "The National Hurricane Research Initiative" which
would provide at least $300 million in additional funding for research.
He called for "sustained, good funding to be able to continue
Presentations are available at www.ametsoc.org/seminar.
A National Academies
study offers insight into climate debate, encourages more research
The National Academy of Sciences issued a report on June 22,
2006 stating that conclusive scientific evidence shows that the climate
of the past several decades is the warmest that the Earth has experienced
in 400 years. Climate data for years before 1600 become increasingly
poor, thus making it impossible to conclude decisively that the Earth
is warmer now than it has been in a millennium.
This report was issued in response to a long-standing conflict that
began with the publication of a 1998 Nature
article (392: 779 - 787) by M.E. Mann et al. The article used
a variety of climate proxies to show an increase in global temperatures
over the past 100 to 150 years, a period of time corresponding to
global industrialization and increased emission of anthropogenic CO2.
A key graph from the paper that shows a rise in temperature over time
and is now referred to as the "hockey stick" graph was used
several years later in the 2001 United Nations' Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report. The paper
and the assessment gained the attention of prominent U.S. law-makers,
including House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joseph Barton
(R - TX). Congressman Barton drafted letters
to the IPCC, to NSF and to the authors of the study requesting additional
information about the funding for the research, the methods and conclusions
of the Nature article and about the process by which Dr. Mann's graph
was included in the IPCC report.
In response to Mr. Barton's investigation, House Science Committee
Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R - NY) requested that the National Academy
of Sciences (NAS) examine the evidence presented in the Nature paper
and other papers and provide "expert guidance on the current
scientific consensus of the paleoclimate record". The report
found that several lines of evidence show with high confidence that
the past few decades have been warmer than any comparable period in
the past 400 years. Between 900 and 1600 A.D. the data is less conclusive,
and beyond that, the report stated, the model is not reliable due
to the scarcity of proxy data. The Academy noted that the collection
of additional climate proxies, especially from the southern hemisphere,
would increase the certainty of climate models.
The NAS report and press release can be found at:
House Science Committee coverage of the letters and the NAS report
are available at:
Congressional briefing takes place on the role of air pollution
in Arctic warming
The American Meteorological Society hosted a briefing on "The
Role of Air Pollution on Arctic Warming" on May 31, 2006 in the
Russell Senate Office Building. According to scientists, the Arctic
region may be warming much more quickly than the rest of the planet
because of poleward transport of industrial aerosols and ozone in
the lower atmosphere.
Dr. Dan Lubin, a research physicist and senior lecturer at the Center
for Atmospheric Sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, explained
that industrial pollution - sulfates, nitrates and hydrocarbon aerosols
- can alter the radiative properties of Arctic clouds. Atmospheric
circulation patterns cause air pollution from Eurasia to concentrate
in the Arctic lower atmosphere during winter and spring (a phenomenon
known as 'Arctic Haze') and trap heat near the Earth's surface.
Although the effects of aerosols on climate are not completely understood,
it is known that industrial aerosols create more cloud condensation
nuclei, which in turn cause average cloud droplet size to decrease.
Increased amounts of small cloud droplets affect climate in two opposing
ways - the 'direct effect' makes clouds reflect more solar energy
back to space, whereas the 'indirect effect' allows more thermal radiation
to be trapped near the Earth's surface.
Lubin noted that infrared radiation plays a larger role in regulating
Arctic climate than solar radiation does, because of the low levels
of sunlight the polar regions receive during the winter and spring
months. Hence, while industrial aerosol pollution at mid- and low-latitudes
partially offsets greenhouse gas warming by reflecting incoming solar
radiation, it causes substantial warming at higher latitudes. Lubin
warned that "aerosol-driven reduction in cloud droplet size [in
the Arctic] brings about an additional surface warming equal in magnitude
to the direct warming by industrial carbon dioxide increases."
In addition to industrial aerosols, tropospheric ozone may account
for significant warming in the Arctic, reported Dr. Drew Shindell,
a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Although ozone is quickly broken down by sunlight, it has a comparatively
long lifetime during the winter months and can be transported efficiently
from Eurasian sources to the Arctic, where it then absorbs reflected
radiation and heats the air near the Earth's surface. Shindell's recent
studies suggest that this buildup of tropospheric ozone may account
for up to 40 percent of twentieth century Arctic warming.
The work of Shindell and Lubin has major implications for future
public policy. Shindell suggested that "targeted pollution controls
could have a positive, rapid effect [in the Arctic] because ozone
is so short-lived." He explained that if ozone pollution controls
were enacted soon, it may be possible to substantially reduce the
rapid rate of Arctic warming and help slow the melting of Arctic sea
ice. Lubin agreed that similar measures should also be taken to cut
down on aerosol emissions in the Northern Hemisphere.
To read abstracts of Lubin and Shindell's research on Arctic atmospheric
warming, click here.
GAO reports on voluntary pollution control programs
The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a
report on May 25, 2006, which suggests that there has not been satisfactory
progress made in the implementation of voluntary programs to reduce
industrial greenhouse gas emissions. In order to reduce emissions
linked to climate change, two voluntary programs were created by the
Bush administration in 2002 and 2003 to encourage participants to
set emissions reduction goals. The two programs are the Climate Leaders
Program, managed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and
the Climate VISION (Voluntary Innovative Sector Initiatives: Opportunities
Now) Program, managed by the Department of Energy (DOE).
The GAO report, which was requested by Senators John McCain (R-AZ)
and John F. Kerry (D-MA), found that the EPA and DOE should do more
to encourage progress under the voluntary programs. The report indicates
that many companies in the voluntary reduction programs have not yet
established specific emissions targets. As of November 2005, only
38 of the 74 firms in the EPA program had established reduction goals,
and 11 of 15 of the participating trade groups in the DOE program
had set reduction targets. The report stated that "EPA and DOE
each expect participants in their voluntary emissions reduction programs
to complete a number of actions; however, participants' progress toward
completing those actions, as well as the agencies' efforts to track
accomplishments, has varied."
EPA officials are in the process of developing a system for tracking
the progress of participating companies, and have stated that they
are willing to remove companies from the Climate Leaders Program if
they fail to meet their goals. The GAO has recommended that the DOE
also develop a system for tracking groups' progress in completing
program steps, and that the EPA and DOE develop written policies regarding
participants that are not progressing toward their goals as quickly
as expected. Both agencies are currently attempting to estimate the
effect of their programs on reducing U.S. emissions.
To read the GAO report, click here.
Arctic Research Consortium holds briefing on recent scientific
findings of Arctic environmental change
The Arctic Research Consortium of the United States hosted a briefing
on "Recent Scientific Findings of Arctic Environmental Change"
on May 23, 2006 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. All three speakers
stressed that the Arctic region is undergoing dramatic changes due
to a warming climate and that this rate of change appears to be accelerating.
Dr. Mark C. Serreze, a Senior Research Scientist at the National Snow
and Ice Data Center, noted that average Arctic air temperatures are
now higher than they have been in at least six centuries. In 2005
- the warmest year on record - much of the Arctic was 2 to 4°C
warmer than the average temperatures over the previous 26 years.
Because the Arctic acts as an integrated system of interacting components,
recent warming has impacted the ice, land, vegetation, biota and people
in the region. Sea ice cover has been severely diminished over the
past four years, with an overall decline in area about two times the
state of Texas. "That's quite a lot of real estate that we've
lost," Serreze remarked wryly.
Additionally, permafrost has warmed substantially over the past 25
years and is thawing in many places in the Arctic. This is putting
ecosystems and human infrastructure at risk. Dr. Joshua P. Schimel,
the Chair and Professor of Environmental Studies at the University
of California, Santa Barbara commented that "buildings, roads
and pipelines may be affected [by permafrost thawing]
as oil exploration, because the number of 'hard pack' days are declining."
A longer growing season has also allowed the expansion of woody shrubs
across the tundra. This "greening of the Arctic" may potentially
interfere with caribou migration and will likely increase the number
of moose in the region.
Dr. Serreze also warned that there are signs of enhanced surface
melting of the Greenland ice sheet. "If global temperatures continue
to increase as projected, melting could contribute to a rise of 13-19
feet over the coming centuries," he explained. An added complication
to surface melting is that the meltwater may be finding its way to
the base of the ice sheets, where it can lubricate the base and allow
glaciers to surge forward into the sea. Some "galloping glaciers"
in Alaska are now moving at an astounding rate of 15 kilometers per
Arctic rivers are also discharging more freshwater into the Arctic
Ocean, which may alter global ocean circulation patterns. Dr. Charles
J. Vörösmarty, the Director of Complex Systems Research
Center at the University of New Hampshire, stated that "with
increasing freshening [of the Arctic Ocean], a potentially rapid slowdown
of ocean circulation could occur that would have important implications
for the planetary heat balance." Although the numerous climate
feedback mechanisms at work in the Arctic are still not completely
understood, Vörösmarty emphasized that sea level rise should
be of more immediate concern to policy makers than a slowing of thermohaline
The U.S. must be prepared to mitigate any negative effects of Arctic
environmental change and maximize any benefits. "What happens
in the Arctic is going to change the rest of the planet," said
Serreze. Higher sea levels may result in coastal erosion and loss
of coastal communities, and less sea ice will likely change the availability
of marine resources to humans and animals. However, Shimel noted that
"while there is much discussion regarding how best to manage
the negative impacts of climate change, we also see an emerging dialogue
on how climate change could stimulate economic enterprise from the
private sector, such as the opening of trade routes across the Arctic
The briefing moderator, Dr. Matthew Sturm, a senior research physical
scientist at the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory
in Alaska, pointed out that scientists can provide information to
policy makers about what, when and how changes are occurring in the
Arctic, but he explained that it is important to keep in mind that
the implications of change are not always immediately clear. Serezze
agreed that "the ability to make predictions with current climate
models is less than optimal," but he hopes that future policy
will allow for more collaboration between various agencies in order
to address Arctic climate change issues. One such collaboration is
the newly-formed North Slope Science Initiative, an inter-agency program
that integrates inventory, monitoring and research activities to support
resource-management decisions on the North Slope of Alaska.
Sturm wrapped up the briefing by reminding the audience that "the
changes [in the Arctic environment] are real, pronounced, and have
global impacts. These changes are going to require policy, which in
turn requires good information. It's urgent that scientists and policy
makers talk now." (5/23/06)
Climate change resolution added to Interior appropriations bill
The House Appropriations Committee added an amendment to the 2007
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that
attributes increases in greenhouse gases to human activities and calls
for action to reduce emissions. The amendment, which was sponsored
by Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA), was passed by voice vote on May
10, 2006. Committee Chair Jerry Lewis (R-CA) voiced support for the
amendment and refused a request from some Republicans to hold a roll-call
The nonbinding resolution is similar to a Sense of the Senate resolution
approved by voice vote in the Senate last June as part of the Energy
Policy Act of 2005 (Public
Law 109-190). It calls on Congress to enact a mandatory greenhouse
gas cap-and-trade system as long as such a system does not harm the
U.S. economy and encourages trading partners to adopt similar actions.
Dicks called the amendment's passage a "first step." House
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told E&E Daily,"Global warming
is now accepted by almost all."
According to E&E Daily, several House Republicans voiced opposition
to the amendment's language. Representative Bill Young (R-FL) told
reporters that "the voice vote happened so quickly he did not
have a chance to read the language." Representative Joe Knollenberg
(R-MI) said, "I'm convinced any kind of national policy would
harm the economy, and that's the thing I'm most concerned about."
Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Charles
Taylor (R-NC) supported the movement but told E&E, "I wouldn't
say it's a symbolic change."
The appropriations bill is now headed to the House floor, where the
amendment could be removed before the bill is passed. "It's easy
to adopt and dump it in conference, which has been the practice in
the past," Hoyer said.
The language of the amendment is as follows:
"The Congress finds that (1) greenhouse gases accumulating
in the atmosphere are causing average temperatures to rise at a
rate outside the range of natural variability and are posing a substantial
risk of rising sea-levels, altered patterns of atmospheric and oceanic
circulation, and increased frequency and severity of floods and
droughts; (2) there is a growing scientific consensus that human
activity is a substantial cause of greenhouse gas accumulation in
the atmosphere; and (3) mandatory steps will be required to slow
or stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
"It is the sense of the Congress that there should be enacted
a comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory, market-based
limits and incentives on emissions of greenhouse gases that slow,
stop, and reverse the growth of such emissions at a rate and in
a manner that (1) will not significantly harm the United States
economy ; and (2) will encourage comparable action by other nations
that are major trading partners and key contributors to global emissions."
Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources holds climate change
On April 4, 2006, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
held a day-long conference to gather feedback on the possible creation
of a federal cap-and-trade carbon emissions policy. "Designing
and implementing a mandatory system will be very difficult economically
and politically," said Committee Chair Pete Domenici (R-NM) in
his opening remarks. Nonetheless, he called the all-day conference
a "starting point."
The first panel to testify at the conference consisted of representatives
from key energy producers and users, including Duke Energy, Exelon,
General Electric, PNM Resources, Sempra Energy, Shell, Southern Company,
and Wal-Mart. Panelists shared their views on the specifics of how
a cap-and-trade policy should be designed, who should be regulated,
and whether regulation should be mandatory. Most panelists advocated
a mandatory system that would apply throughout the economy rather
than burden any one sector. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) recognized
the importance of implementing an economy-wide approach from an equity
standpoint but questioned the economic impacts of such an approach.
Jeff Sterba, the Chairman, President, and CEO of PNM Resources, explained
that increasing the number of participants in a cap-and-trade system
will increase the system's efficiency by allowing the market to determine
the lowest cost solutions. David Slump, general manager of global
marketing for General Electric, pointed out that a cap-and-trade policy
that covers only transportation and electricity would capture 80 percent
of emissions, thereby reducing the impact to the economy without comprising
the efficacy of the system.
Although seven of the eight industry representatives testifying favored
a mandatory emissions policy, Southern Company Senior Vice President
Chris Hobson voiced opposition to a mandatory program. "A mandatory
program, in our view, is not necessary," he said. Instead, he
advocated focusing on technology development, including clean coal
plants and nuclear power generation. Other panelists agreed that technology
development should be a key component of any emissions reduction policy,
however without a mandatory policy many companies would choose not
to take action.
Elizabeth Moler, an executive vice president at Exelon, recommended
developing an emission permit allocation process that would evolve
over time. The idea sparked the senators' interest and was the subject
of numerous questions from Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Moler specified that initially 90
percent of the permits would be given away freely, while the remaining
10 percent would be sold. Over time, an increasing number of permits
would be sold to encourage the development of emission-reducing technology.
Eventually, all permits would be auctioned. She explained that such
a process would minimize the initial negative economic impacts of
implementing a mandatory cap-and-trade system.
Discussion with the second panel of witnesses centered on whether
emissions regulation should be "upstream" (targeting energy
producers and suppliers) or "downstream" (targeting emitters).
Ned Helme, President of the Center for Clean Air Policy, advocated
a hybrid system that would regulate oil and gas markets downstream
at refineries and distribution facilities but would regulate transportation
upstream, targeting fuel producers. He explained that in such a system,
approximately 8400 entities would be regulated, including refineries,
distributors, and producers. A fully downstream approach would require
regulation of hundreds of thousands of users (i.e. car owners, businesses,
etc.), while a fully upstream approach would only require about 2000
companies to be regulated.
Donald Marron, Acting Director of the Congressional Budget Office,
addressed the economic issues associated with the two possible approaches.
He noted that the administrative costs of implementing and enforcing
a cap-and-trade system would be minimized in an upstream approach,
but that such a system would not provide incentives for developing
carbon capture and sequestration technologies.
Dr. Margo Thorning, Senior Vice President of the American Council
for Capital Formation, echoed the view presented by Hobson in the
first panel that a mandatory cap-and-trade system is unnecessary.
She pointed to failures in the new European
Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which only covers one-third
of the region's emissions. Helme maintained that the EU system is
"very successful," adding that the pilot program is still
in its first year.
Jason Grumet, Executive Director of the National Commission on Energy
Policy, pointed out that to maximize coverage of regulatory programs,
regulation should be placed on upstream systems. In response to questioning
from Murkowski, he added that an upstream system would be not only
more extensive, but also cheaper and more efficient. Regulated entities
only bear roughly ten percent of the costs of regulation because they
pass costs on to their users. Grumet explained that an upstream approach
provides incentives for everyone in the system to reduce their emissions.
During the third panel, discussion returned to the question of how
to allocate emission permits. Paul Bailey, Director of Generators
for Clean Air, argued that permits should be allocated based on emissions
levels, with more free permits going to companies with lower emissions.
Michael Bradley, Executive Director of Clean Energy Group, agreed.
Bradley explained that an allocation system designed to compensate
companies for the costs incurred by regulation doesn't drive companies
to develop emission reduction technology. He added that the point
of allocating free permits is not to cover economic costs but rather
to provide economic incentives to generate fewer emissions. David
Doniger, a policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council,
discouraged allocation of any free permits. He told senators that
companies are not likely to consider free permits economically valuable.
Domenici asked the panel how coal use would fit into a mandatory
cap-and-trade policy, citing the Energy Information Administration's
projection that 60 percent of electricity will be generated from coal
by 2030. Craig Montesano of the National Rural Electric Cooperative
replied that a mandatory emission reduction program would put the
U.S. economy in "a very bad fix" by forcing companies to
use natural gas despite the lack of domestic supplies. Instead, he
advocated creating government incentives for clean coal technology
development and use. Doniger maintained that increasing clean coal
use would not be at odds with a mandatory cap-and-trade policy. He
recommended that at least 25 percent of the profits from selling emission
permits be invested in building clean coal plants. Michael Morris,
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Edison Electric Institute disagreed.
Clean plants will be insufficient to satisfy energy demand, he said,
and old plants will have to remain open. Retrofitting these plants
is too expensive and inefficient to be profitable.
Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy, recommended
a different approach to the problem. She told senators that energy
efficiency is "the most cost effective means to control greenhouse
gases." As an example, Callahan detailed efforts in California
to increase public awareness and improve the efficiency of building
codes. As a result, California's electricity use is 40 percent less
than the national average. Recognizing that passing a cap-and-trade
climate policy could take years, she urged immediate action on policies
to promote efficiency. She also recommended investing 25 percent of
the profits from the eventual sale of emission permits in energy efficiency
Testimony from the final panel focused on whether the U.S. system
should be designed to allow trading with other countries. Morris,
who testified in the fourth panel as President of American Electric
Power, told senators "it's essential" that the U.S. cap-and-trade
system involves a commitment from developing countries. Chairman of
the Climate Policy Center and former international climate negotiator
Rafe Pomerance disagreed, noting that a U.S. system that limits the
price of emission permits would be incompatible with the Kyoto
Protocol and with the European Union system. Instead he recommended
developing incentives to encourage developing countries like China
and India to cut emissions. Richard Rosenzweig of Natsource pointed
out that the developed world is currently responsible for nearly 80
percent of global carbon emissions, which warrants the U.S. "taking
the first step."
Committee members expressed significant interest in the Chicago
Climate Exchange (CCX). Dr. Michael Walsh, a senior vice president
of the exchange, told senators that CCX, which contains a successful
international trading component, is a voluntary but legally-binding
carbon trading program. He also explained that CCX is evaluated by
independent auditors, who recently determined greenhouse gas emissions
by CCX members are decreasing faster than expected. In response to
questions from Bingaman about the feasibility of expanding the program,
Morris told senators that a CCX-like exchange "would work"
on the national scale. Morris emphasized that CCX is attractive because
it is voluntary yet maintains integrity by being legally binding.
"Voluntary action will lead this country in the right direction,"
he said. Domenici indicated that he will meet with CCX officials to
learn more about the details of the exchange.
To read the Climate Change white paper that served as the basis of
the conference, click
To read the participants' responses to the questions in the white
Global warming act introduced in the House
On March 29, 2006 Representatives Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tom Petri (R-WI)
introduced the "Keep America Competitive Global Warming Policy
Act of 2006 (H.R.5049).
"The continuing absence of a meaningful, mandatory policy in
the United States is a significant impediment to a global consensus
to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions," Udall and Petri
stated in a press
release. "By introducing this bill, we are working to fill
that void and encourage lawmakers to take the first step toward responding
to the increasingly urgent signs of global warming."
The bill creates a mandatory cap for greenhouse gas emissions, set
prospectively at emissions levels three years after the enactment
of the legislation, rather than at today's levels. It also includes
a "safety valve" that initally limits the price of an emission
allowance to $25 per ton of carbon (equivalent to roughly $7 per ton
of carbon dioxide) in order to prevent a price run-up. The price of
the safety valve can increase beyond inflation only after the President
and Secretary of State determine that developing countries are taking
comparable actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, the
bill is revenue neutral to the Treasury and includes free allocation
of allowances to promote the development and implementation of carbon-reducing
technologies. Representative Udall's press release on the legislation
calls it "the first comprehensive economy-wide, cap-and-trade
global warming bill to include a prospective baseline, a safety valve,
and to protect U.S. competitiveness in case developing countries do
not take comparable actions to curb global warming emissions."
Senator Feinstein releases draft climate change legislation
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) released draft legislation on March
20, 2006 that would decrease U.S emissions of greenhouse gases without
causing significant negative impacts on the economy. "The Strong
Economy and Climate Protection Act" would implement a mandatory
cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gas emissions would be capped at 2006 levels from 2006
through 2010, then lowered gradually from 2011 through 2020. Overall,
the legislation would result in a 7.25 percent reduction in greenhouse
gas emissions from today's levels, an amount equivalent to removing
111 million automobiles from the road.
While similar in many respects to the Climate Stewardship Act proposed
by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Feinstein's
bill includes a few key differences. The McCain-Lieberman bill limits
the amount of credits companies can buy from international markets
and domestic farms, forests, and other offsets to 15 percent of their
emission needs. Feinstein's bill is less stringent, allowing companies
to purchase up to 25 percent of their emissions credits from international
sources. It also allows the agricultural sector to earn an unlimited
number of credits from sequestration and afforestation. Additionally,
the bill would provide freely-allocated emission allowances to companies,
communities, and consumers that "implement large-scale innovations
that save energy [and] reduce emissions."
"The clock is ticking on global warming," Senator Feinstein
said in a press
release accompanying the draft legislation. "If we do not
slow, stop, and reverse global warming soon, we will do irreparable
harm to the world around us... This legislation sets up a framework
to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stabilizing our climate,
while safeguarding our economy, ensuring continued U.S. competitiveness,
and allowing the agriculture and forestry sectors to earn revenue
for helping the environment." Feinstein is currently seeking
input on the draft legislation. (4/11/06)
Pew Center on global climate change holds climate change briefing
On March 10, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change held the
third in a series of congressional briefings on "Global Climate
Change: The Scientific Framework." Conducted by Dr. Jay Gulledge,
a senior research fellow at the Pew Center, the briefing focused on
the scientific evidence for global fingerprints of greenhouse warming.
"[Climate science] is very strongly based on theory and rich
data sets," Gulledge said, recounting evidence that atmospheric,
oceanic, and land components of the earth system all exhibit warming
trends. He cited studies showing increased atmospheric water vapor,
decreased Arctic and Antarctic ice cover, accelerated melting rates
in Greenland, increased hurricane intensity, and species changes,
all of which he linked to global warming. Gulledge also presented
results of modeling studies showing observed warming trends could
only be modeled by combining natural and anthropogenic forcings.
For more information, contact Nikki
Roy at the Pew Center. (3/10/06)
American Meteorolical Society presents on climate change
On January 25, 2006 the American Meteorological Society (AMS) held
an Environmental Science Seminar on "Surface Temperature, Carbon
Dioxide and Methane: The Past, Present and Likely Trajectory of Three
Key Indicators of Climate Change." The seminar was moderated
by Dr. Anthony Socci, AMS Senior Fellow.
The first presentation was given by Dr. Dominique Raynaud, Research
Director at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).
Dr. Raynaud discussed modern trends in methane and carbon dioxide
and the difference between modern and historical concentrations of
these gases. The second talk, concerning temperature trends, was presented
by Dr. Thomas R. Karl, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration's National Climatic Data Center. Dr. Karl spoke of
the accelerated warming that has been observed over the past 35 years.
He also noted that 2005 was one of the hottest years on record, despite
the fact that 2005 was not an El Niño year. The recorded 2005
temperatures were comparable to those observed in 1998, the warmest
year in recorded history and a very strong El Niño year.
For Dr. Karl's full presentation, click
Leaders address climate change issues at G8 Summit
On the final day of the G8 summit, which took place July 5-8, 2005
in Gleneagles, Scotland, political leaders from Russia, Japan, Canada,
Europe, and the United States released a public
statement accepting global warming as a "serious long-term
challenge" for the world. Although no targets or timetables were
set, the G8 nations pledged to act "with resolve and urgency"
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by building low-carbon, sustainable
economies. According to the agreement, the UN Framework on Climate
Change (UNFCCC) will be understood as the "appropriate forum
for negotiating the future of the multilateral regime on climate change."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a new dialogue about climate
change would begin in November 2005.
French President Jacques Chirac said, "Even if it does not go
as far as we would have liked, it has one essential virtue in my eyes
-- that is, to re-establish a dialogue and cooperation between the
Kyoto seven and the United States on a subject of the highest importance."
The United States is the only G8 country that did not sign the Kyoto
Protocol. In accordance with the policy of the Bush administration,
wording in the agreement states that "uncertainty remains in
our understanding of climate science."
Many environmental groups are disappointed about the results of this
summit. Stephen Tindale of Greenpeace said, "The G8 has committed
to nothing new but at least we haven't moved backwards on the environment."
Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK announced that the G8 countries
will meet again in November to discuss the details of an emissions
reductions plan. View
all documents from the Gleneagles G8 Summit here. (7/12/05)
Climate change provisions included in Senate energy
On June 28, 2005, the U.S. Senate passed comprehensive energy legislation
that included several climate change provisions. Although the more
aggressive proposals were not adopted, the issue of climate change
dominated the debate during the second week of the mark-up. According
to Environment and Energy Daily, the mark-up featured "arguably
the most debate [Congress] has ever encountered on climate change."
An amendment offered by Chuck Hagel (R-NE) to provide financial incentives
for the development of new emission-reducing technology passed the
Senate on a vote of 66-29. This approach was the least aggressive
of the proposals to reduce carbon dioxide in the energy bill, but
the one most favored by the Bush administration. Senator Jeff Bingaman
(D-NM) also succeeded in passing a sense of the Senate
resolution, which will put on record for the first time that the Senate
ackowledges greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to global warming.
Bingamans resolution, passed by a voice vote, calls on Congress
to enact a comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory,
market-based limits on emissions of greenhouse gases that slow, stop
and reverse the growth of such emissions. Senator John Kerry
(D-MA) attempted and failed to piggy-back off of Bingamans success
with a sense of the Senate resolution asking the United
States to become more engaged in international global warming negotiations.
Kerrys proposal failed 46-49.
Two more amendments that would have established fixed caps on greenhouse
gas emissions received considerable attention but were not added to
the Senate bill. Senator Bingaman considered but ultimately decided
against proposing a cap-and-trade plan for greenhouse gas emissions,
which would have been based on policies recommended by the National
Commission on Energy Policy. The senator's plan would have set mandatory
caps on carbon dioxide emissions beginning in 2010, but would have
allowed for a "safety valve" if the cost of emissions increased
above $7 per ton. The United Mine Workers and United Steelworkers
unions pledged their support for the National Commissions plan,
providing Bingaman with stronger political support. Although Domenici
had initially discussed co-sponsoring the proposal, he encouraged
Bingaman instead to withhold the amendment from the energy bill pending
further research. In a prepared statement, Domenici said, As
we began developing details of how [Bingaman's amendment] would be
implemented, particularly how credits would be allocated, it became
clear that we do not have something ready to be added to the energy
bill. According to Environment and Energy Daily, Domenici said
Bingaman's proposal would be the subject of Senate hearings in July
before being reintroduced as legislation.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) offered another
amendment that would have limited nation-wide carbon dioxide emissions
to the levels emitted in 2000 by 2010. It failed to pass the Senate
in a vote of 38-60. The amendment, which also failed in 2003, was
resubmitted this year with an addition of $600 million of incentives
for the construction of three new nuclear power plants. Four democratic
senators that voted in favor of the plan in 2003 changed their votes
in 2005: Barbara Boxer (CA), Russ Feingold (WI), Mark Dayton (MN),
and Tom Harkin (IA).
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) submitted an amendment that would
have required the White House to make global warming reports available
to the public before review by the White House's Council on Environmental
Quality. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) accused Lautenberg of being politically
motivated because the amendment was clearly related to the resignation
of Council on Environmental Quality chief of staff Phil Cooney. A
New York Times article
[payment required] on June 8th accused Cooney of editing government
climate reports to downplay the links between greenhouse gas emissions
and climate change. Lautenbergs amendment did not receive a
floor vote. (6/28/05)
G8 Science Academies release global warming statement
On June 7, 2005, science academies from the G-8 countries (U.S., France,
Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan, Russia, and the U.K.) and Brazil, India,
and China issued a statement proclaiming, "There is now strong
evidence that significant global warming is occurring." The statement
issued by the joint science academies, which includes the U.S. National
Academy of Sciences, was entitled "Global
Response to Climate Change" and called on the G-8 countries
to "identify cost-effective steps that can be taken now to contribute
to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas
May, president of Britain's Royal Society, criticized the policy
of the Bush administration saying, "It is clear that world leaders,
including the G-8, can no longer use uncertainty about aspects of
climate change as an excuse for not taking urgent action to cut greenhouse
gas emissions." The statement urges action by noting, "Even
with possible lowered emission rates we will be experiencing the impacts
of climate change throughout the 21st century and beyond. Failure
to implement significant reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions
now, will make the job much harder in the future."
The release of this statement coincides with a meeting
between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George Bush
in Washington, DC. Blair is making diplomatic rounds to all of the
G-8 leaders urging them to support his climate change policy and debt
relief plans before the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. Although
it is unlikely that Bush, who continues to reject the Kyoto Protocol,
will agree to consider the issue, Blair believes that the G-8 leaders
will be able to agree on an "action plan
which will include
specific measures that help us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Greenhouse gas reports that guidelines have changed
On March 23, 2005, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced changes
to its Voluntary
Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program, which was established under
Section 1605(b) of the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The changes came
after President Bush directed the Secretary of Energy to improve the
program in Feburary, 2002. The revised guidelines for the interim
final rule, which was posted in the Federal
Register on March 24, 2005 are intended to "enhance the measurement
accuracy, reliability and verifiability of information." Under
the new revisions, emission reports continue to be voluntary, but
must adhere to "higher standards of accuracy and completeness."
Larger emitters that want to register reductions must provide "entity-wide
emissions data." DOE will also allow participants to register
reductions achieved internationally and begin to provide simple procedures
for small emitters like agricultural businesses to submit reports.
According to Greenwire, DOE dropped previous plans to provide tradeable
credits for carbon dioxide reductions in the new rule, after the agency
was told by a number of groups that it lacked the appropriate legal
authority. The Natural Resources Defense Council agreed with the decision,
asserting that such a rule might preclude "credible" and
"necessarily mandatory" climate change legislation. (3/24/05)
Climate Stewardship Act reintroduced
Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and John McCain (R-AZ) reintroduced
"The Climate Stewardship Act of 2005," which would mandate
a cap-and-trade program to help energy, transportation and manufacturing
companies reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010.
It would also encourage research and development for climate change
mitigation technology. Senator McCain explained and justified the
plan in a statement submitted to the Congressional Record on February
10, 2005 in which he called for U.S. federal support of international,
state and industry initiatives that have already taken a lead in reducing
greenhouse gas emissions. McCain plans to offer the measure as an
amendment to a larger piece of legislation such as the Clear Skies
bill, despite the congressional stalemate over carbon dioxide regulations.
Last year the measure was defeated by eight votes, and it lost four
more supporters in the November elections, according to Environment
& Energy Daily. (2/10/05)
Senators introduce legislation to increase climate
change research funding
Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced
a bill on February 2, 2005 that would authorize up to $60 million
over the next six years for research into abrupt climate change. The
is similar to a measure that was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee
last year but was never acted on by the full Senate. Collins' measure,
originally introduced in 2003, followed a National Academy of Sciences'
report in 2002 that called for creating an abrupt climate change research
program. It stated abrupt climate changes have occurred, and human
emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide may result in
rapid changes in the future. "Evidence shows that rapid climate
changes have affected societies and ecosystems substantially, especially
when the changes that brought persistent droughts occurred in regions
with human settlements," the report stated.
This year's bill would create a research program within
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Oceanic
and Atmospheric Research to determine what causes sudden climate shifts
and incorporate such knowledge into computer models to predict such
events. "An abrupt climate change triggered by the ongoing buildup
of greenhouse gases could cause catastrophic droughts and floods,"
Collins said in a statement. "It is agreed that a great deal
more scientific research is necessary in order to better understand
the potential risk of abrupt climate change." (2/7/05)
Even though the U.S. rejected the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, the now
seven year old treaty will finally come into force in early 2005.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed Kyoto in late October after
it was overwhelmingly approved in both houses of Russia's parliament.
Putin was encouraged by promises from the European Union that he would
receive help in entering the World Trade Organization (WTO) in exchange
for signing the agreement. With Russia joining the treaty, Kyoto has
enough countries, accounting for at least 55% of all greenhouse gas
emissions in 1990, to put the emissions targets into effect. Russia
will joins 122 countries pledged to reduce their emissions by 5.2
percent of 1990 levels during the five-year period 2008-2012. Until
Putin's go-ahead, Russia and the United States were the two remaining
countries yet to sign that could put the treaty into effect.
Climate change policy made gains on the international front when
on September 14 2004, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced
that global warming will head next year's agenda for the Group of
Eight (G-8) summit. He is seeking to re-engage the United States on
the issue as well as promote sustainable development strategies for
modernizing countries such as China and India.
In the U.S., the Bush administration maintained its rejection of
Kyoto and other climate change proposals because of alleged uncertainty
concerning the human influence on global warming. Accordingly, he
announced two initiatives which addressed global climate change by
encouraging more research. Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Energy
Secretary Spencer Abraham released a strategic plan for the Climate
Change Science Program (CCSP) along with a proposal to speed up the
deployment of global observation technologies. The CCSP plan focuses
on assessing natural climate variability and change and reducing uncertainty
about the causes and effects of climate change. Critics of the plan,
such as Representative Mark Udall (D-CO), believe that Bush's plan
is merely an unnecessary stalling tactic in the face of overwhelming
evidence of human induced global warming. The Bush administration
continued to push its Clear Skies legislation which seeks to reduce
power plant pollution without any requirement to cut greenhouse gasses.
Federal legislation to curb carbon emissions made little progress
in 2004. The McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act of 2003, which
would have instituted a national cap-and-trade program for CO2, lost
a Senate vote 43-55 on October 30, 2004. The vote came on the heels
of five hours of debate on the Senate floor -- the first time the
Senate had addressed climate change in six years. In order to keep
the issue alive, McCain held a hearing on climate change on September
15, 2004. The panel heard testimony from climate scientists who all
underscored their conviction that global warming is linked to human
activity, citing climate reconstructions dating back 2000 years which
show that the earth has departed from its natural climate rhythm.
They rebutted criticism by global warming skeptics, pointing to its
near universal acceptance by the scientific community. McCain also
held a hearing on Climate Change on November 16, 2004 to highlight
the release of the Arctic Climate
Impact Assessment report.
While climate change proposals sputtered in Congress, climate scientists
produced significant accomplishments. A four year climate change study
known as the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment was released on November
9th, 2004. The 1,800 page study conducted by nearly 300 scientists
as well as elders from arctic native communities shows that, "heat-trapping
gases from tailpipes and smokestacks around the world are contributing
to profound environmental changes, including sharp retreats of glaciers
and sea ice, thawing of permafrost and shifts in the weather, the
oceans and the atmosphere." The report is the first comprehensive
international collaboration on climate change research, with input
from all the arctic countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland,
Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.
In July 2004, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change released a
report assessing future rates of carbon dioxide emissions under several
hypothetical scenarios of energy supply and use. A major finding of
the report is that U.S. carbon emissions are likely to rise between
15% and 50% above 2000 levels by 2035 if no regulatory caps are placed
on CO2 emissions. In all scenarios, constraints on CO2 resulted in
substantially lower emissions by 2035. This finding led to the "key
conclusion" of the report: that policy is needed to slow carbon
emission increases and address climate change.
In September 2004, the most comprehensive computer analysis to date
at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. predicted
that by 2080, "seas warmed by rising atmospheric concentrations
of heat-trapping greenhouse gases could cause a typical hurricane
to intensify about an extra half step on the five-step scale of destructive
power." This conclusion has espoused widespread agreement among
climatologists because half a dozen computer simulations of global
climate, devised by separate groups at institutions around the world,
verified each other's results.
Climate science got a boost in September 2004 when the Bush administration
approved US participation in Global Earth Observation System of Systems
(GEOSS), a collaborative effort among 48 countries and the European
Commission to revolutionize the way in which earth systems are monitored.
The National Science and Technology
Council's Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations (IWGEO)
released its Draft Strategic Plan, a preliminary blueprint for the
integration of global observational technology over the next 10 years.
Satellites, ocean buoys, and terrestrial measurement stations will
be coordinated alongside a new generation of monitoring systems such
as unmanned drones. The U.S. co-chairs the project along with the
European Commission, Japan, and South Africa. Vice Admiral Conrad
Lautenbacher Jr., the head administrator of NOAA, and Chip Groat,
head of the USGS, leadhe U.S. delegation. They and the delegations
from the participating countries will meet in early 2005 in Brussels
to further coordinate the international effort.
Sources: American Institute of Physics, BBC news, Canada.com,
CNN, Commerce Department, Competitive Enterprise Institute website,
Ecosystem Marketplace, Environment & Energy Daily, Environment
and Energy Study Institute Climate Change Newsletter, EOS, European
Union Website, General Accounting Office, Greenwire, House Science
Committee Democratic Caucus, IPCC website, Massachusettes Institute
of Technology Website, National Academy of Sciences, National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration website, New York Times, Pew Center
on Global Climate Change, Tellus Institute website, THOMAS legislative
database,UNFCC website, United States Senate websites, United States
House of Representative websites, Washington Post. Speaker testimony,
The NSF Arctic System Science (ARCSS) Program, The North Slope Science
Contributed by David R. Millar, AGI/AAPG 2004 Fall Intern; Emily
Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program; Katie Ackerly, 2005
AGI/AAPG Spring Intern; Anne Smart, AGI/AIPG 2005 Summer Intern; John
Vermylen, AGI/AIPG 2005 Summer Intern; Jenny Fisher, 2006 AGI/AAPG
Spring Intern; Jessica Rowland, 2006 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern; Carrie
Donnelly, 2006 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern and Rachel Bleshman, 2006 AGI/AIPG
Background section includes material from AGI's Update
on Climate Change Policy for the 108th Congress.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI
Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on December 4, 2006.