Climate change has become a more prominent issue for the U.S. Congress with the release of new reports and assessments, policy changes in other countries related to the Kyoto Protocol and other multi-national agreements and the development of carbon-reduction policies in states and cities in the U.S. At least six major bills with various greenhouse gas emissions reduction schemes have been introduced in the first two months of the 110th Congress and more are expected. Carbon cap-and-trade proposals are a source of frequent debate because of their economic and environmental implications. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will soon publish its Fourth Assessment Report detailing the present state of knowledge of global climate change, which has already stirred intense debate in Congress. A general history of the climate change debate is available at the Congressional Research Service's Global Climate Change Briefing Book.
Obama Promises “New Chapter" in U.S. Leadership on Climate Change
President-elect Obama made a surprise videotaped appearance on November 18, 2008, at the Governors' Global Climate Summit. He commended the governors on their commitment to fight global warming even though “Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership.” Obama promised that his presidency “will mark a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.”
Specifically, Obama pledged to institute a federal cap-and-trade system and to set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emission to 1990 levels by 2020, with an additional 80% reduction by 2050. Obama promised to invest $15 billion per year to develop clean energy in the private sector including solar, wind, biofuels, nuclear, and clean coal. In this way, Obama aims to produce 5 million new green jobs.
Part of Obama’s message was directed towards the delegates who will attend the next phase of United Nation negotiations on a new climate treaty in Poznan, Poland, in early December. “Your work is vital to the planet,” he said, promising that once he takes office “the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.”
Several days after Obama’s speech, Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) announced that she plans to introduce a cap-and-trade bill and legislation providing up to $15 billion per year in grants for alternative energy technology in January. The EPW Committee will hold a hearing “as soon as possible” at the start of the 111th Congress according to E&E Daily. (11/08)
To view the video clip of Obama’s speech, visit: http://www.change.gov/newsroom/entry/president_elect_obama_promises_new_chapter_on_climate_change/
Senator Bingaman Outlines Energy Priorities for 111th Congress
In a speech given at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on November 17, 2008, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) outlined his priorities for the 111th Congress as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Bingaman hopes that a combination of President-elect Obama’s leadership and bipartisan congressional engagement will make possible “real progress” on comprehensive energy policy.
Bingaman believes climate change legislation needs to be “more streamlined than what we have been considering to date” and referred to 10 general principles he has developed. He emphasized the need to focus on preliminary legislation that will “reduce both the complexity and the cost of any eventual cap-and-trade bill.” For example, Bingaman advocated for Congress to move immediately to fund energy technology advances, not to wait for revenues from possible cap-and-trade legislation. Other next steps include creating a national renewable electricity standard, investing in the creation of a “smart and robust national transmission grid,” and pursuing carbon capture and sequestration technologies.
Additional priorities mentioned in the speech include promoting increased efficiency standards in buildings and possibly appliances as well. Bingaman called federal investment in innovation and STEM education “totally inadequate.” He referred to the American COMPETES Act as evidence of bipartisan support in this area and requested a renewed effort by the new Congress. In regards to drilling on the continental outer shelf, Bingaman suggested that the best next step is a comprehensive inventory of offshore resources. The call for such an inventory was included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 but was not sufficiently funded.
A copy of Bingaman’s speech, including the 10 principles, is available at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Website. (11/08)Interior Announces Climate Change Evaluation
A consistent theme in all three reports is that there is a need for comprehensive high level policies. Policy regarding greenhouse gas emissions should come from Congress or the Executive Branch, and should not be left to regulation by the DOI under the Endangered Species Act. Other options mentioned include biologic and geologic carbon sequestration projects, renewable energy development, and management changes to the agency's vehicle fleet and facilities. Mining and land claims regulations may need to be reevaluated.
The reports were created by the DOI Climate Change Task Force, which was formed in May 2007 and is chaired by DOI Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett. Although the DOI claims that the reports were written primarily by career staff with no editing by senior agency or Executive Branch officials, a nearly year-long delay in release suggests that extensive review was a part of the process. Whereas the reports are not part of any formal rulemaking process, the DOI invites public comment through January 18, 2009. (11/08)To view the reports and to submit comments, visit http://www.usgs.gov/global_change/doi_taskforce.asp.
Presidential Climate Action Project: Plan for the First 100 Days
The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP) hosted a congressional briefing on November 13, 2008, to discuss PCAP’s recommended Action Plan for President-elect Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office. The Action Plan contains more than 180 specific actions related to climate change and energy issues with accompanying background information.
Of particular relevance for the geoscience community is the PCAP’s recommendation that the new president “create special institutions to focus on key stewardship issues, including an Earth Systems Sciences Agency and a Department of Oceans.” There is no mention of the roles the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) currently play in filling national stewardship needs. PCAP also recommends the creation of a National Energy and Climate Council that would have the same standing as the National Security Council. The purpose of the new Council would be to coordinate implementation of PCAP’s Action Plan.
Also of interest is PCAP’s recommendation that all agencies be directed to identify all executive actions and legislation that undermine environmental safeguards, greenhouse gas reductions, or energy security. These actions should be rescinded by the President or such legislation should be modified by Congress. PCAP also urges the new president to “oppose licensing of additional nuclear power plants in the United States until the problems of permanent waste storage, proliferation, and safety are resolved.”
Among the panelists at the briefing was former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO), now a Scholar in Residence and Wirth Chair Professor at the University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Affairs. Hart talked about how policy issues are becoming more and more interdisciplinary, especially the tie between energy and climate change. He reported that the PCAP met with Obama over a year ago and that he was the most receptive of all the presidential candidates to the PCAP suggestions. Panelist Bill Parsons, Legislative Director for the office of Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), described the work that has been done on climate change in the 110th Congress as “table setting” for what will be done with Obama’s leadership in the 111th Congress. (11/08)
A more detailed description of the briefing is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis110/climate.html
For more information about the PCAP, visit http://www.climateactionproject.com/
For more information about the EESI, visit http://www.eesi.org/
Research You Can Use: Peridotite Sequesters Carbon
Geoscientists Peter Kelemen and Juerg Matter, both at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, have shown that the Omani peridotite is naturally absorbing 10,000 to 100,000 tons of carbon per year in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This is far more carbon absorption than previously estimated and the geoscientists suggest the process may be accelerated by boring into the rock and injecting carbon dioxide-rich hot water. The results may prove valuable for carbon capture and sequestration related to climate change mitigation and the state-run oil company, Petroleum Development Oman, is interested in pursuing a CCS pilot project. (11/08)
Kelemen et al. In situ carbonation of peridotite for CO2 storage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2008; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0805794105
House Representatives Release Climate Change Legislation Plans
On October 7, 2008, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) and Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) released a new proposal for climate change legislation. The proposal would set-up a cap and trade system to lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.
The 461-page draft bill would cover about 88 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and includes restrictions on electric utilities, petroleum producers and importers, large industrial plants, producers and importers of bulk gases, natural gas and local distribution companies and geologic sequestration sites. Smaller sources (emissions less than 25,000 tons per year) would be controlled by standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an interesting choice given that EPA remains unsettled about its authority and ability to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
New coal-fired plants would be required to use carbon dioxide capture and sequestration technology (CCS) as soon as the technology is available. The draft also provides incentives for efficiency and conservation programs, many of which rely on new or developing technologies. Other incentives would be provided for the deployment of clean technologies in the transportation sector, an area of growth that Representative Dingell has a keen interest because his district (and state) includes a large fraction of the auto industry.
The draft provides flexibility to emitters to keep costs in check. To stay within the increasing caps over time, emitters can bank and borrow emission allowances, can access a “strategic reserve” of allowances under set conditions and purchase EPA-approved domestic and international offset credits to meet allowances. In particular international deforestation projects would be considered eligible offsets. This feature is likely to stir debate given the global interest in deforestation and concern that such projects are not effective when used as part of a cap and trade system. Finally the draft would set-up bonus allowances for power plants that use CCS to reduce emissions or generate electricity from alternative cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar.
The draft is comprehensive, covering most emitters, and also very flexible in allowing emitters multiple avenues to offset their own emissions with banked or other allowances. The flexibility is likely to cause the greatest debates in the next Congress because it is uncertain whether all of these approaches would allow the U.S. to meet the stated reduction goals in the allotted time.
The proposal is meant to be a template for discussion for new climate change legislation in the next Congress. Any new bills would need to go through the House Energy and Commerce Committee which Congressman Dingell chairs. Representatives Dingell and Boucher are trying to start the debate early and indicate they are willing to consider changes to the draft proposal. Look for an early introduction of a climate change bill from the House Energy and Commerce Committee that uses this proposal as its blueprint.
About 5 days before the Dingell-Boucher proposal was publicized, 152 Representatives signed a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that outlined principles “to guide Congress as it produces legislation to establish an economy-wide mandatory program to address the threat of global warming.” The letter calls for reducing emissions, transitioning to clean energy, minimizing the costs of global warming legislation and aiding communities and ecosystems that are at risk from global warming.
Like many recent energy and climate change bills, these plans would require help from the geosciences in terms of the development of CCS, methods and instrumentation to monitor emissions, development of alternative energy technologies and further research and development to understand and mitigate climate change. (10/08)DOE Releases Methodology for Estimating Storage Potential of Carbon Dioxide
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released its Methodology for Development of Geologic Storage Estimates for Carbon Dioxide on October 1, 2008. This document describes the methodology used to estimate carbon dioxide storage potential and represents a consensus of researchers at the Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and members of DOE's regional carbon sequestration partnerships. The document will be included as an appendix in the second edition of the Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the United States and Canada, which will be released later this year. (10/08)
Carbon Capture and Storage Bill Surfaces in House
If passed, the Carbon Capture and Storage Early Deployment Act (H.R. 6258), a bill introduced in June, 2008 by House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality Chairman Rick Boucher, would create a technology fund to accelerate the development and deployment of systems to capture and store carbon dioxide produced at electricity-generating facilities that utilize fossil fuels.
According to the bill, the Carbon Storage Research Corporation would be managed by members from various sectors of the utilities industry. The corporation’s purpose would be to administer grants for private, academic, and government research projects related to the acceleration of the commercial demonstration and availability of carbon capture and storage technologies (CCS). Grant monies would be generated via taxes levied on the consumers of fossil-fuel based electricity, with different rates for different fuels depending on how much carbon dioxide they emit when burned.
At the July 10th hearing on H.R. 6258, Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-TX) predicted the bill is the only climate change-related legislation with a chance of passage in this Congress: “My guess is that this is the only bill that might actually become law this year,” he said. However, the fund would have no government oversight, which many members are at odds with. Boucher has asked for the issue of oversight to be addressed before the bill is marked up, or voted on by the subcommittee.
The full text of H.R. 6258 can be found here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.06258:
A summary of the hearing can be found here: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis110/climate_hearings.html (07/08)
Energy and Commerce Committee Releases Fourth White Paper
The House Energy and Commerce committee has issued a series of white papers to “lay out basic design and key principles” of climate change legislation. The first paper in the series was released in October of 2007; the most recent paper was released in late May 2008. This paper, entitled “Getting the Most Greenhouse Gas Reductions for Our Money,” sheds light on methods of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) — primarily carbon dioxide — emissions that are the least costly and most efficient at realizing cuts of 60-80% cuts in GHG emissions by 2050.
The object of climate change legislation, the paper explains, is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that is as undisruptive as possible to the American economy. While significant, inexpensive reductions in emissions can be achieved through improvements in energy efficiency and productivity, these measures will not be enough to attain the desired GHG levels. Thus, a price must be assigned to carbon.
It is generally accepted that, among the emissions reduction schemes that assign a carbon price, cap and trade is the least costly program overall. Other benefits of the cap and trade program are its accommodation to emitters and its incentives for technological development and deployment. Cap and trade, though it is the cheapest way to address climate change, will still have significant costs versus business as usual. However, scientists informed the committee that the cost of addressing climate change now will pale in comparison to the costs future generations will incur if climate change is not addressed.
Under a cap and trade program, the white paper describes, the federal government establishes the maximum number of tons of carbon dioxide emissions permitted every year and distributes or sells allowances (tons of carbon dioxide or equivalent) among the major emitting sources. The distributed allowances will sum to the agreed maximum carbon dioxide level. As the yearly carbon dioxide emissions cap decreases, the allowance price will increase. Furthermore, firms can trade—buy and sell—allowances among themselves. The paper notes that though cap and trade takes an “upstream” approach, where the GHG limits are placed on the emitters, the price of carbon will, in most cases, be passed down from the emitting company to the consumer via an increase in the price of goods and services.
The paper states that the adopted cap and trade system will undoubtedly include two items: allowance banking and offsets. Allowance banking is the storage of unused allowances for future use. Offsets allow firms to substitute direct reduction of emissions with an indirect form of reduction, such as participating in reforestation projects. Other items that the system may include are firm borrowing, extended compliance periods, cost containment measures, and floor prices for allowances. There are concerns that some of these latter items may undermine the environmental integrity of the cap and trade program.
Firm borrowing entails borrowing allowances from the future. This would allow a firm to postpone measures to reduce its emissions, giving the firm flexibility to reduce emissions over a different timescale. However, there could be significant environmental and economic costs, as there is the possibility that firms may borrow excessively from the future and fail to repay their allowances. Extending the compliance time period would also give firms flexibility but may allow them to grow lax about meeting their allowance allocation.
Cost containment could come in multiple forms, which the paper describes. Congress could establish an allowance price ceiling, known as a “safety valve.” Congress may decide, for example, that $30 per ton is the maximum price that firms should pay for allowances. If the price of allowances were to approximate $30, Congress would increase the carbon dioxide cap and introduce additional allowances to the market, thereby lowering the price of each allowance. If the safety valve is triggered, the carbon dioxide emissions goal will not necessarily be met. The Bingaman-Specter bill, S. 1766, includes a safety valve that sets the price of a ton of carbon dioxide at $12 per ton in 2012, with the price increasing at 5% per year to $25 per ton in 2025.
Alternatively, Congress could establish a “circuit breaker” price control. A circuit-breaker (which is in the Boxer-Sanders bill, S. 309) is a mechanism by which, if the average annual price of an allowance increases above the predetermined circuit breaker price, the carbon dioxide cap does not decline but holds steady. When the allowance price again dips below the circuit breaker price, the cap resumes its decline. Allowance prices can still fluctuate after the circuit breaker is triggered, so this mechanism provides less price certainty than do safety valves.
Just as a price ceiling is worthy of consideration, the paper argues, a price floor for allowances is worth considering. As excessively low allowance prices might discourage firms from investing in technology necessary for future emissions cuts, a price floor—the lowest price at which allowances would be sold—would provide reassurance to those developing technology that their technology will be needed.
The white paper also explains how an independent agency could orchestrate the cap and trade program. If a climate change bill provided for the creation of a new, independent government board responsible for determining when and how many allowances to release into the market, Congress would be absolved of its cap and trade program management duties. The Lieberman-Warner bill (S. 2191) would create such a board, modeled after the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. The cap and trade board would be called the Carbon Market Efficiency Board and would have broad discretion as to what measures would prevent economic harm. The board would be authorized to implement such measures.
The most recent white paper is about 40 pages long, and it expands on the leading methods for keeping the costs of GHG emissions reduction at a minimum. The paper defines key terms and provides market reaction scenarios for implementation of the various proposed mechanisms. Though the short Senate debate on the Lieberman-Warner bill in early June was largely unproductive and failed to advance the bill, members of Congress are anticipating more robust engagement with cap and trade bills in the future. There are numerous bills, and they differ on important points. The white paper is a helpful primer on cap and trade and the program’s possible points of variation.
The other white papers are “Appropriate Roles for Different Levels of Government,” which discusses what role each level of government is suited for as the country addresses climate change; “Competitiveness Concerns/Engaging Developing Concerns,” which devotes itself to the provisions that could encourage developing nations to curb their emissions of greenhouse gases; and “Scope of a Cap-and-Trade Program,” which outlines the sectors of the economy and the activities that directly emit greenhouse gases and how these sectors/activities would be included in a cap and trade program. (7/9/08)
Hansen Warns of Climate Tipping Points
June 23, 2008—On the 20th anniversary of his first appearance before Congress, Dr. James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, briefed the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming on the danger of passing climate system tipping points. Tipping points are “points of no return at which the dynamics of the system take over” and reductions in carbon dioxide are futile, Hansen said. He remarked that it’s likely the climate has already reached a tipping point. Because there’s enough “warming in the pipeline” the Arctic will “lose all sea ice in the summer season, Hansen specified.
Hansen gave a brief but comprehensive overview of the scientific concern surrounding global warming. The planet is experiencing a long term warming trend, he explained, due to the planetary temperature imbalance. The best estimate for the imbalance is ½-1 watt per meter squared. To restore the temperature balance, atmospheric greenhouse gas levels—especially carbon dioxide levels—must be reduced. Hansen declared he is “99.9% certain that the long-term safe level [of carbon dioxide] is 350 parts per million.” Currently, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 385 ppm. Hansen reassured the audience that brief greenhouse gas overshoots are alright, saying “1,000 ppm for a day won’t melt the ice sheets.” However, he said, “it can’t stay there for centuries.”
The heart of Hansen’s talk was a walk through of the multivariate threats and repercussions of global warming. He claimed the greatest danger is ecosystems collapse. “Earth has warmed a few degrees Celsius in the past,” Hansen acknowledged, “but half the species on the planet went extinct.” If anthropogenic climate change induces species extinction and ecosystem collapse, “it would be a more desolate planet for any timescale humans can think about.” As for the loss of sea ice, Hansen said “if we lose all the Arctic sea ice, that makes Greenland more vulnerable.” Glacier retreat, too, is a concern because hundreds of millions of people depend on glaciers for their freshwater, said Hansen. However, he predicts that, depending on their altitude, glaciers will be gone in a few more decades. Hansen also discussed the expansion of the subtropics, pointing out that the descending limb of the Hadley cell has moved poleward by four degrees of latitude. He linked the loss of water in Lakes Powell and Mead to subtropical expansion.
Hansen had multiple policy recommendations to achieve carbon dioxide emissions levels of 350 ppm or less. Firstly, a moratorium must be placed on new coal-burning power plants, and existing coal plants must be phased out as “promptly as practical,” Hansen said. Furthermore, unconventional fossil fuels—tar sands and oil shale—must not be used, Hansen urged. Reforestation and improved agricultural practices such as no till agriculture can aid in the carbon dioxide sequestering process too. Lastly, Hansen called on Congress to consider a carbon tax with a 100% dividend returned equally to the American people on a per capita basis.
Dr. Hansen noted that, not long after he testified on June 23, 1988, he stopped communicating with the public to focus on his research. However, to “bridge the gap between what is understood by the scientific community and what is known by the public and policy makers,” Hansen decided to begin speaking out on climate change issues again. The gap exists, Hansen avowed, because those with vested interests in the sale of fossil fuels confused the public debate on global warming. If it turns out that action to protect the climate system is prolonged because of the confusion, “they are guilty of crimes against humanity and nature,” said Hansen. (6-23-08)
President Offers Climate Change Plan
On the eve of a United Nations meeting in Paris on the next steps the world economies should take to deal with climate change, President George W. Bush outlined the administration’s approach for the United States. In a Rose Garden speech on April 16, 2008, the President called for a national goal to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
To reach this new goal he suggested the following:
“To reach this goal, we will pursue an economy-wide strategy that builds on the solid foundation that we have in place. As part of this strategy, we worked with Congress to pass energy legislation that specifies a new fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and requires fuel producers to supply at least 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. This should provide an incentive for shifting to a new generation of fuels like cellulosic ethanol that will reduce concerns about food prices and the environment.
We also mandated new objectives for the coming decade to increase the efficiency of lighting and appliances. We're helping states achieve their goals for increasing renewable power and building code efficiency by sharing new technologies and providing tax incentives. We're working to implement a new international agreement that will accelerate cuts in potent HCFC emissions. Taken together, these landmark actions will prevent billions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere.
These objectives are backed by a combination of new market-based regulations, new government incentives, and new funding for technology research. We've provided billions of dollars for next generation nuclear energy technologies. Along with the private sector, we've invested billions more to research, develop and commercially deploy renewable fuels, hydrogen fuel cells, advanced batteries, and other technologies to enable a new generation of vehicles and more reliable renewable power systems.
In 2009 alone, the government and the private sector plan to dedicate nearly a billion dollars to clean coal research and development. Our incentives for power production from wind and solar energy have helped to more than quadruple its use. We have worked with Congress to make available more than $40 billion in loan guarantees to support investments that will avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants. And our farmers can now compete for substantial new conservation incentives to restore land and forests in ways that help cut greenhouse gases.
We're doing a lot to protect this environment. We've laid a solid foundation for further progress. But these measures -- while these measures will bring us a long way to achieving our new goal, we've got to do more in the power generation sector. To reach our 2025 goal, we'll need to more rapidly slow the growth of power sector greenhouse gas emissions so they peak within 10 to 15 years, and decline thereafter. By doing so, we'll reduce emission levels in the power sector well below where they were projected to be when we first announced our climate strategy in 2002.”
The President noted that as we proceed with this plan, the nation faces a problem, which is the following:
“Some courts are taking laws written more than 30 years ago -- to primarily address local and regional environmental effects -- and applying them to global climate change. The Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate. For example, under a Supreme Court decision last year, the Clean Air Act could be applied to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. This would automatically trigger regulation under the Clean Air Act of greenhouse gases all across our economy -- leading to what Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell last week called, "a glorious mess."
If these laws are stretched beyond their original intent, they could override the programs Congress just adopted, and force the government to regulate more than just power plant emissions. They could also force the government to regulate smaller users and producers of energy -- from schools and stores to hospitals and apartment buildings. This would make the federal government act like a local planning and zoning board, have crippling effects on our entire economy.
Decisions with such far-reaching impact should not be left to unelected regulators and judges. Such decisions should be opened -- debated openly; such decisions should be made by the elected representatives of the people they affect. The American people deserve an honest assessment of the costs, benefits and feasibility of any proposed solution.”
The President then provided a list of the wrong ways and right ways to deal with climate change in the U.S. and concluded that technology was the key. He said “We must all recognize that in the long run, new technologies are the key to addressing climate change. But in the short run, they can be more expensive. And that is why I believe part of any solution means reforming today's complicated mix of incentives to make the commercialization and use of new, lower emission technologies more competitive. Today we have different incentives for different technologies -- from nuclear power, to clean coal, to wind and solar energy. What we need to do is consolidate them into a single, expanded program with the following features.
First, the incentive should be carbon-weighted to make lower emission power sources less expensive relative to higher emissions sources -- and it should take into account our nation's energy security needs.
Second, the incentive should be technology-neutral because the government should not be picking winners and losers in this emerging market.
Third, the incentive should be long-lasting. It should provide a positive and reliable market signal not only for the investment in a technology, but also for the investments in domestic manufacturing capacity and infrastructure that will help lower costs and scale up availability.
Even with strong new incentives, many new technologies face regulatory and political barriers. To pave the way for a new generation of nuclear power plants, we must provide greater certainty on issues from licensing to responsible management of spent fuel. The promise of carbon capture and storage depends on new pipelines and liability rules. Large-scale renewable energy installations are most likely to be built in sparsely populated areas -- which will require advanced, interstate transmission systems to deliver this power to major population centers. If we're serious about confronting climate change, then we have to be serious about addressing these obstacles.”
The President concluded his remarks by calling for international cooperation on climate change and for the formation of an international clean technology fund to help finance low-emissions energy projects in the developing world. (04/08)
Environmental Protection Agency Explains California Emissions Waiver Denial
On February 29, 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released more information about the government’s reasons for denying a waiver petition sought by California for greater regulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new motor vehicles. In the notice EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson states, “In my judgment the impacts of global climate change in California, compared to the rest of the nation as a whole, are not sufficiently different to be considered ‘compelling and extraordinary’ that merit separate state GHG standards for new motor vehicles.” California is the only state which is allowed to request a waiver for air pollution control as written in the Clean Air Act because California has always had stricter emission controls and historically, atypical pollution problems compared to other states.
The initial decision was announced on December 19, 2007 after President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 into law, but there was no explanation for the decision. The law includes fuel economy standards requiring fleet wide averages of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, while the California rule would have required automakers to achieve even higher fuel economy standards in a shorter time period. Administrator Johnson said "the Bush Administration is moving forward with a clear national solution – not a confusing patchwork of state rules – to reduce America’s climate footprint from vehicles." Fifteen other states have adopted California’s emission standards and were hoping to implement them once California received a waiver from the EPA.
EPA believes the fuel economy standards will be a more effective approach to reducing carbon dioxide, but an analysis by the California Air Resources Board disagrees. The board finds that if California adopted its emission standards GHG reduction in the state would be 74% greater than the reduction obtained by federal fuel economy standards by 2020. The assessment also found that if federal fuel economy standards and California emission standards were implemented in all of the states seeking to do so there would be a 28% increase in cumulative GHG reduction for the nation.
California, 15 other states and 5 environmental groups have filed petitions asking the courts to reverse EPA’s decision to deny the waiver.
On March 13, 2008, just before Congress began a three week recess, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) issued a subpoena for EPA documents related to the waiver denial. The subpoena was issued after EPA missed a deadline to submit the un-redacted documents. Some House and Senate Democrats are concerned about undue influence from the Administration on EPA’s decision. Congress is likely to look into the reasons for the denial and perhaps ways to circumvent the denial when they return from recess on March 31.
For more information visit: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/ca-waiver.htm (03/08)
Agencies Analyze Bingaman-Specter Climate Cap-and-Trade Bill
Analyses released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) predict a rise in energy costs and a loss of gross domestic product (GDP) associated with the implementation of climate legislation crafted by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) (S.1766). However, the predicted costs could be mitigated with the deployment of "clean" coal, new nuclear power plants and other strategies included in the bill, but not considered in the cost estimate at this time.
The Bingaman-Specter bill would establish a mandatory trading program to reduce the emission of U.S. greenhouse gases across all sectors of the economy. EPA predicts that the bill would help curb U.S. emissions by 25 percent in 2030 and about 40 percent in 2050, but the bill alone would not impact worldwide emissions. However, the EPA study did show that if the Bingaman-Specter proposal is combined with strong international policies that global carbon dioxide concentrations could decrease to about 504 ppm by 2095. According to many scientists, this might not be a large enough reduction to avert irreversible changes in Earth's climate.
The EPA analysis showed a decline in GDP between 0.5 to 1.4 percent in 2030 when compared to an economic outlook without carbon reduction requirements, while the EIA study predicted a cumulative decrease in GDP between 0.02 and 0.07 percent by 2030.
Debate over climate legislation will focus primarily on two areas: participation by China and India in international policies to curb carbon emissions and the ramifications climate legislation will have on the U.S. economy. Both concerns focus on U.S. global competitiveness. Proponents of enacting climate legislation state the costs of inaction will be catastrophic in terms of American technological innovation and environmental degradation. The EIA study did not consider the potential benefits that would result from a reduction in greenhouse gases or from the bill's adaptation programs to help cope with a warming planet.
While this legislation is not the primary vehicle being pursued by the Senate to curb global warming, the results of the analyses will contribute greatly to the debate expected this spring on the more aggressive proposal by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA). EPA anticipates the release of its analysis of the Lieberman-Warner bill in February. Additionally, co-sponsors of the Bingaman-Specter plan represent essential votes in Chairwoman Barbara Boxer's attempt to pass climate legislation in the 110th Congress, so components of Bingaman-Specter may be considered in the other bill.
Bingaman said in a released statement "the EIA and EPA reports both show that a well-designed climate program can reduce emissions at a low-cost to our economy. Both studies conclude that our climate change legislation would dramatically transform technologies to spur carbon capture and sequestration, greatly lowering emissions from coal-fired power plants. I hope these analyses inform the debate on global warming in a positive manner and I look forward to working closely with Sens. Boxer, Lieberman, Warner and others to resolve differences between the major bills and pass climate legislation this year."
The full text of the two bills are available from Thomas: Lieberman-Warner
- http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:S.2191: and Bingaman-Specter - http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:s.01766: (01/08)
Climate Change Adaptation and Research Sails Through Committee, Ahead of Cap and Trade
The Climate Change Adaptation Act (S.2355) introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on December 4, 2007. The measure requires the government to develop a five year strategic plan to address global warming and ways to adapt. The legislation is based partly on a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which determined that most federal agencies are unprepared to deal with global warming, especially when managing public lands.
The bill also addresses ocean and coastal adaptation plans, by directing the Commerce Secretary to assess vulnerability and develop tools to deal with impacts associated with climate change, sea level rise, storm surge, ocean acidification and other problems. The measure emphasizes more research and use of research results for mitigation and adaptation, interaction with states and development of regional-scale models. The Commerce Department would be authorized to spend $35 million for the ocean and coastal plan.
In addition to the adaptation bill, the committee approved the Global Change Research Improvement Act, sponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The measure would re-structure the Climate Change Science Program, establish a National Climate Service within NOAA and require the Secretary of Commerce to start programs on abrupt climate change and develop standards and technologies for measuring greenhouse gas emissions. Finally the bill would create a Science and Technology Assessment Service within the legislative branch. The measure is aimed at fixing the Climate Change Science Program, which is considered by many to be disorganized and dysfunctional and to provide Congress with better information about science and technology through the new service.
There are no comparable bills in the House and the Senate measures may be incorporated into a larger bill should Congress find a way to move climate change legislation forward in 2008.
Details of the adaptation bill are available from Thomas.(12-29-07)Climate Change Cap and Trade Darts Through Senate Committee
The America's Climate Security Act (S.2191) passed through the contentious Senate Environment and Public Works Committee by a vote of 11 to 8. The measure would set-up a cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions with an objective of reducing emissions by 70 percent by 2050 from about 80 percent of U.S. emissions (i.e. most industrial sectors). A Climate Change Credit Corporation would be established to auction permits and distribute proceeds. The measure would also create a Carbon Market Efficiency Board to regulate the market for carbon allowances.
After months of hearings and multiple related cap and trade bills competing for approval, S.2191, which was sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA), was able to dart through a one-day mark-up, where only 40 amendments were considered. Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) moved the bill deftly through bill-killing amendments such as opening Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste management and opening the outer continental shelf to natural gas drilling.
Now the measure faces an unknown future on the floor of the Senate and then would need to move over to the House, where there is currently no similar legislation being considered.
The full text of the legislation is available from Thomas.(12-20-07)
Bali Road Map: Where Does International Climate Change Cooperation Go?
The United Nations International Conference on Climate Change finished its work on a five page document which recognizes that global warming is "unequivocal", is a global threat that must be addressed immediately and requires drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions throughout the world. The final document, called the "Bali Road Map" was approved by more than 180 countries meeting in Bali Indonesia for two weeks from December 3-14, 2007. The road map calls for countries to develop a treaty by 2009 that sets forth emission reductions and other mitigation efforts, adaptation strategies, technology development, technology transfer to developing countries, financial support and incentives for poor nations that will be most affected by global warming and to consider deforestation in emission calculations.
The short and very general document, with no specific targets for emissions or other issues, was considered a success, even though it took an extra day and significant closed door negotiations to gain consensus. The United States almost kept the conference from approving the road map, when it objected to last minute revisions on incentives for developing countries suggested by India. However, after several nations spoke out against the U.S., the delegation relented and agreed to approve the document.
Now the most difficult discussions lie ahead, as countries must meet throughout the next two years to develop a treaty based on the road map by 2009. The road map is significant because it requires developing countries to develop mitigation strategies that are measurable, something that was not included in the Kyoto Treaty and which the Bush Administration has noted as a primary reason for not ratifying Kyoto. The road map also mentions the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is a hopeful sign to some that the scientific work and recommendations of the IPCC will be considered in the development of the new treaty.
More details about the Bali meeting and the full text of the road map is available at the conference web site. (12-20-07)
Climate Change Bill May Pass Senate Committee
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hopes to complete their mark-up of their climate change bill, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2007 (S.2191) and approve it before the United Nations Summit on Global Warming in Bali, Indonesia. The scenario involves a manager's amendment to be introduced by Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) at the start of the mark-up. The amendment would replace the current version with a new version that would include 80 percent versus 75 percent of emitters under the cap and trade scheme, phase out free credits to emitters by 2031 instead of 2036 and create a separate cap system for hydrofluorocarbons. Rumors suggest that once this new version is amended in the two-day mark-up it will pass muster with the full committee.
There is no similar legislation ready in the House and the fate of the Senate legislation remains uncertain. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Information Administration are both tasked with assessing the measure but have not begun their analyses. Both agencies are working to complete analyses of the Specter-Bingaman climate change bill first. It is also unclear whether President Bush would consider signing a bill that is similar to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2007. For now, it seems extremely unlikely that any climate change bill will be placed on the President's desk for signature until sometime in 2008. (12-11-07)
Climate Change Adaptation Bill Introduced
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced a bill entitled the "Climate Change Adaptation Act" (S.2355) in November that requests the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to assess the vulnerability and adaptability of the nation's coastal and ocean resources. With funding of $35 million per year for 5 years, NOAA would assess the effects of storm surge, sea level rise, ocean acidification and changes in the Great Lakes among other things and also help states to develop adaptation and mitigation plans. The bill was motivated in part by a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in August about the federal agencies inability to manage national parks, forests, oceans and monuments to deal with climate change. The report is entitled "Climate Change: Agencies Should Develop Guidance for Addressing the Effects on Federal Land and Water Resources" (GAO-07-863).
The full text of the bill is available from Thomas here.
The GAO report is available here. (12-11-07)
Restructuring the Climate Change Science Program
In August, 2007, a federal court ruled that the federal government must complete its national assessment of climate change as required by law by May 2008. President Bush replaced the national assessment with a Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) that called for a series of 21 separate reports. Only four of the reports have been completed and the program has been described as chaotic and confusing by some. At a Senate hearing on CCSP, the discussion became so heated that Senator John Kerry (D-MA) called for the resignation of the Bush Administration's Science Advisor John Marburger, after Marburger refused to consider the climate change problem "urgent". Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) called climate change a "matter of life and death," and concluded "I believe the administration is in a time warp on this issue."
To remedy concerns about the CCSP, Senators Snowe and Kerry have introduced a bill that would restructure CCSP. The bill entitled "Global Change Research Improvement Act of 2007" (S.2307) would replace "Earth and environmental sciences" with "global change research" throughout the Global Change Research Act of 1990, would establish an Integrated Program Office at the Office of Science and Technology Policy to ensure the programs are well organized, would require the President to submit an integrated climate budget and would require the President to establish guidelines to ensure the integrity of scientific communications. The measure mentions the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and calls on each agency to take some specific action. The bill does not acknowledge the important research conducted by the United States Geological Survey, which is lumped in the category of other federal agencies.
A similar bill in the House (H.R. 906) was folded into the energy bill and it is unclear what will happen to the Senate measure as Congress must focus on many other pressing issues in December. (12-11-07)
Businesses Want Carbon Dioxide Regulations
One hundred and fifty international companies signed a statement calling for mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions on the eve of the United Nations Summit on Global Warming in Bali, Indonesia. The statement appeared in the Financial Times and was organized by Prince Charles' Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change. Twenty U.S. companies, including Coca Cola, General Electric, Nike, Shell Oil and Johnson and Johnson signed the agreement which said that the scientific evidence for climate change is "now overwhelming" and that a legally binding agreement among businesses "will provide businesses with the certainty it needs to scale up global investment in low-carbon technologies."
A different coalition of environmental groups and U.S. companies including Honeywell, Shell Oil and Pacific Gas and Electric helped underwrite a report analyzing the costs of greenhouse gas reductions. The report concludes that the U.S. could cut emissions by 3 to 4.5 billion metric tons per year through existing and emerging technologies, which represents a 7 to 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels. The costs for these reductions would be less than $50 per metric ton and the report concludes that about 40 percent of these measures would save money in the long run. The authors cautioned that such reductions would require the determination of the federal government in the form of standards, mandates and incentives. The report was prepared by McKinsey and Co.
The full report is available from McKinsey and Co. here. (12-11-07)
IPCC Releases Final Report for Policymakers
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced significantly in the future temperatures will increase, sea level will rise, and regions of the globe will experience increased drought. The data, released Saturday November 23rd as a summary report for policymakers, comes from the IPCC fourth assessment reports (2007). One of the largest impacts in the U.S. will be decreased snowpack in the West causing increased floods in winter and drought in summer. U.S. cities that experience heatwaves are expected to see increased frequency, duration, and severity of heatwaves during the next century.
While some aspects of climate change are deemed unavoidable, others can be reduced or avoided by implementing greenhouse gas emission reduction policies. Combined adaptation and mitigation strategies may allow countries to avoid some of the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. The report underscores the importance of swift, comprehensive legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and includes selected examples of key sectoral mitigation technologies, policies and measures, and constraints and opportunities. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said at the release of the report that "concerted and sustained action now can still avoid some of the most catastrophic scenarios under [IPCC] forecasts."
The report will likely play a major role in the December 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, where countries will negotiate an environmental policy agreement to follow the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol. At the conference, the U.S. government will likely promote policies that encourage energy-efficient technologies while spurring the economy. During the negotiations of the summary for policymakers it was reported that Bush Administration officials tried to edit the reports to downplay certain harmful aspects of climate change, but the Administration claims that they support greenhouse gas reductions and their actions were merely part of the normal editing process. White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Jim Connaughton said "we are operating within the construct of, again, strong agreement among world leaders that urgent action is warranted."
A press briefing via conference call by senior Administration officials
on the IPCC report summary is available here.
Information on the IPCC and their reports are available here.
The IPCC Summary for Policymakers is available here.
For the U.N. Climate Change Conference website click here. (12-11-07)
Climate Change Bill Sneaks Through Senate Subcommittee
On November 1, 2007, the Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved of the America's Climate Security Act (S.2191) penned by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA). Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) teamed up with the authors to support the bill while Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), John Barasso (R-WY) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) opposed the bill, albeit for very different reasons.
The measure requires mandatory limits on six greenhouse gases that come from 66% of the U.S. economy, including utilities, petroleum refineries, manufacturing and natural gas consumers. The measure allows businesses to offset about 15 percent of their reductions through other credits in the U.S. and abroad, a provision that is similar to the Kyoto Protocol. So a business could reduce emissions in another country to qualify under the proposed bill. The measure also hands out free credits for past emission reductions (to January 1, 1994) and some businesses are looking to increase their credits to earlier times. The measure also includes a "scientific lookback" clause, which would ask the National Academies to review the policy and require the Environmental Protection Agency to tighten the rules if necessary based on scientific data. Finally the measure calls on the President to begin reviewing emission reduction efforts in China, India and other major trading partners starting in 2019. If these countries do not meet reduction expectations, they will be asked to pay carbon credits to trade their energy-intensive goods in the U.S.
Among the amendments that helped gain passage, Senator Baucus secured as much as $1.1 billion annually for the Forest Service in the Interior Department for fighting wildfires between 2012 and 2050. In 2006 the Forest Service spent $1.5 billion in firefighting efforts and climate change is considered a contributing factor. Senator Sanders got a requirement that auction revenues could only go to automakers that meet a new 35 mile per gallon fuel economy standard, while Senator Barrasso got a refined definition of what types of coal would qualify for climate regulation and help for states coping with new climate rules.
Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) are considered key votes needed to gain passage of the bill through the full Environment and Public Works Committee. Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) hopes to get the bill through the full committee in the next few weeks.
On November 5, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), a presidential candidate, announced her own comprehensive plan to address energy and climate change in a campaign speech in Iowa. The plan would be much more aggressive than the Lieberman-Warner bill, requiring greater reductions in emissions; greater efficiency for utilities and vehicles; increase production and use of biofuels; increase production and use of other renewable energy resources such as wind, water and geothermal; a $50 billion strategic energy fund, funded in part by oil companies; doubling of investments in basic energy research including an advanced energy research projects agency (similar to DARPA) and the termination of the Yucca Mountain waste repository site. Some more details of her plan are available on her campaign web site.
Clinton's new plan and its differences from the Lieberman-Warner bill add significant intrigue and debate to an already divided Environment and Public Works Committee. Clinton's vote may be essential for the bill's passage by the committee, but Clinton has not commented on how she might vote.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would like to see a similar measure move through the House of Representatives, however, Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) and others are likely to delay any possible progress that might keep pace with the Senate measure. The Bush Administration has not released any public statements directly related to the measure, however, a few Republican lawmakers have suggested the President has told them he will not veto a bill that can win industry support and not harm the economy.
The full text of the legislation is available from Thomas. (11-19-07)
Climate Change Legislation Considered a "Hard Bugger"
Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA) are still working on their draft climate change legislation and have not introduced any measures in the Environment and Public Works subcommittee. An early version of the draft called for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources to 2005 levels beginning in 2012, followed by a 10 percent cut in 2020 and a 70 percent reduction by 2050. They are still working to get enough votes to pass a measure in the subcommittee and still addressing criticism of the draft from both sides.
On the other side, everyone is waiting for action by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is considered the committee with the power and jurisdiction over comprehensive climate change legislation. On October 3, 2007 Congressmen John Dingell (D-MI), the chair of the committee and Rick Boucher (D-VA), chair of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, released a 22-page white paper that details greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by sector and discusses possible regulatory and cap and trade solutions for each sector. The paper concludes U.S. greenhouse gas emissions can be broken down across the following sectors: electricity generation (34 percent), transportation (28 percent), industrial (19 percent), agricultural (8 percent), commercial (6 percent) and residential (5 percent). The study suggests all sectors should be subject to cap and trade and that the electricity sector in particular will see more regulations. With regards to the second largest emitting sector, transportation, the study suggests that vehicles are too numerous and difficult to regulate, so the "point of regulation" should be moved upstream to the fuel refiners and importers. In letters to their colleagues, Dingell and Boucher indicate that this white paper is the first in a series on climate change that will present relevant data and discussion on the related policy issues. Other topics will include compliance schedules, cost controls, carbon sequestration, offsets, the role of developing countries and the distribution of emission allowances. Hearings on these topics will also be scheduled as soon after the release of the white papers as possible. Given their current plans, it seems unlikely that climate change legislation will be introduced by this House Committee until next year.
In the meantime, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the results of their initial analysis of three Senate climate change bills on October 2, 2007. The three bills, which call for slightly different levels and timeframes for carbon dioxide reductions, include S.1766 from Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), S.280 from Senator Lieberman and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and S.485 from Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The analysis provides an historic perspective of carbon dioxide emissions contributed by different regions of the world and concludes that the cumulative reductions of carbon dioxide emissions by the end of the century will be similar for all three bills. The mini-climate assessment model used in the analysis is from the Joint Global Change Research Institute at the University of Maryland.
While proponents and opponents of the various climate change bills are speaking out about the latest analyses, everyone is really waiting for the introduction of a new Lieberman-Warner bill and action by Dingell and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Proponents of climate change legislation hope new measures can include all of the necessary compromises to gain approval in Congress. Even some opponents are anxious to see a bill because they would prefer climate change legislation developed and passed during the Bush Administration, rather than waiting for a new administration that might have different priorities. The outlook for climate change legislation remains pessimistic though as the Senate is almost evenly divided and one senator can hold up any legislation. In E&E Daily, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) summed up the possibilities this way "I don't see us passing cap and trade," he said. "That's a hard bugger to pass."
Discussions about climate change legislation are ongoing and geoscientists who wish to offer input should contact their members or relevant policy makers.
The EPA analysis can be found on their web page
The Dingell-Boucher White Paper on emitting sectors is available from the House Energy and Commerce Committee web page (10-4-07)
National Academies Review Climate Change Program
The National Academies National Research Council (NRC) completed a study entitled "Evaluating Progress of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program: Methods and Preliminary Results" of the $1.7 billion U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). The study suggests the program is proceeding toward understanding and predicting climate change, but criticizes the management structure. CCSP was initiated by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 as the U.S. Global Change Research Program to coordinate activities under one umbrella and re-organized as CCSP by his son, President George W. Bush in 2002 to involve 12 different federal agencies working on multiple reports. Twenty one reports should have been completed by now yet only 2 are finished. In addition to delays, the study worries that Earth observing capabilities will be insufficient to complete the work of the CCSP in the coming years. This particular concern echoes similar issues raised about U.S. Earth observing capabilities by other government and non-government reports, including a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the funding shortages for Earth observations at NASA. Finally the NRC report suggests that not enough progress has been made on understanding the impacts of climate change on humans and such work would require more than the $20 million that is spent annually to address this issue.
Please see the key federal register notices below for several announcements related to public meetings and public comment periods on documents related to CCSP.
The full report will be available at the National Academies web site in mid-October (10-4-07)
National Geographic and the Norwegian Embassy: World Environment
Day Conference June 5, 2007
The theme for this year's United Nations (UN) World Environment day was "Melting Ice - a Hot Topic." The Norwegian Embassy along with the National Geographic Society held a conference at the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington D.C. to draw attention to the effects of climate change on the Arctic environment and future options for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
According to Dr. Robert Corell, Director of Global Change at the John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and Environment, CO2 levels are the highest they have ever been in the past 600,000 years. Evidence of this comes from frozen gas bubbles buried deep in Antarctic ice which provide a paleoclimate model of Earth's atmosphere. Right now CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is about 385 ppm, which is causing an increase of absorbed solar energy which is warming Earth, melting glaciers, and causing a rise in sea level. Will Steger, a polar explorer, said that the Larsen A and B ice shelf breakup that took place between January and March of 2002 is evidence of rapid global warming. The mass melting of glaciers could cause serious concerns with respect to sea level rise. Steger stated that if the glaciers on Greenland melted, global sea level would go up by 24 feet, causing severe consequences for coastal cities across the globe.
Other dangers exist besides sea level rise. In the summer, the sun melts the first few inches of permafrost in the Arctic tundra; beneath the permafrost are billions of tons of methane. Should the overlying permafrost melt, it would cause a release of methane into the atmosphere which would not only accelerate the rate at which solar heat is trapped but also cause serious local environmental concerns. At the present rate of warming, in 50 years 50% of the permafrost would be gone and in 100 years about 90% would be gone. The melting of permafrost and sea ice is accelerated by the actual melting process; earth and water absorb more solar energy as opposed to ice which reflects the majority of solar heat back into space. In the Arctic sea, the summer ice minimum has decreased by 20% and there is less recovery every year. This has caused serious problems for coastal communities. In the past coastal communities were protected by the build up of sea ice barriers from the harsh pounding of the sea. Since these barriers have melted it has caused the punishing waves to completely obliterate some of these communities to the point where they are uninhabitable or they simply do not exist anymore.
Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Congressman John Larson (D-CT) were also in attendance at the conference. Both stated that the world is at a tipping point; the choices made today can destroy the environment and ruin the economy or these choices can mitigate the effects of climate change and provide humanity with sustained economic growth. Both noted many solutions being worked on by Congress to address climate change and reduce reliance on foreign oil, such as increased use of biofuels, deployment of carbon capture technology for electric power plants, creating a low carbon fuel standard bill and improving the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. An audience member inquired as to whether Congress has considered the effects of ethanol on fresh water supply. Inslee made the analogy that today's biofuels are much like that of the Wright brothers' airplane; this is the first step and while it does provide some improvements to addressing energy and climate issues the development of better technologies will continue. Larson added that the U.S. has everything it needs to start addressing climate change; it is simply a matter of government will to ensure that these mitigation measures take place.
The government of Norway has taken a lead in several climate change mitigation measures. Ambassador of Norway Knut Vollebaek stated that his country is committed to reducing greenhouse gases by 30% by 2030 and further reduce emissions by 80% in 2050. Norway plans to accomplish this goal with the help of carbon capture sequestration (CCS) technology. Currently Norway has three CCS projects underway: Mongstad project, Shell/Statoil (CO2 in this project is being used for enhanced oil recovery) and the Kårstø project. These programs will help develop cheaper CCS technology which other countries can model similar programs after. The success of future programs will also depend on a tax on carbon of about $25 per metric ton. Norway hopes to deploy full scale commercial CCS technology by 2014.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) Greenhouse Gas R&D Program, CCS technology started in the 1970's when oil companies began injecting CO2 into reservoirs for enhanced oil recovery. In this process oil is pushed towards the well and the CO2 remains safely and securely in the ground. In fact the best storage areas of CO2 are depleted oil and gas fields, because their geology is well known. Suitable geologic conditions include a porous permeable reservoir (sandstone or limestone) with an impermeable layer or cap rock above typically shale and a known structural or stratigraphic trap. Deep saline aquifers are another avenue for CO2 storage, however, the geology of saline formations is not as well understood as depleted oil fields and continued research into saline aquifers is needed. CO2 stays underground for several reasons: first, as the CO2 is pumped down into the reservoir it becomes a liquid under higher pressure. This causes much of the CO2 to become stuck within the pore spaces, known as residual trapping. However, CO2 is more buoyant than water and some of the CO2 will rise up to the top of the formation where it will be stopped by an impermeable layer of rock. As time passes the storage becomes even more secure as the CO2 reacts with salt water. The CO2 dissolves in the salt water, making it heavier than the water around it; this causes the water with CO2 to sink to the bottom of the formation. This process is known as dissolution trapping. The dissolution of CO2 in water forms weak carbonic acid and this can react with surrounding minerals, forming new minerals that coat the rock grains thus binding the CO2 to the reservoir.
The list of potential sites for CCS is vast, with suitable locations on every continent capable of holding hundreds of years' worth of CO2. This technology is proven, and it can greatly reduce the amount of future CO2 emissions which cause global warming. However, laws and regulations need to be set in place to allow for full commercial deployment of CCS, and the proper commercial framework needs to be developed if this technology is going to be economically viable. (06/22/07)
United Nations Security Council Debates Threats of Global Warming
Concern that warming global temperatures will gradually shrink land and water resources and irreversibly alter the face of the planet prompted the first-ever debate on the topic by the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, April 17 2007. Representatives from over fifty countries convened in New York to discuss the security implications of global climate change, including food and water shortages, the displacement or migration of large populations, and new wars.
The meeting received mixed responses. China's deputy ambassador Liu Zhengmin rejected the meeting, arguing that the UN Security Council is the wrong forum to debate global warming. "The developing countries believe that the Security Council has neither the professional competence in handling climate change, nor is the right decision-making place for extensive participation leading up to widely acceptable proposals," he was quoted as saying in the New York Times.
The British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, disagreed. "An unstable climate will exacerbate some of the core drivers of conflict, such as migratory pressure and competition for resources," she said. As the UN body responsible for maintaining international peace and security, the Security Council must consider the potential for conflicts arising from global warming. Qatar's UN ambassador, Nassir Al-Nasser, agreed. "Since we all run the risk of being submerged, we must work collectively to save ourselves from drowning." (05/16/07)
Senate Proposes Carbon Sequestration Pilot Studies
On March 22, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced S. 962, a bill that amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to reauthorize and improve the carbon capture and storage research, development, and demonstration program of the Department of Energy. The bill tightens the language in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to make the goals of the carbon capture and storage program more specific. In particular, the bill provides more support for research and calls for greater development and demonstration efforts. (04/10/07)
New House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence
Despite a largely Republican outcry, the House has created a special panel to study and offer recommendations on how to deal with global warming. The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, advanced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), was approved by a vote of 269-150. "Global warming may be the greatest challenge of our time, setting at risk our economy, environment and national security," Pelosi said in a statement. "With the new committee, "the House is giving these issues the high visibility they deserve."
A majority of Republicans voted against the creation of the Select
Committee, arguing that the committee is unnecessary and removes funds
from the ethics committee budget. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said the
panel serves "as a platform for some members to grandstand and
play to the constituencies that are so insistent that we destroy our
economy in the name of political correctness."
The committee, consisting of nine Democrats and six Republicans, will be chaired by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA). It will hold hearings and recommend legislation, but, in a concession to existing committees, it will not write legislation and will exist for only two years. The committee will have a two-year budget of $3.7 million.
Tom Weimer, Interior's assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, resigned as the Interior's top budget official to become the minority staff director on the new House Select Committee in late March. It is not clear who will replace Weimer at Interior, however the position is of interest to the geoscience community because the assistant secretary sets budgetary priorities for many geoscience programs within Interior, including the U.S. Geological Survey. (04/10/07)
Supreme Court Rules Carbon Dioxide Can be Regulated
In a close 5 to 4 ruling released on April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court agreed with 11 states and 13 environmental groups that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should regulate carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles. In Massachusetts v. EPA, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion for Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kennedy and Souter, while Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas dissented.
Stevens criticized EPA and wrote "EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change," and he concluded that EPA's actions were "arbitrary, capricious ... or otherwise not in accordance with law."
The Supreme Court did not stipulate any specific course of action for the EPA, but rather it ruled that there was no reason that EPA could not regulate greenhouse gas emissions. It will now be up to Congress to clarify what actions should be taken regarding greenhouse gas emissions.
The opinions are available from the Supreme Court website. The case is docket 05-1120. (04/10/07)
Energy Department Releases Carbon Sequestration Atlas
The Department of Energy has estimated the amount of potential underground storage for greenhouse gas emissions in North America. The new Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the United States and Canada is posted on their web site. It shows that there is room for more than 3,500 billion tons of carbon dioxide in geologic formations consistent with similar estimates from an independent study by Battelle. This would mean more than 900 years of emissions could be sequestered, based on the department's estimate of 3.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year from electric utilities and other stationary industrial plants.
Congress has recently introduced measures to estimate the amount
of carbon dioxide that can be sequestered and to initiate pilot programs
on sequestration. Policy makers note that the DOE study does not cover
all of North America, does not estimate the amount of oil and gas
that could be recovered, does not use uniform methods and was not
peer-reviewed. The House measure would require the U.S. Geological
Survey, DOE and EPA to complete a full inventory that addresses these
discrepancies and other issues.
The Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the United States and Canada is available online.
The Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership is one of seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships created by the Energy Department in 2002. The partnership program exists so that each partnership can assess the CO2 sequestration option best suited to its specific region. Currently, the seven regional partnerships include more than 300 organizations within 40 states, three Indian nations, and four Canadian provinces. Battelle of Columbus, Ohio, leads the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, which includes 38 partners in seven states: Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
More information about the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership is available here. (04/10/07)
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Releases Impact Report
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the second of four reports on April 6, 2007. The Working Group 2 Report is entitled, "Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" and details the expected impacts of climate change based on scientific observations and modeling. The major impacts were divided into sections on freshwater resources, ecosystems, food and forest products, coastal and low-lying areas, industry, settlement and society, and health. Adaptability and vulnerability were discussed in the context of the impacts.
More details and the full report are available at the IPCC web site. (04/10/07)
Europeans Agree to Emission Limits, While
the U.S. Blocks Carbon Trading
Taking a landmark stride toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, European Union leaders have agreed to binding targets to reduce the bloc's emissions and boost its renewable energy capacity by 2020. At a meeting in Brussels on March 9, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is also the current EU President, convinced the other EU leaders to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Leaders also agreed to require the bloc to generate 20 percent of its power from renewable sources.
The agreement was reached by allowing leaders to compromise on the renewable energy target by agreeing to "differentiated national overall targets" that will be set "with due regard to a fair and adequate allocation." The decision of whether to use nuclear power has also been left to individual states, provided that "nuclear safety and security" are "paramount in the decision-making process."
According to BBC News Online, British Prime Minister Tony Blair applauded the targets for giving "Europe a clear leadership position on this crucial issue facing the world." He added that the goal would give "a good chance" for engaging China, India, and the United States.
On March 17 and 18, the environment ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations (U.S., Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Canada and Russia) plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa engaged in climate discussions and agreed on seven points concerning climate change, including acceptance of the scientific explanation that global warming is human-induced. The U.S. objected to endorsing a carbon trading market to help reduce emissions, leaving one point of contention and evoking disappointment, but not surprise from the other ministers. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson wanted to seek input from economists and other financial experts before proceeding with a carbon-trading market. (04/10/07)
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Roundtable Discussion
on the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme
Dr. Raymond Kopp, Resources for the Future
Dr. Jean-Yves Caneill, Project Manager, Sustainable Development Division, Electricte de France
Dr. Jos Delbeke, Director for "Climate Change and Air" of the Directorate-General for Environment, European Union Commission
Dr. Denny Ellerman, Senior Lecturer, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Bruno Vanderborght, Vice President of Climate Protection, Holcim Cement
Garth Edward, Trading Manager for Environmental Products, Shell Oil
Per-Otto Wold, Founding Partner and CEO, Point Carbon
Chaired by Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a roundtable discussion on March 26, 2007 to review the progress of the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (EUETS). The goal of the roundtable was to determine what lessons American policymakers can learn from the successes and failures of the European market-based emissions trading program. As Congress works toward creating an American emissions reduction plan, the experiences of our European counterparts will be closely scrutinized to better understand how a market-based trading program could operate efficiently and effectively in the United States.
Calling the EU cap and trade program "one of the most significant endeavors being undertaken on climate change today," Chairman Bingaman commented that the "lessons learned by the European Union are extremely valuable for policy makers in the US." Ranking Member Pete Domenici (R-NM) agreed and invited the panelist to "tell us quite openly what you think we need to be doing, what we're doing wrong."
Dr. Kopp provided a brief overview of the EUETS. EUETS is a market-based emissions allowance cap and trade program, similar to the US sulfur dioxide reduction program initiated under the Clean Air Act. Market participants receive one allowance per ton of emissions and the allowances are freely transferable. EUETS was designed with two phases, the first a three year mandatory trial period between 2005 and 2008. The second phase will begin in January 2008 and effectively prepare the EU to meet its Kyoto commitments through 2012. EUETS only covers carbon dioxide emissions and does not include the transportation industry. At present, the allowance cost for a ton of emissions is 1 euro, though the price will rise to about 16.5 euros per ton when EUETS enters its second phase.
One of the most important lessons the US can learn from EUETS, commented Dr. Kopp, is to ensure that accurate monitoring, recording, reporting and accounting measures are taken. This is one of the biggest challenges the EU has faced to date. Similarly, he advised, keep political uncertainty as small as possible, develop effective banking rules, and keep allocations rules "as simple and transparent as possible."
Each participant was asked two questions, what was done right in the EUETS and what was done wrong in the EUETS. Dr. Delbeke praised the program for a "straight-forward and secure electronic allowance transfer system" that enables companies to transfer allowances across the EU." Emphasizing the power of the market, he noted that market operation was left open to the market and that no price cap was set in the EUETS system. Because of this, the private sector has moved quickly to develop services needed for the smooth operation of the allowance market, eliminating the need for federal regulation.
However, EUETS caps were set with "insufficient historic emissions and other data," which resulted in "insufficiently ambitious levels for emissions reductions and a significant drop in the market price for allowances." He also noted that differing national approaches were taken in determining the scope of the start-up period, which led to discrepancies in what emitting sectors where covered in each country.
The other participants agreed to varying degrees with Dr. Delbeke's assessment and raised concerns of their own. Dr. Ellerman noted that in comparing the European Union to the United States, one must recognize that the EU has "a very different federal structure." The relationship between the Member States and Brussels is highly decentralized, which has led to some of the discrepancies indicated by Dr. Delbeke. With varying types of governing systems and differing environmental, social, and economic standards, achieving a fair, comprehensive emissions reduction plan is perhaps more difficult that it will be in the US. "The stronger federal structure of the US will allow many problems to be avoided," said Ellerman.
Most of the panelists discussed the difficulty of working with limited emissions information. When EUETS was created, it lacked a good database, especially one that unified information from all the Member States. As a result, said Delbeke, the EU worked with "best guesses" and asked companies to report their emissions which were to be verified by a third person.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) asked how alternative energy efforts are credited in the EUETS. France, for example, has made a massive effort to increase the use of nuclear power. France's power plants were built well before the push to reduce carbon dioxide, Caneill noted. Built more for energy security, France's nuclear power contribution is nevertheless recognized in the carbon burden decision.
"Oh what a tangled web we create when we start to regulate," Sessions quipped. Balancing alternative energy contributions and proportioning out the emissions burden between developed and developing countries, between sectors, and amongst companies will be nothing short of challenging. The US will continue to learn from the successes and failures of EUETS to determine how it can most effectively create its own emissions trading program. (03-26-07)
Full text of the witness testimony is available here.
Congressional Cornucopia: Climate Change Aplenty
Congress continued to hold hearings on climate change in both chambers and across many different committees. Geoscientists were key witnesses in many hearings. Perhaps the most provocative and interesting hearing was the February 8th overview of one part of the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Fourth Assessment Report. The House Science and Technology Committee invited four co-authors of the IPCC's summary for policy makers of the first volume of the report, titled "Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis" to testify. In an unusual twist, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the first witness and she offered strong support for the findings of the IPCC policy summary. Later on in the hearing, NOAA atmospheric scientist Susan Solomon got into a terse conversation with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) about the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that can be directly attributed to human influence and Professor Richard Alley delighted the members with a pancake analogy. An archived web cast of the hearing is available from the committee web page. Many more hearings are expected in March, including the testimony of more geoscientists and the former Vice President Al Gore.
Partially in response to the IPCC report and to the attention of
climate change in Congress, the Senate Republican Policy Committee
released a 10-page primer on climate change for policymakers on February
27. The primer, entitled "Global Warming: The Settled Versus
the Unsettled Science" states that there is scientific agreement
that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have increased
in large part due to fossil fuel consumption, that Earth's average
temperature has risen 1.3 degrees F over the past century and that
carbon dioxide, methane and other gases exert a warming influence
on climate. Beyond these 3 points, the primer states there is considerable
uncertainty. The first two uncertainties are that it is difficult
to determine how much of the past warming is due to human influence
and that it is difficult to determine whether human activities will
have a benign or catastrophic effect on climate in the future.
Speaker Pelosi has given the House a June 1 deadline for crafting
comprehensive climate change legislation, but Rep. John Dingell (D-MI),
chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Rep. Rick Boucher
(D-VA), chair of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee have requested
more time. In addition to more time, which Speaker Pelosi denied,
the chairmen are also seeking more input from outside organizations.
On February 28, Dingell and Boucher sent a letter to more than 30
organizations requesting input on climate change legislation. The
letter states "We appreciate any help you can provide in furthering
our understanding of the significant factual and policy issues involved
in the debate concerning potential congressional action on climate
change legislation." The letter was sent to the AFL-CIO, American
Petroleum Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Gas Association,
National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense, Coal Research
Council, National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, National
Association of Manufacturers, Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, the
Renewable Fuels Association and others. Groups have until March 19
to respond and the chairmen have promised to make the responses public.
Congress is not just holding hearings and requesting information
about climate change though. Members have been busy introducing legislation
to address the issue, primarily in the Senate. One piece of legislation
called for a new national assessment and better federal coordination
of climate change research, a bevy of bills address greenhouse gas
reductions and a newly introduced bill calls for a national assessment
of our carbon sequestration capacity.
On February 7, Representative Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced the Global
Change Research and Data Management Act of 2007 (H.R. 906) which would
require the President to "establish an interagency United States
Global Change Research Program to improve understanding of global
change, to respond to the information needs of communities and decision
makers, and to provide periodic assessments of the vulnerability of
the United States and other regions to global change." The bill
would repeal The Global Change Research Act of 1990. The measure would
be intended to explicitly require a national assessment of climate
change research. Currently the Bush Administration is being sued by
the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and Friends of the
Earth for deciding not to produce a second national climate assessment
in 2005, but instead producing a series of 21 staggered, narrowly
defined reports on climate science. The 1990 law requires the government
to prepare a scientific assessment every four years of current climate
change research and the groups in the lawsuit contend that the Administration
is in violation of this requirement.
Udall's measure would also form a working group that would include
the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of
the National Science Foundation, the Director of the United States
Geological Survey, the Archivist of the United States, the Administrator
of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of the Smithsonian
Institution, or their designees, and representatives of any other
Federal agencies the President considers appropriate.
By the end of February, the following 7 measures to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions were introduced in Congress and being compared by members
and outside stakeholders: 1. Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act
(S.280) from lead co-sponsors Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), 2. Global Warming Pollution Reduction
Act (S.309) from lead co-sponsors Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Barbara
Boxer (D-CA), 3. Electric Utility Cap-and-Trade Act (S.317) sponsored
by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Tom Carper (D-DE), 4. Discussion
Draft of Global Warming Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman
(D-NM) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), 5. The Climate Stewardship Act (H.R.
620) led by co-sponsors Rep. John Olver (D-MA) and Rep. Wayne Gilchrest
(R-MD), 6. Global Warming Reduction Act (S.485) led by co-sponsors
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and 7.
National Energy and Environmental Security Act of 2007 (S.6) from
lead co-sponsor, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). All of these measures
would require implementation of some type of reduction in greenhouse
gas emissions for different sectors of the U.S. economy, including
in some cases the use of carbon sequestration.
A new and different bill, introduced on March 1, would address the
capacity for carbon sequestration in the U.S. The National Carbon
Dioxide Storage Capacity Assessment Act of 2007 was introduced in
the Senate and the House. Cosponsors for the Senate bill, S. 731,
include Senators Ken Salazar (D-CO.), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Jim Webb
(D-VA), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jim Bunning (R-KY), while in the House,
Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) is the lead sponsor of a companion version,
H.R. 1267. Both bills task the U.S. Geological Survey, the Energy
Department and the Environmental Protection Agency with calculating
storage capacity in all 50 states and the risks associated with sequestration,
as well as estimating potential volumes of oil and gas that could
be recovered after carbon injections.
IPCC's summary for policy makers of the first volume of the report,
titled "Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis"
is available on their web site here.
An archived webcast of the House Science and Technology Committee
hearing on "The State of Climate Science 2007" is available
from the committee web
The Republican Policy Committee global warming primer is available
The full text and summaries of each bill is available from Thomas.
The Bingaman-Specter Discussion Draft on Global Warming Legislation
is available from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
The Dingell-Boucher Letter is available from the House Energy and Commerce web site. (3/6/07)
Climate Change in Congress
The new Democratic majority of the 110th Congress has made climate change a major issue in their first month of work. Democrats have formed new committees, there have been several hearings on climate change and many new bills on climate change have been introduced.
On January 30th, the House and Senate held high profile hearings on climate change. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the political influence on government climate scientists on January 30th and received frank testimony about censorship, political editing of scientific results in government reports, cherry-picking science to suit political agendas and the intermixing of science and policy. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing entitled "Senators' Perspectives on Global Warming" and 33 senators offered their viewpoints on the science and whether to consider policy action. The testimony and web cast archives of both hearings are available at the committees' web sites.
In addition, a bevy of bills have been introduced to directly or
indirectly try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. For
the most part, the new bills would take small and specific steps to
reduce emissions. Possible steps include imposing an excise tax on
non-alternative fuel vehicles, improving vehicle fuel efficiency standards,
amending the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide or to promote
alternative fuel use, and developing a market-based cap and trade
system for carbon emissions.
President's State of the Union Addresses Energy and Climate
In his seventh State of the Union Address, President Bush presented the nation with an ambitious new energy plan that focuses on increasing fuel economy and alternative fuel availability, stating that the nation's dependency on foreign oil "leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes and to terrorists who could do great harm to our economy." Coining a new catch phrase, President Bush urged Americans to "reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next ten years." Such a reduction would, the Administration claims, allow the United States to cut total imports by about three-quarters of the oil now imported from the Middle East.
Achieving the President's "twenty in ten" goal, however,
demands a dramatic increase in the availability of alternative energy
sources. The President challenged lawmakers and private industry to
replace 15 percent of U.S. gasoline consumption with alternative fuels
by 2017. "It is in our vital interest to diversify America's
energy supply, and the way forward is through technology," he
said. He also asked Congress to reform Corporate Average Fuel Economy
(CAFÉ) standards for cars and to extend the current light truck
rule, which would reduce the projected annual gasoline use by 20 percent.
The President also asked Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 1.5 billion barrels by 2027, a move that would provide approximately 97 days of net oil import protection.
And in historic break from his past reluctance to acknowledge climate change pressures, the Present asserted that his energy plan will "help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change."
In his rebuttal, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) noted that "this is the seventh time the president has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from energy independence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternative energy programs." In their joint statement, Senator Reid and Representative Pelosi commended the President's goals for energy independence and commented that "we now must get straight to work on a real national energy policy."
It is now widely accepted by the scientific community and by a growing
number of policymakers that human activities, such as the burning
of fossil fuels and deforestation, are increasing atmospheric concentrations
of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" (GHG). The
potential consequences of such alterations to the Earth's heat and
radiation balance are the source of considerable debate. However,
Congress has begun to focus more attention on the issue of climate
change over the past several years. As concern about global warming
continues to mount and as states and cities develop policies to deal
with the issue at the regional scale, Congress has come under increased pressure to address the issue at the federal level.
A key factor in spurring action in Congress has been the publication
of several critical reports on climate change. The Stern Review, published
in October 2006 by Sir Nicholas Stern, head of Britain's Government
Economic Service, analyzes the economic impact of climate change.
The report suggests that global warming could "shrink
the global economy by 20 percent. Action now, however, could mitigate
the consequences of climate change at the cost of just 1 percent of
the global gross domestic product.
An increasing number of American businesses are jumping aboard the climate change wagon. In February of 2007, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (U.S. CAP), a coalition of leading corporations and environmental organizations, testified before Congress. The membership of U.S. CAP, which includes organizations such as Alcoa, BP America, Inc., DuPont, Duke Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric Company and Natural Resources Defense Council, has attracted Congress's interest because of the leadership role the groups have in their respective industries. Additionally, they have united to forge a consensus view regarding action on climate, providing specific recommendations to reduce GHG emissions.
However, the release of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report in November 2007
created perhaps the biggest waves in Congress. Based on new research
over the past six years, hundreds of scientists representing 113
countries, agree that "the observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely (<5%) that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing and very likely (>90%) that it is not due to known natural causes alone." The conclusions of the IPCC report has pushed Congress way from debating the science of climate change toward finding solutions to address the issue. In the 110th Congress a comprehensive cap-and-trade approach has been the focal point with various proposals being discussed. The most prominent of the proposals, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S.3036), was debated on the Senate floor this June and represents a shift toward legislative action.
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 Erin Gleeson, 2007 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern, Paul Schramm, 2007 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, David McCormick, 2007 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, and Laura Bochner, 2008 AGI/AIPG Summer 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 July 9, 2008.