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
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 issue. (12/4/06)
AMS holds seminar on U.S. perception of climate change
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 website. (11/30/06)
EESI holds briefing on "Stern Review: The Economics of Climate
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 needed.
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
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 time period.
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 research effectively."
Presentations are available at www.ametsoc.org/seminar. (10/25/06)
A National Academies
study offers insight into climate debate, encourages more research
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
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. (6/6/06)
GAO reports on voluntary pollution control programs
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. (6/2/06)
Arctic Research Consortium holds briefing on recent scientific
findings of Arctic environmental change
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 well 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 year.
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 circulation.
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 Ocean."
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 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 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 programs.
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.
Global warming act introduced in the House
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." (4/11/06)
Senator Feinstein releases draft climate change legislation
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
For more information, contact Nikki Roy at the Pew Center. (3/10/06)
American Meteorolical Society presents on climate change
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 here. (1/25/06)
Leaders address climate change issues at G8 Summit
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
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
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." (6/10/05)
Greenhouse gas reports that guidelines have changed
Climate Stewardship Act reintroduced
Senators introduce legislation to increase climate
change research funding
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 Initiative
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 Fall Intern.
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.