American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

Report on "Kyoto and Beyond" Climate Change Policy Forum

On November 17-18, the Center for Environmental Information held a forum entitled "Kyoto and Beyond: Climate Change Policy Moves to Center Stage." The event, which took place during the center's annual conference, was scheduled to follow the Workshop on Climate Change Impacts at the National Academy of Sciences, sponsored by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Speakers focused on topics that compared policy proposals under consideration at Kyoto and analyzed the differ ences between them; examined the costs and benefits of various mitigation strategies; and assessed the state of climate change science.

A session on "Climate Science and Impacts Assessment" was moderated by Carol Whitman, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rosina Bierbaum, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, presented the results of studies on the effects of global climate c hange. She stated that agriculture productivity would rise in some places, but would decline in many of the poorest areas of the world, such as Mexico and Africa. Sea level is estimated to rise 20 inches/century, displacing many coastal and delta populat ions. Approximately one-third of forests will have to migrate in a warmer environment, and many will not be able to move due to urban infrastructure. Joel Scheraga, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), spoke about the importance of basing decisions o n sound science and being clear about what facts are certain and uncertain. He mentioned the need to increase technology to be able to translate large changes in the global climate into local events. Climate change will place additional stress on system s that are already stressed by dense populations and poverty, he stated, and we need to be able to react to unforeseen changes on these systems.

Richard Moss, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concluded the session with a presentation on the results of a recent IPCC Regional Assessment report. The study examined 10 regions (Africa, Australia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East/Arid Asia, North America, Polar, Small Island States, Temperate Asia, and Tropical Asia) on the basis of three core concepts: the sensitivity of a regional to climate change (responsiveness to climate change); adaptation ability; and vulnerability to change (extent to which a system may be damaged). Moss presented the results of the study on Africa as an example. Vulnerabilities include poverty, droughts, inequitable land distribution and overdependence on rain-fed agriculture. Many adaptation measures exist, but their implementation is not likely due to a low response capacity. For example, Africa has a high dependence on wood for fuel. Switching fuels is an option, but the country is too poor to afford the technology to switch. Limits in funding, training, a nd personnel present similar barriers to improved health care. Moss concluded with several personal observations: preparing to adapt seems prudent; adaptation is more available to rich countries; technology helps managed systems but not natural ecosystem s; changing policies and subsidies to encourage better resource conservation and management is necessary; and we must develop mechanisms to help developing countries.

A second panel was chaired by Carol Werner, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, on Implementation Issues. Dr. Joseph Romm, U.S. Department of Energy, presented findings of a recent report by five National Laboratories entitled "Scenarios of U.S. Ca rbon Reductions: Potential Impacts of Energy Efficiency and Low-Carbon Technologies by 2010 and Beyond," which is available on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory website The report states that because U.S. energ y production is so inefficient and wasteful, energy efficiency and clean energy technology can reduce costs for consumers and businesses while reducing carbon emissions. In addition, Romm argued that reducing carbon emission will increase air quality and competitiveness while decreasing dependence on oil imports. He cited fuel cells, wind turbines, Next Generation Vehicles, and biofuels as processes which will aid the transition. Steven Bernow, Tellus Institute, presented a variety of methods the United States could use to reduce carbon emissions: market transformation, efficiency standards, resource standards, incentives, research and development, tax/subsidy reforms, and voluntary programs. He then provided brief insights into effective strategies fo r various sectors of the economy including electric, building, industry, and transportation.

Jae Edmonds, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, discussed an alternative strategy to reduce emission through a "new powerplant and coal-based synthetic fuels capacity to scrub carbon from the waste gas stream in Annex 1 countries." It also provides me chanisms for non-Annex 1 countries to "graduate" into similar obligations. In his study, he found that carbon concentrations in 2100 were a linear function of the date at which the protocol was implemented in developed countries. Al McGartland, EPA, des cribed the Administration's proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He analyzed joint implementation and greenhouse gas emission trading programs, important elements of the proposal because of their ability to lower implementation costs.

The Center for Environmental Information (CEI) is a private, nonprofit, educational organization, founded in Rochester, New York, in 1974. CEI provides information and communication services, publications, and educational programs in order to: advance pu blic understanding of environmental issues; act as a communication link among scientists, educators, decision makers and the public; and advocate informed action based on the free exchange of information and ideas.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at

Contributed by Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs
Last updated December 11, 1997

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