Federal

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions seeks to inform the design and implementation of federal policies that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Drawing from its extensive peer-reviewed published works, in-house policy analyses, and tracking of current legislative proposals, the Center provides research, analysis, and recommendations to policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch. Read More
 

Congressional Briefing Series on Science and Impacts: Sea Level Rise

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Sea level rise is one of the most widespread climate impacts expected to result from human-induced global warming. New evidence from modern satellite observations on the one hand, and from the study of how large polar ice sheets responded to ancient global warming events on the other, suggests that global warming is already causing sea level to rise and that it could rise faster and to a greater extent this century—and beyond—than previously estimated. This briefing will help congressional staff understand recent scientific progress and current scientific thought on sea level rise.

Friday February 9, 2007
10:00-11:30 AM
2325 Rayburn House Office Building

 

Sea level rise is one of the most widespread climate impacts expected to result from human-induced global warming. New evidence from modern satellite observations on the one hand, and from the study of how large polar ice sheets responded to ancient global warming events on the other, suggests that global warming is already causing sea level to rise and that it could rise faster and to a greater extent this century—and beyond—than previously estimated. This briefing will help congressional staff understand recent scientific progress and current scientific thought on sea level rise.

Following a brief introduction to global climate change by Dr. Jay Gulledge, two leading sea level experts, Dr. Steve Nerem and Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, will describe the present state of the science on global sea level rise, with emphasis on state-of-the-art satellite measurements of contemporary sea level change, the various climate processes that contribute to sea level rise, and lessons learned from studying ancient climate–sea level relationships. Following short scientific presentations from each scientist, there will be ample time for the audience to interact directly with these internationally recognized experts.

 


R. Steven Nerem, Ph.D.
University of Colorado
Dr. Steve Nerem is Professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Prior to joining the CU faculty in 2000, he was Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering for four years at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to that he was a geophysicist with NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center for six years. He earned his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Nerem has authored approximately 60 peer-reviewed journal publications covering a variety of topics related to his specialty, which involves satellite orbit determination, remote sensing, and measuring the Earth's shape, gravity field, and sea level from space. He is a Contributing Author for the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr. Nerem has received more than a dozen awards for his work, including NASA's Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for his research in the area of gravity field determination.

Jonathan T. Overpeck, Ph.D.
University of Arizona
Dr. Overpeck is Director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth and professor of Geosciences at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Prior to joining the faculty in 1999 he was head of the NOAA Paleoclimatology Program at the National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colorado for nine years. He earned a Ph.D. in geological sciences from Brown University. Dr. Overpeck has authored over 100 papers that focus on global change dynamics, with a major focus on how and why climate systems vary on timescales of decades and longer. Current work focuses on the Asian and West African Monsoon systems, tropical Atlantic variability, El Niño-Southern Oscillation dynamics, Arctic environmental change, and reconstruction of ancient environments. He is a Coordinating Lead Author for the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr. Overpeck has received numerous awards recognizing his climate research, including the U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal and the American Meteorological Society Walter Orr Roberts Award.

Jay Gulledge, Ph.D.
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Dr. Gulledge is Senior Research Fellow for Science and Impacts at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. He serves as the Center’s in-house scientist and coordinates its work to communicate the state of knowledge on the science and environmental impacts of global climate change to policy-makers and the public. He is also an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Wyoming, home to his academic research on biological cycling of atmospheric greenhouse gases, which he publishes regularly in peer-reviewed journals. Prior to joining the Pew Center, he served on the faculties of Tulane University and University of Louisville. Dr. Gulledge earned a PhD in ecosystem sciences from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He currently serves as an associate editor of Ecological Applications, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Ecological Society of America.

Response to the 2007 State of the Union Address

Statement by Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

"Across the United States, scientists, CEOs, environment groups, state governments, and members of Congress are seeking a comprehensive approach to global climate change and what the President is proposing is really only a very small step in that direction; his plan only affects the transportation sector, which accounts for roughly one-third of US greenhouse gas emissions; and it is unclear how real this commitment is.

If we hope to deal with climate change in a reasonable manner, we need an approach that is both economy-wide and mandatory, and that will put us on a path toward significant greenhouse gas reductions."


Analysis

We welcome the President's mention of climate change in the State of the Union address, but his commitments fall short of actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan to reduce gasoline use by 20% comes from the following two measures:

1) Fuel standards calling for 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels (15%); and
2) Reforms to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard for cars (5%).

The overall 20% improvement claim is based on projected future gasoline use--not a reduction from current levels.

The increase in renewable fuels could provide a push for some climate-friendly alternative fuels; however, less GHG-friendly alternatives can also be used, leaving the climate benefits uncertain.

The proposed 5% reduction in gasoline use (to achieve the 20% goal) is based on an improvement in current CAFE of 4% per year (roughly 1 mile per gallon per year). However, the President's proposal does not commit to a new fuel economy standard for cars. He asks Congress to give the Administration authority to revisit the automobile standard but not to specify an actual numerical target.

At best, these two measures taken together could slow or stop expected growth in emissions from the transportation sector*, which represents roughly 1/3 of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. No specific proposals were offered to deal with emissions from other key sectors such as electricity generation, manufacturing, or buildings. Given all of the calls for action from CEOs, religious leaders, state and local governments, and the general public, it's unfortunate that the President missed this opportunity to outline a meaningful, comprehensive proposal to deal with climate change.


Related Content

View a chart of climate legislation recently proposed in the Senate (pdf).

Read the Pew Center's recommendations for U.S. climate policy:
Agenda for Climate Action.

Read about the new coalition of businesses and NGOs calling for national legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, United States Climate Action Partnership.

*The White House Policy Initiative Twenty in Ten: Strengthening America's Energy Security notes that "The President's plan will help confront climate change by stopping the projected growth of carbon emissions from cars, light trucks, and SUVs within 10 years."

USCAP: Background Materials

On January 22, 2007, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) released a landmark series of principles and recommendations calling for the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to achieve significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The USCAP is an unprecedented alliance of leading non-governmental organizations, including the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (at the time named the Pew Center on Global Climate Change), and major corporations, including several members of our Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC).

C2ES has extensive resources on domestic policy initiatives, including its Agenda for Climate Action, released in February 2006. Please visit our Policy page for further research and analysis, and Climate Action in Congress for a summary of recent congressional action.

Click here (pdf) to see how the USCAP recommendations compare to climate legislation recently proposed in the Senate.


Note: The reports posted below were prepared by C2ES (at the time named the Pew Center on Global Climate Change). They are not products, nor do they represent the consensus views, of USCAP. They are intended solely to provide further information and detail on major topics and recommendations contained in USCAP's "A Call for Action."

Key Themes from USCAP, "A Call For Action"

Additional C2ES Background Resources

Science and Impacts

The Science of Climate Change: Global and U.S. Perspectives

Observed Impacts of Global Climate Change in the U.S.

Climate Change 101: The Science and Impacts

Business and Economic Opportunities

Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) Company Profiles: the BELC is the largest U.S.-based association of companies convened to advance progressive climate policy and solutions, with 44 companies collectively comprising over $2 trillion in combined revenues, nearly 4 million employees, and operations in almost every U.S. state and country worldwide.

Corporate GHG and Energy Strategies

Getting Ahead of the Curve: Corporate Strategies That Address Climate Change

Climate Change 101: Business Solutions

Capturing the Emerging Market for Climate-Friendly Technologies: Opportunities for Ohio

International Policy

International Climate Efforts Beyond 2012: Report of the Climate Dialogue at Pocantico

International Climate Efforts Beyond 2012: A Survey of Approaches

The Lugar-Biden Climate Change Resolution

Climate Change 101: International Action

Technology Development

The 10-50 Solution: Technologies and Policies for a Low-Carbon Future

Induced Technological Change and Climate Policy

U.S. Technology and Innovation Policies: Lessons for Climate Change

Market Mechanisms

Emissions Trading in the U.S.: Experience, Lessons and Considerations for Greenhouse Gases

Early Observations on the European Union's Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme: Insights for United States Policymakers (PDF)

Market Mechanisms for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions: Lessons for California

Registries and Inventories

In Brief: Greenhouse Gas Reporting and Disclosure: Key Elements of a Prospective U.S. Program

An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Verification Issues

States with GHG Reporting and Registries

Credit for Early Action

Early Action and Global Climate Change: An Analysis of Early Action Crediting Proposals

Early Action Conference Summary and Presentations

Energy Policy

Designing a Climate-Friendly Energy Policy: Options for the Near Term

U.S. Electric Power Sector and Climate Change Mitigation

U.S. Energy Scenarios for the 21st Century

Transportation

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions From U.S. Transportation

In Brief: Taking Climate Change Into Account in U.S. Transportation

Comparison of Passenger Vehicle Fuel Economy and GHG Emission Standards Around the World

Buildings and Energy Efficiency

Towards a Climate-Friendly Built Environment

In Brief: Building Solutions to Climate Change

United States Climate Action Partnership

USCAPThe Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (at the time named the Pew Center on Global Climate Change) was a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) — an unprecedented alliance of 22 major businesses and 5 non-governmental organizations. This diverse group of business and environmental leaders came together to call for mandatory action to address climate change.

Members include AES, AlcoaAlstom, Boston Scientific Corporation, Chrysler, The Dow Chemical Company, Duke Energy, DuPont, Environmental Defense FundExelon Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Electric, Honeywell,  Johnson & Johnson, Natural Resources Defense CouncilThe Nature Conservancy, NextEra Energy, NRG Energy, PepsiCo, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, PG&E Corporation, PNM ResourcesRio Tinto, Shell, Siemens Corporation, Weyerhaeuser and the World Resources Institute.

USCAP was formed in January 2007 and issued A Call for Action. This document includes a series of principles and recommendations calling for the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to achieve significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Since its founding, USCAP has issued additional reports and briefs:

The Center's resources related to USCAP:

Congressional Briefing Series on Science and Impacts: South American Glacier Loss

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Two leading experts, Dr. Mathias Vuille and Mr. Walter Vergara, will present the state of knowledge regarding the science and impacts of mountain glacier loss in tropical South America, with special focus on the Andes Mountains of Peru, where glacier retreat is particularly advanced.

October, 20, 2006

The tropical Andes is one of the regions of the globe where recent climate change is most evident.  Andean glaciers are receding rapidly, with potentially severe consequences for the availability of water for drinking, irrigation, mining, and hydropower. Climate models predict an additional warming of 7-9 °F in the region if atmospheric carbon dioxide doubles from pre-industrial levels by the end of this century. Some glaciers are already destined to disappear completely; for many more, the threshold for disappearance will be reached within the next 10 to 20 years unless conditions change quickly.

Rapid glacier retreat places in doubt the sustainability of current patterns of water use and ultimately the viability of the economies and ecologies of the Andes.  The changes induced by tropical glacier retreat constitute an early case of the need for adaptation and therefore an example of the impacts caused by climate change.


Two leading experts, Dr. Mathias Vuille and Mr. Walter Vergara, will present the state of knowledge regarding the science and impacts of mountain glacier loss in tropical South America, with special focus on the Andes Mountains of Peru, where glacier retreat is particularly advanced.


Mathias Vuille, Ph.D.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Dr. Vuille Research Associate Professor at the Climate System Research Center, Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst.  His research interests are in tropical climatology and paleoclimatology, with particular interest in linking observed modern climate dynamics to paleoclimatic interpretation of proxy data.  He is the lead investigator on a research project funded by the National Science Foundation to investigate the "Impact and consequences of predicted climate change on Andean glaciation and runoff."  He has published more than 40 peer-reviewed papers on paleoclimate and glaciology.  Dr. Vuille earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from University of Bern, Switzerland.

Walter Vergara
The World Bank
Mr. Vergara is Lead Engineer in the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Department of the World Bank’s Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office.  Mr. Vergara works on climate change issues and has participated in development of the carbon finance portfolio in the region, as well as initiatives on adaptation to climate change, transport and climate change, air quality, application of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to wastewater, solid waste management, and renewable energy.  He is the author of four books and numerous technical articles, and currently manages an extensive portfolio of climate initiatives in the region.  Mr. Vergara is a chemical engineer and graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and the Universidad de Colombia in Bogotá.

Jay Gulledge, Ph.D.
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Dr. Gulledge is Senior Research Fellow for Science and Impacts at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. He serves as the Center’s in-house scientist and coordinates its work to communicate the state of knowledge on the science and environmental impacts of global climate change to policy-makers and the public. He is also an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Wyoming, home to his academic research on the carbon cycle. He has published more than a dozen refereed journal articles on microbial ecology and biogeochemical cycling of atmospheric greenhouse gases, and serves as an associate editor of Ecological Applications, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Ecological Society of America. Dr. Gulledge earned a PhD in Ecosystem Sciences from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Press Release: Pew Center Reports Spotlight Role of Farms, Forests in Reducing Global Warming

Press Release
September 21, 2006

Contact: Katie Mandes, (703) 516-0606        

PEW CENTER REPORTS SPOTLIGHT ROLE OF FARMS, FORESTS IN REDUCING GLOBAL WARMING

WASHINGTON, DC – America’s farms and forestlands have a major role to play in reducing the threat of climate change, according to two reports released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.  Changes in agricultural practices coupled with foresting marginal agricultural lands could offset up to one fifth of current U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time creating potential new sources of farming income.  In addition, the nation could reduce emissions by 10 to 25 percent by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels made from agricultural crops. 

The two reports being released today are: Agriculture’s Role in Greenhouse Gas Mitigation by Keith Paustian, John M. Antle, John Sheehan, and Eldor A. Paul, and Agricultural and Forestlands: U.S. Carbon Policy Strategies by Kenneth R. Richards, R. Neil Sampson, and Sandra Brown.

The Pew Center reports showcase the unique position of the agriculture and forestry sectors both as sources of greenhouse gas emissions (including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) and as “sinks” that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The reports also stress that we need to bolster existing programs and develop new ones in order to capitalize on the opportunity to contribute to climate solutions inherent in these two sectors.

“Climate change is the major environmental challenge of our time. In order to address it in the most cost-effective way, we must take advantage of the full range of solutions—and that means rethinking how we manage our forests and farmlands,” said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

In Agriculture’s Role in Greenhouse Gas Mitigation, the authors make the case for “suitable payments” to encourage farmers to adopt new management practices to store carbon in agricultural soils and reduce agricultural emissions of methane and nitrous oxide. Policy incentives also are needed, the authors say, to reduce costs of producing biofuels and accelerate key technologies. The report notes that climate mitigation could potentially become a source of new income and cost reductions for farmers. However, access to financing, changes in economic conditions and technologies, and policies will be key factors that will affect farmers’ willingness to play a part in climate solutions.

The second Pew Center report, Agricultural and Forestlands: U.S. Carbon Policy Strategies, considers a range of policy approaches that would ensure a prominent role for U.S. agricultural and forestlands in national climate mitigation plans. Among the potential policies: changing practices on public lands; land use regulations for privately owned forestlands; and incentives designed to promote climate-friendly practices on agricultural lands.

“We have always known that America’s farms and forests could play an important part in reducing the risks of climate change,” said Claussen. “But these sectors aren’t going to do this on their own—policymakers need to create the framework for these solutions through vigorous incentives and other policies.”

For more information about global climate change and the activities of the Pew Center, visit www.c2es.org.

###

The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States’ largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Congressional Testimony of Judi Greenwald on DOE's Plan for Climate Change Technology Programs

TESTIMONY

JUDITH M. GREENWALD, DIRECTOR OF INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS
PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE

September 20, 2006

At the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Energy Hearing: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Plan for Climate Change Technology Programs

Madam chair and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the U.S. Department of Energy’s plan for climate change technology programs.  My name is Judi Greenwald, and I am the Director of Innovative Solutions for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change.[1]  Forty-one major companies participate in the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC), making the BELC the largest U.S.-based association of corporations focused on addressing the challenges of climate change. Many different sectors are represented, from high technology to diversified manufacturing; from oil and gas to transportation; from utilities to chemicals. These companies represent $2 trillion in market capitalization, employ over 3 million people, and work with the Center to educate the public on the risks, challenges and solutions to climate change.

Global climate change is real and likely caused mostly by human activities. While uncertainties remain, they cannot be used as an excuse for inaction. To quote the National Academy of Sciences, in a statement signed by the academies of ten other nations, as well: “The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global GHG emissions.”

The Pew Center believes there are three things we in the United States must do to reduce the real and growing risks posed by global climate change: First, we must enact and implement a comprehensive national program to progressively and significantly reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a manner that contributes to sustained economic growth. Given that U.S. GHG emissions have risen steadily despite fifteen years of voluntary efforts to reduce them, any such national program must include mandatory reductions. Second, the United States must work with other countries to establish an international framework that engages all the major GHG-emitting nations in a fair and effective long-term effort to protect our global climate. Third, we must strengthen our efforts to develop and deploy climate-friendly technologies and to diffuse those technologies on a global scale.

I would like to address the questions you posed to me directly first:

1. What do you see as the key strengths and weaknesses of the plan?

While the draft Strategic Plan provides a fine overview of GHG-reducing technologies and the opportunities each could present over the long term, it does not provide a plan for deploying these technologies, nor does it provide a path to stabilizing concentrations of GHGs. The technologies considered in the Plan are vitally important; however, merely compiling information about them is not sufficient to ensure their widespread penetration into the marketplace.

Markets work when individuals can balance out their own costs and benefits. As with many environmental problems, individuals generally do not receive financial benefits from taking action on climate change. There is clearly a value to society in minimizing damaging climate effects, but the market does not capture that benefit for those who bear the costs. Therefore, simply creating a supply of carbon-reduction technologies does not mean there will be a demand for them. A mandatory constraint on emissions, on the other hand, will make emissions reductions financially valuable to the individuals producing them, creating a demand for emissions-reducing technologies in the marketplace.

The estimates of the technologies’ potential contributions to emissions reductions in the Strategic Plan are derived from a report prepared by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The report, “Climate Change Technology Scenarios: Energy, Emissions and Economic Implications”,[2] considers a range of energy scenarios accompanied by a range of possible emissions constraints. Three hypothetical scenarios are included, along with a reference (business-as-usual) scenario. The three scenarios are each evaluated for four different emissions-constrained cases of varying levels of stringency. Only the reference scenario is considered under a “no emissions constraint” case. Yet the reference scenario with no emissions constraint—the situation that best matches the current U.S. technology market and policy direction—is not noted in the Strategic Plan. Instead, only the analyses that include emissions constraints—an approach contrary to current U.S. policy—are included in the estimates of the technologies’ potential contributions to GHG reductions. This makes it impossible to evaluate the likelihood of the Plan’s success under current policies, and also supports what most people who seriously examine this issue know – that potential reductions are driven by the existence of constraints on emissions and the demand for technology to deal with those constraints, rather than purely on the federal effort invested in technology research and development.

A combination of technology “pushing” activities (such as those discussed in DOE’s plan) with technology “pulling” legislation that mandates reductions of U.S. GHG emissions would be the most effective and efficient way to deploy climate-friendly technology throughout the economy. Our analysis indicates that combining push and pull will give better results than relying on either alone: studies indicate, for example, that combining R&D incentives with carbon caps will cost the economy an order of magnitude less than relying on either R&D incentives or emissions reduction policies alone.[3]

2. Will the CCTP enable the Administration to meet its goal of cutting GHG intensity by 18 percent by 2012? Does the CCTP put the United States on a path to stabilizing GHG emissions?

The Plan is likely quite adequate for meeting the current goal of 18% reduction in intensity, but that is only because the goal largely reflects business as usual. But neither the Plan nor the 18% intensity reduction goal will put the U.S. on a path to stabilizing GHG emissions. Even if this goal is met, emissions will continue to rise rather than stabilize.

It should also be noted that the U.S. commitment under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is noted in the Plan, is not to stabilize emissions, but rather to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of GHGs. The UNFCCC commitment further specifies that concentrations should be stabilized “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”;[4] While there is not yet a global consensus on the concentration at which this would occur, it is important to consider the full extent of this commitment in evaluating the Plan’s success in achieving it. Impacts generally considered to indicate dangerous interference range from the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet, eventually raising sea levels by as much as 20 feet, [5] increased hurricane intensity, compounding the danger to millions of citizens in the Southeast and Gulf coasts,[6] depleted water resources in the Western United States due to reductions in winter snow pack,[7] and the threat of extinction of thousands of species,[8]particularly those dependent on highly sensitive habitat (for example, polar bears, threatened by the melting of the arctic ice pack; pika, threatened by the desiccation of alpine meadows, and corals threatened by thermal stress and ocean acidification). Most experts now believe that a doubling of CO2 concentrations (i.e., around 550 ppm) is too high to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, such as the impacts just listed. We do not know what a safe level is, though many are proposing 450 ppm as a level that has potential to avoid large-scale effects on the climate. (See Schellnhuber, Cramer, Nakicenovic, Wigley and Yohe, 2006, “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change,” Cambridge University Press.)

While it is understandable that the CCTP has not chosen a specific atmospheric concentration of GHGs to be achieved—this is not its charge—the absence of such a target in the nation’s strategy presents another difficulty in assessing the Plan’s likelihood of success. While a 450ppm constraint is considered in the Plan, it is the most stringent of all options considered. The other cases involve concentrations well above this level (up to 750ppm—almost a tripling of pre-industrial levels) and have a large potential to reflect dangerous anthropogenic interference. Given the Plan’s consideration of a range of potential stabilization targets, it would be far more helpful if the Plan described the pace and scale of deployment that would be needed to achieve each of the targets considered. A strategy for CO2 stabilization at 450 ppm might look very different from a strategy for stabilization at 750 ppm, but those differences would not become evident unless the paths to the targets are outlined. This would aid policy makers in understanding the technological implications of various targets that might be adopted, as well as aid the CCTP in choosing its technology priorities.

Unfortunately, while the Plan gives a fine overview of GHG-reducing technologies and the role that each could play, the analysis of potential reductions is limited to scenarios that do not match current conditions or stated policy directions. As demonstrated in the estimates made in this Plan, it is mandatory emissions constraints in conjunction with technology investment—rather than technology investment alone—that will spur technology deployment and diffusion. In the absence of these constraints, the potential reductions outlined in this Plan will not be achieved.

3. Does the draft strategic plan provide an integrated framework of sound guidance, clear goals and next steps for agencies and researchers to use when prioritizing and selecting future research efforts? If so, please explain. If not, how should the Administration set R&D investment priorities among various climate change technologies and CCTP agencies?

The Pew Center is pleased to see that the plan does not pick winners, but rather it examines a broad portfolio of technologies that have the potential to reduce emissions on a large scale, making the most cost-effective technologies available for reductions in the future. The Pew Center supports the Portfolio Planning and Investment Criteria that the CCTP uses to evaluate various technologies: maximizing return on investment, supporting public-private partnerships, focusing on technology with large-scale potential, and sequencing R&D investments in a logical, developmental order are essential in determining what technologies to support. In addition to this evaluation of known technologies, efforts to explore new and innovative opportunities should also be promoted. The small portion of section 9 that describes the importance of doing exploratory research aimed at pursuing novel concepts not elsewhere covered should be given more emphasis. The fact remains that, while there are myriad technologies that we currently know can contribute to GHG emissions over the long term, it may be technologies that have not yet been discovered that will have the most impact. With accommodations for these unknown opportunities, the report acts as a useful summary of the current and future technologies that may have a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions if deployed.

Regarding your overarching questions 1 and 2, please see my response to questions 2 and 3 above. I would like to address your third overarching question specifically.

3. How could the CCTP plan be improved? What next steps are needed to implement a clear climate change technology strategy?

The U.S. Department of Energy is doing a good job in running a rational research and development program for technologies that are likely to contribute to solving the climate change problem in the future. As mentioned, however, what is lacking is an emphasis on deployment. Technologies that sit on the shelf are not useful. Deployment depends on private companies deciding to use these new technologies rather than their old, more carbon-intensive technologies. Without a mandatory GHG constraint, private companies do not have sufficient incentives to do so. The end result is an increase in technology innovation but little demand for those technologies in the market.

Finally, the technology initiatives discussed in the plan can only be effective if they are adequately funded and managed, and implemented with some urgency. DOE and the other federal agencies run a mind-boggling collection of programs that could promote climate-friendly technologies. There are numerous domestic and internationally focused programs, many of these intended to advance the climate-friendly technologies we would want deployed, including the Asia-Pacific Partnership, Climate Leaders, Climate VISION, Climate Challenge, Clean Cities, the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, the Methane-to-Markets Partnership, the Industrial Technology Project, the SmartWay Transport Partnership, the Partnership for a Hydrogen Economy, FreedomCAR, Energy STAR, Generation IV Nuclear Initiative, Vision 21, 21st Century Truck, Nuclear Power 2010, ITER22, FutureGen, Future Fuel Cells, Industries of the Future, and Turbines of Tomorrow.

While it is difficult to tell exactly how much has been budgeted for each of these programs, according to the Administration?7;s Federal Climate Change Expenditures Report to Congress (April 2006), the total FY 2006 budget authority for all CCTP initiatives amounts to about $2.8 billion, with a $207 million increase proposed for 2007. This increase is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. In addition, it is crucial not just that these initiatives be funded, but that they be funded in a long-term, stable way—even forward-funded—to ensure that research managers are able to make the kind of plans that large-scale technology development requires.

Related to this is the challenge of implementing so many initiatives on a timely basis. Because it is far easier to explain to the press and public the launch of an initiative than to explain the boring details of its implementation, the political rewards of launching initiatives greatly outweigh those of implementation. Our sense is that DOE and the other federal agencies are doing a good job implementing these programs, but we are concerned that the Administration may not be placing sufficient priority on them.

It would be a shame if three years from now, in another oversight hearing, we learned that all these programs were under funded and given insufficient priority within the Administration. We simply cannot afford to lose the time.

I thank and commend the chair and the subcommittee for holding this hearing and for the opportunity to testify. The Pew Center looks forward to working with the subcommittee in its oversight capacity and on the development, enactment and implementation of any future climate change legislation.


[1] For more on the Pew Center, see www.c2es.org.

[2] Placet, M., K.K. Humphreys, N.M. Mahasenan. 2004. “Climate Change Technology Scenarios: Energy, Emissions and Economic Implications”, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, August 2004.

[3] See Induced Technological Change and Climate Policy, Lawrence H. Goulder, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Arlington, Virginia, October 2004.

[5] Alley, R.B., et al., 2005 “Abrupt Climate Change”

[6] Emanuel, K, et al 2005 “Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years

[7] Mote, P et al., 2003 “Preparing for climatic change: The water, salmon, and forecasts of the Pacific Northwest.”

[8]Thomas, C.D., et al., 2004 “Climate change and extinction risk”

Agricultural and Forestlands: U.S. Carbon Policy

Agricultural  Forestlands

 

Agricultural & Forestlands: U.S. Carbon Policy Strategies

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
September 2006

By:
Kenneth R. Richards, Indiana University
R. Neil Sampson, The Sampson Group, Inc.
Sandra Brown, Winrock International

Press Release

Download Entire Report (pdf)

Click here if you are unable to download this report.

Foreword

The United States can capitalize on its substantial natural, institutional, and human resources to develop a strong, integrated, carbon sequestration program. The goals of a national sequestration strategy should include:

•  Achieving actual increases in carbon stocks on its forest and agricultural lands,
•  Maintaining existing carbon stocks,
•  Producing more reliable estimates of changes in the absolute levels of these stocks, and
•  Developing the methods needed to allow policy-makers to evaluate the effectiveness of government-sponsored sequestration programs.

Given the variety of activities, land types, and ownership patterns involved, policy-makers will need to include several different components in designing a national strategy for U.S. forest and agricultural lands. They will also need to draw on a variety of approaches to implement this strategy. To maximize results, government should employ the full range of policy tools at its disposal, including: direct government provision of information and increasing carbon on federal lands, regulations, practice-based incentives, and results-based mechanisms. Table 10 provides a summary of the many policy tools available to the government for implementing a national carbon sequestration program. Given the multiplicity of policy tools and mechanisms available, it will be important to assure that future programs complement each other and are presented to potential participants in a lucid manner.

As a first step in increasing carbon sequestration, the government should examine how it can modify management practices on its extensive land holdings to emphasize carbon sequestration in a manner that is consistent with other land management objectives such as habitat protection, erosion control, and timber production. The most promising avenue involves reducing the risk of catastrophic loss of forests to wildfires (see Box 2, page 17). The regulatory approach, which may be particularly helpful in preserving existing forests and decreasing losses of forest carbon on private land, must be implemented through state governments where the power to directly control land-use and management is vested. Recent experience suggests that private-sector certification programs like the SFI that promote adoption of best management practices for sustainable forests can provide an important supplement to state and local regulations.

In the past, the federal government has predominantly employed practice-based incentives to influence private landowner decisions. This tendency is reflected in the 2002 Farm Bill, which contains a number of programs that provide cost-sharing incentives for practices that enhance carbon stocks on the lands where the practices are adopted. These programs generally serve multiple objectives that include soil, water, and habitat conservation in addition to carbon sequestration. The 2002 Farm Bill increased funding for these programs substantially. Practice-based incentive programs have two advantages as vehicles for promoting carbon sequestration. First, they operate through established networks of organizations to implement the policies. This reduces both the financial and political costs of shifting the focus of farm programs toward carbon sequestration. Second, practice-based programs avoid the transaction costs associated with measuring, monitoring, and tracking site-specific changes in carbon stocks. They also rely on a less intrusive monitoring process since it is only necessary to check for the existence and extent of the practice, rather than determining actual carbon stocks. Thus, practice-based programs are likely to be the most cost-effective, familiar, and feasible components of a larger national strategy to promote carbon sequestration, at least in the near term.

To fully exploit the potential of practice-based approaches, the U.S. government must assure continued funding for the relevant programs. Volatility in program funding will reduce the effectiveness of the government’s financial resources as landowners hesitate to make long-term commitments due to programmatic uncertainty. The government should also establish a high priority research initiative to evaluate the carbon benefits and cost-effectiveness of Farm Bill initiatives. In particular, the research should examine whether the programs are inducing actual changes in practices beyond what landowners would have done in the absence of incentives. As these programs mature, the government should revisit the question of whether practice-based programs should be expanded. For example, if the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) proves particularly successful, the government should consider increasing its funding level and removing the current cap of 39.2 million acres.

An important element of a national strategy will be to explore whether it is possible to develop a credible program incorporating results-based incentives for individual carbon sequestration projects. Results-based approaches have the advantage of providing high-powered incentives for innovative approaches to carbon sequestration. However, they are also less familiar than the well-established practice-based approach, and will require both overcoming information challenges and choosing among several options.

The first step to developing a program that bases incentives on the results of individual projects is to establish a viable, cost-effective method of measuring impacts of practice and land-use changes in specific locations. The government appears to have started this process with its program to reassess and redesign the 1605(b) reporting guidelines. Whether those revisions will provide guidelines that are adequate for a cap-and-trade program remains to be seen. Ultimately guidelines will need to provide methods that address development of reference cases, potential leakage, permanence, and effects on other greenhouse gases in a manner that is sufficiently clear and comprehensive so that independent evaluators of a given project will arrive at essentially the same estimate of carbon benefits.

The second step to adding a results-based approach to the national strategy is to determine how incentives will be provided to project developers. For example, the government could provide subsidies or contracts where payments to landowners are proportional to the amount of carbon actually sequestered. Alternatively, if there are caps on emissions of greenhouse gases from industrial sources, project developers might receive credits issued by the government, but the payments to project developers would come from sales of these credits to industrial sources which would use the credits to assist in meeting emissions limits.

Once key stakeholders are satisfied that methods are available that accurately assess the carbon effects of individual projects, then a results-based program for promoting carbon sequestration on agricultural and forestlands should be included in the national carbon strategy. Doing so will unleash the creativity and innovation of U.S. landowners and lead to lower overall costs of achieving national climate goals.

Opportunities for augmenting carbon sequestration may be even greater, and costs may be substantially lower, in developing countries than in the United States. Therefore, U.S. policy-makers should consider expanding the scope of a sequestration strategy to provide incentives for projects outside U.S. borders. The U.S. government could also work directly with other governments to identify, promote, and fund new policies and practices that will protect and increase carbon stocks in those countries. The incentives could be largely the same as for domestic initiatives, and could include practice-based or results-based payments. However, the process for including results from efforts in other countries in the national report would be different. Whereas the impacts of domestic initiatives would be included automatically in the inventory of national carbon stocks compiled by the United States under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, inclusion of international accomplishments would not be automatic (see Figure 1). Sequestration benefits achieved in other countries would have to be measured separately. The sum of these impacts would then be added to the national change in domestic stocks to estimate the total change in global carbon stocks for which the United States might claim credit. If the national strategy includes incentives for sequestration accomplishments in other countries, it will become even more critical to develop consistent methods for program and project evaluation.

Executive Summary

 

Agricultural and forestlands can play a key role as part of a comprehensive strategy to slow the accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Much of the public discussion about using these lands as part of an overall strategy to address climate change results from the beliefs that forest and agriculture land-use and management options will be relatively low cost, and that biomass can play an important role in reducing the use of fossil fuels. In the near term, these lands can be managed to increase the quantity of carbon stored in soils and plant matter, thereby reducing net emissions of the primary greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. In many cases the changes in land-use management that increase carbon storage provide multiple benefits—such as erosion control, water quality protection, and improved wildlife habitat—that by themselves justify the new practices. Over longer time horizons, agricultural and forestlands can produce biomass-based substitutes for fossil fuels, thereby further reducing emissions.

This report examines the wide array of ways in which forest and agricultural lands can be managed to store or “sequester” carbon and reduce net emissions (hereafter we use the term “sequestration” for the process by which carbon is removed from the atmosphere by plants and stored in soils and trees). It discusses a range of policies and programs that would promote this objective and evaluates them in terms of their cost, environmental effectiveness, and other considerations. The results of this analysis suggest that, by carefully designing and implementing a large-scale forest and agricultural carbon sequestration strategy, the United States could substantially reduce its net carbon dioxide emissions. A successful strategy is likely to encompass a variety of initiatives at the national, state, and local levels, and to involve both government and private parties. No single approach will suffice.

Much of the infrastructure needed to increase carbon sequestration on agricultural and forestlands is already in place. To capitalize on sequestration opportunities, the federal government will need to address the full range of practices available for conserving existing carbon stocks and for promoting additional carbon uptake and storage on forest, crop, and grazing lands. A successful national strategy will also need to be responsive to the different types of land and landowners involved, to draw on the existing network of organizations, and include a variety of policy tools. On public lands, for example, government agencies, personnel, and resources can be directly deployed to pursue sequestration goals. On private land, the federal government has typically had to rely on incentives to influence land management and use. Regulatory approaches have been used on private forestlands, but have been carried out by states because of historically stiff political resistance to federal intervention in state powers to regulate land use.

There are three basic ways in which forest and agricultural lands can contribute to greenhouse gas reduction efforts: conversion of non-forestlands to forests, preserving and increasing carbon in existing forests and agricultural soils, and growing biomass to be used for energy. The costs and potential contributions associated with these three strategies vary widely. Conversion of an estimated 115 million acres of marginal agricultural lands in the United States to forests could sequester an additional 270 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon per year over a period of 100 years, at marginal costs in the rangeof $50 per metric ton of carbon ($45 per short ton1). 270 MMT of carbon stored in forests would offset nearly 20 percent of current emissions of carbon dioxide from U.S. combustion of fossil fuels. However, 115 million acres equals nearly 1/3 of currently cultivated cropland and, even though some of this conversion might be economic, conversion on this scale would require a significant federal effort and likely meet with resistance from agricultural business and rural communities. Initial national studies also suggest that up to 70 MMT could be sequestered annually on agricultural lands through modification of agricultural practices if moderate incentives were available (up to $50 per metric ton of carbon; $12.50 per metric ton CO2). In addition, with yield improvements and cost reductions in the technologies, it may be possible to offset as much as 9 to 24 percent of current emissions through use of biofuels produced at costs competitive with fossil fuels.

In a perfect world the most cost-effective practices—both source control and carbon sequestration—would be adopted first, with more costly approaches implemented successively as net emission reduction goals require. In practice, many approaches may be used simultaneously for a combination of practical, programmatic, and political reasons.

Carbon sequestration programs will not be implemented in a policy vacuum. New program design will need to take existing programs, regulations, and resources into consideration, including the large and sophisticated infrastructure that supplies the nation’s many forest and agriculture landowners with educational, technical, and financial support. A key asset that the government has at its disposal is the resourcefulness of many of these landowners. Given practical and political considerations, incentive-based approaches combined with technical assistance are the most effective and feasible policy tools the federal government will have to begin implementing a domestic carbon sequestration strategy. Moreover, the structure needed to deliver incentives for sequestration is already in place in the form of numerous programs contained in the 2002 Farm Bill, including the Conservation Security Program, the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program.

The government has a great deal of experience with these programs, and, although each was designed to promote specific activities or land management practices, many of the targeted practices also sequester carbon. The practice-based approaches incorporated in these programs have received broad political support. Indeed, it may well be possible to achieve substantial gains in carbon conservation and sequestration simply by relying on existing institutions and programs. In many cases, greater gains could be achieved by increasing budgets and expanding programs. Thus, the federal government should provide substantial and sustained funding for Farm Bill programs that have been successful in promoting carbon sequestration.

An alternative to providing incentives for specific activities or management practices is to employ results-based approaches that provide rewards to landowners in proportion to the actual amount of additional carbon sequestration they achieve. This approach is foreshadowed in the domestic 1605(b) voluntary reporting program. It is also reflected in the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol at the international level. The advantage of a results-based approach is that it encourages private landowners and project developers to develop innovative land-management practices that are adapted to local conditions. Rather than prescribing the sequestration practices for which the government will pay, the results-based approach frees the landowner to take whatever steps are appropriate to increase carbon stocks, and the reward is directly proportional to the accomplishment.

Incentives or rewards in a results-based program could take several forms. Two leading candidates are subsidy payments and carbon credits. A subsidy payment would take the form of an announced price—in dollars per ton—that the government would pay for carbon sequestration. This approach could be implemented by modifying existing government incentive-based programs. Alternatively, carbon credits could be established in conjunction with a “cap-and-trade” program. Large point sources such as power plants could be allowed to meet their caps, at least partially, by purchasing emission credits awarded for increasing sequestration on forest and agricultural lands. This approach would allow private landowners to receive income for sequestering carbon and would assist entities subject to emission caps to meet their targets at lower costs.

However, results-based approaches are less familiar to the agricultural and forest communities than existing programs that provide incentives for specific practices. Moreover, if credits are allocated to individual landowners under a results-based approach, the government will have to insure that there are adequate methods to provide consistent, reliable, quantified estimates of the greenhouse gas impacts of changes in land management and use. If the government can gain broad acceptance for a results-based approach, and develop the estimation protocols needed to gauge the appropriate rewards, it may be possible to unleash substantial creativity among the broad range of landowners in the United States in achieving increased carbon sequestration.

The government can employ all of the approaches described in this report—providing educational programs through its extension services, enhancing sequestration on government land, urging states to adopt regulations that encourage carbon sequestration, providing incentives for sequestration-promoting practices, and developing results-based programs—to achieve the greatest effect.

Conclusions

The United States can capitalize on its substantial natural, institutional, and human resources to develop a strong, integrated, carbon sequestration program. The goals of a national sequestration strategy should include:

•  Achieving actual increases in carbon stocks on its forest and agricultural lands,
•  Maintaining existing carbon stocks,
•  Producing more reliable estimates of changes in the absolute levels of these stocks, and
•  Developing the methods needed to allow policy-makers to evaluate the effectiveness of government-sponsored sequestration programs.

Given the variety of activities, land types, and ownership patterns involved, policy-makers will need to include several different components in designing a national strategy for U.S. forest and agricultural lands. They will also need to draw on a variety of approaches to implement this strategy. To maximize results, government should employ the full range of policy tools at its disposal, including: direct government provision of information and increasing carbon on federal lands, regulations, practice-based incentives, and results-based mechanisms. Table 10 provides a summary of the many policy tools available to the government for implementing a national carbon sequestration program. Given the multiplicity of policy tools and mechanisms available, it will be important to assure that future programs complement each other and are presented to potential participants in a lucid manner.

As a first step in increasing carbon sequestration, the government should examine how it can modify management practices on its extensive land holdings to emphasize carbon sequestration in a manner that is consistent with other land management objectives such as habitat protection, erosion control, and timber production. The most promising avenue involves reducing the risk of catastrophic loss of forests to wildfires (see Box 2, page 17). The regulatory approach, which may be particularly helpful in preserving existing forests and decreasing losses of forest carbon on private land, must be implemented through state governments where the power to directly control land-use and management is vested. Recent experience suggests that private-sector certification programs like the SFI that promote adoption of best management practices for sustainable forests can provide an important supplement to state and local regulations.

In the past, the federal government has predominantly employed practice-based incentives to influence private landowner decisions. This tendency is reflected in the 2002 Farm Bill, which contains a number of programs that provide cost-sharing incentives for practices that enhance carbon stocks on the lands where the practices are adopted. These programs generally serve multiple objectives that include soil, water, and habitat conservation in addition to carbon sequestration. The 2002 Farm Bill increased funding for these programs substantially. Practice-based incentive programs have two advantages as vehicles for promoting carbon sequestration. First, they operate through established networks of organizations to implement the policies. This reduces both the financial and political costs of shifting the focus of farm programs toward carbon sequestration. Second, practice-based programs avoid the transaction costs associated with measuring, monitoring, and tracking site-specific changes in carbon stocks. They also rely on a less intrusive monitoring process since it is only necessary to check for the existence and extent of the practice, rather than determining actual carbon stocks. Thus, practice-based programs are likely to be the most cost-effective, familiar, and feasible components of a larger national strategy to promote carbon sequestration, at least in the near term.

To fully exploit the potential of practice-based approaches, the U.S. government must assure continued funding for the relevant programs. Volatility in program funding will reduce the effectiveness of the government’s financial resources as landowners hesitate to make long-term commitments due to programmatic uncertainty. The government should also establish a high priority research initiative to evaluate the carbon benefits and cost-effectiveness of Farm Bill initiatives. In particular, the research should examine whether the programs are inducing actual changes in practices beyond what landowners would have done in the absence of incentives. As these programs mature, the government should revisit the question of whether practice-based programs should be expanded. For example, if the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) proves particularly successful, the government should consider increasing its funding level and removing the current cap of 39.2 million acres.

An important element of a national strategy will be to explore whether it is possible to develop a credible program incorporating results-based incentives for individual carbon sequestration projects. Results-based approaches have the advantage of providing high-powered incentives for innovative approaches to carbon sequestration. However, they are also less familiar than the well-established practice-based approach, and will require both overcoming information challenges and choosing among several options.

The first step to developing a program that bases incentives on the results of individual projects is to establish a viable, cost-effective method of measuring impacts of practice and land-use changes in specific locations. The government appears to have started this process with its program to reassess and redesign the 1605(b) reporting guidelines. Whether those revisions will provide guidelines that are adequate for a cap-and-trade program remains to be seen. Ultimately guidelines will need to provide methods that address development of reference cases, potential leakage, permanence, and effects on other greenhouse gases in a manner that is sufficiently clear and comprehensive so that independent evaluators of a given project will arrive at essentially the same estimate of carbon benefits.

The second step to adding a results-based approach to the national strategy is to determine how incentives will be provided to project developers. For example, the government could provide subsidies or contracts where payments to landowners are proportional to the amount of carbon actually sequestered. Alternatively, if there are caps on emissions of greenhouse gases from industrial sources, project developers might receive credits issued by the government, but the payments to project developers would come from sales of these credits to industrial sources which would use the credits to assist in meeting emissions limits.

Once key stakeholders are satisfied that methods are available that accurately assess the carbon effects of individual projects, then a results-based program for promoting carbon sequestration on agricultural and forestlands should be included in the national carbon strategy. Doing so will unleash the creativity and innovation of U.S. landowners and lead to lower overall costs of achieving national climate goals.

Opportunities for augmenting carbon sequestration may be even greater, and costs may be substantially lower, in developing countries than in the United States. Therefore, U.S. policy-makers should consider expanding the scope of a sequestration strategy to provide incentives for projects outside U.S. borders. The U.S. government could also work directly with other governments to identify, promote, and fund new policies and practices that will protect and increase carbon stocks in those countries. The incentives could be largely the same as for domestic initiatives, and could include practice-based or results-based payments. However, the process for including results from efforts in other countries in the national report would be different. Whereas the impacts of domestic initiatives would be included automatically in the inventory of national carbon stocks compiled by the United States under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, inclusion of international accomplishments would not be automatic (see Figure 1). Sequestration benefits achieved in other countries would have to be measured separately. The sum of these impacts would then be added to the national change in domestic stocks to estimate the total change in global carbon stocks for which the United States might claim credit. If the national strategy includes incentives for sequestration accomplishments in other countries, it will become even more critical to develop consistent methods for program and project evaluation.

Author Bios

Kenneth Richards
Associate Professor
School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Indiana University

Kenneth Richards is Associate Professor at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Director of the IU at Oxford program. He holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the Wharton School and a J.D. from the Law School, University of Pennsylvania. He holds an MSCE in Urban and Regional Planning, a BSCE in Environmental Engineering from Northwestern University, and a BA in Botany and Chemistry from Duke University.

Prof. Richards has served as an economist with the Council of Economic Advisers, the USDA Economic Research Service, and the US Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He also was the national energy planner for the Cook Islands from 1984 to 1986. His research interests include climate change policy and environmental policy implementation and management.

R. Neil Sampson
President
The Sampson Group, Inc.

R. Neil Sampson holds a B.S. degree in Agriculture (Crops and Soils) from the University of Idaho and a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University.   He is President of the Sampson Group, and a partner at Vision Forestry, LLC, a consulting firm that manages some 80,000 acres of sustainably-managed forests.  Mr. Sampson also serves as a Research Scientist with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, as Affiliate Professor in the Department of Forest Resources at the University of Idaho, and as technical Advisor to the Utility Forest Carbon Management Program of Edison Electric Institute, the International Carbon Mitigation Program of The Nature Conservancy, and the National Carbon Offset Coalition.  He also serves as Executive Secretary of the External Review Panel to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, sponsored by the American Forest & Paper Association.

He has authored two books on soil conservation, and edited many books on natural resource topics in addition to publishing over 100 scientific and popular articles on natural resource topics.    

Prior to becoming President of the Sampson Group, Mr. Sampson’s career included service with the Soil Conservation Service (now Natural Resources Conservation Service), the National Association of Conservation Districts, and the American Forestry Association (now American Forests). In 2001, he was the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Visiting Fellow at the Yale School.   He periodically serves as an adjunct professor at Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Campus.

Sandra Brown
Senior Scientist
Winrock International
Ecosystem Services Unit

Sandra Brown has a PhD in systems ecology from the Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences, University of Florida, a MS. in engineering science from the University of South Florida, and a BS in chemistry from the University of Nottingham, England. She has been employed as Senior Scientist in the Ecosystems Services Unit of Winrock International since 1998. Prior to joining Winrock, she was a Professor in the Department of Forestry at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.  Dr. Brown has more than 25 years of experience in planning, developing, implementing, and managing government and private-sector-funded projects focusing on understanding the role of forests in the global carbon cycle and their present and potential future role in climate change and mitigation This work has resulted in more than 180 peer-reviewed publications, including five chapters in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports where was the a co-convening lead author.

Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

The vast lands of the United States offer significant opportunities to contribute to solving the problem of climate change. At costs well under $100 per ton of carbon, it may be possible to offset nearly 20 percent of current U.S. carbon dioxide emissions through reforesting marginal agricultural lands and restoring carbon to agricultural soils through practices such as no-till and improved crop rotations. Emissions can also be reduced by substituting biomass energy for fossil fuels and by reducing the intensity of wildfires through thinning and removing excess debris. However, for U.S. forest and agricultural lands to play a significant role in curbing climate change, a substantial national policy commitment will be necessary.

This report reviews the available resources and considers the range of policy approaches that would include U.S. forest and agricultural lands in a domestic policy. Kenneth Richards, Neil Sampson, and Sandra Brown identify four basic policy approaches and find that different approaches are suited to different lands. The approaches also vary with regard to who bears the implementation costs—the public at large or specific groups within it—and in expected magnitude of results. For these reasons, a successful forest and agricultural lands program will require some mix of the four approaches:

• Changing practices on public lands,
• Land use regulations on privately owned forestlands,
• Practice-based incentives for forest and agricultural lands, and
• Results-based incentives for forest and agricultural lands.

They find that:

• U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that encourage best practices are familiar to and popular with farmers and forestland owners. As a result, we should evaluate those programs and expand the most effective ones.

• We need to do a better job of having landowners, rather than the government, be the ones to determine what information they need.

• Regulation of private land is primarily an opportunity for state and local government rather than the federal government.

• Results-based incentives, i.e., offering payments per ton of sequestered carbon, can encourage more cost-effective and innovative approaches, but will require development and agreement on consistent and reliable accounting methods.

So how should this inform policy-making? First, we should include land-based sequestration in federal legislation, including the Farm Bill and proposals that address climate change. Second, we should promote opportunities for farmers to move from traditional crop support to environmental and energy-security goals. Third, we should be managing large tracts of forestland sustainably, thus providing both for sequestration and habitat.

This report is being released with a companion report, The Role of Agriculture in Greenhouse Gas Mitigation. While this paper focuses on policy options, the companion report reviews the economic and technological opportunities available to farmers—including using cropland to produce biofuels—and estimates the greenhouse gas reductions that could be achieved. Taken together, these reports provide a comprehensive review of the role of U.S. forest and agricultural lands in a domestic climate change program. The Pew Center and the authors would like to express appreciation to Craig Cox, Debbie Reed and Brent Sohngen for reviewing and providing suggestions on an early draft of this report.

Executive Summary

 

Agricultural and forestlands can play a key role as part of a comprehensive strategy to slow the accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Much of the public discussion about using these lands as part of an overall strategy to address climate change results from the beliefs that forest and agriculture land-use and management options will be relatively low cost, and that biomass can play an important role in reducing the use of fossil fuels. In the near term, these lands can be managed to increase the quantity of carbon stored in soils and plant matter, thereby reducing net emissions of the primary greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. In many cases the changes in land-use management that increase carbon storage provide multiple benefits—such as erosion control, water quality protection, and improved wildlife habitat—that by themselves justify the new practices. Over longer time horizons, agricultural and forestlands can produce biomass-based substitutes for fossil fuels, thereby further reducing emissions.

This report examines the wide array of ways in which forest and agricultural lands can be managed to store or “sequester” carbon and reduce net emissions (hereafter we use the term “sequestration” for the process by which carbon is removed from the atmosphere by plants and stored in soils and trees). It discusses a range of policies and programs that would promote this objective and evaluates them in terms of their cost, environmental effectiveness, and other considerations. The results of this analysis suggest that, by carefully designing and implementing a large-scale forest and agricultural carbon sequestration strategy, the United States could substantially reduce its net carbon dioxide emissions. A successful strategy is likely to encompass a variety of initiatives at the national, state, and local levels, and to involve both government and private parties. No single approach will suffice.

Much of the infrastructure needed to increase carbon sequestration on agricultural and forestlands is already in place. To capitalize on sequestration opportunities, the federal government will need to address the full range of practices available for conserving existing carbon stocks and for promoting additional carbon uptake and storage on forest, crop, and grazing lands. A successful national strategy will also need to be responsive to the different types of land and landowners involved, to draw on the existing network of organizations, and include a variety of policy tools. On public lands, for example, government agencies, personnel, and resources can be directly deployed to pursue sequestration goals. On private land, the federal government has typically had to rely on incentives to influence land management and use. Regulatory approaches have been used on private forestlands, but have been carried out by states because of historically stiff political resistance to federal intervention in state powers to regulate land use.

There are three basic ways in which forest and agricultural lands can contribute to greenhouse gas reduction efforts: conversion of non-forestlands to forests, preserving and increasing carbon in existing forests and agricultural soils, and growing biomass to be used for energy. The costs and potential contributions associated with these three strategies vary widely. Conversion of an estimated 115 million acres of marginal agricultural lands in the United States to forests could sequester an additional 270 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon per year over a period of 100 years, at marginal costs in the rangeof $50 per metric ton of carbon ($45 per short ton1). 270 MMT of carbon stored in forests would offset nearly 20 percent of current emissions of carbon dioxide from U.S. combustion of fossil fuels. However, 115 million acres equals nearly 1/3 of currently cultivated cropland and, even though some of this conversion might be economic, conversion on this scale would require a significant federal effort and likely meet with resistance from agricultural business and rural communities. Initial national studies also suggest that up to 70 MMT could be sequestered annually on agricultural lands through modification of agricultural practices if moderate incentives were available (up to $50 per metric ton of carbon; $12.50 per metric ton CO2). In addition, with yield improvements and cost reductions in the technologies, it may be possible to offset as much as 9 to 24 percent of current emissions through use of biofuels produced at costs competitive with fossil fuels.

In a perfect world the most cost-effective practices—both source control and carbon sequestration—would be adopted first, with more costly approaches implemented successively as net emission reduction goals require. In practice, many approaches may be used simultaneously for a combination of practical, programmatic, and political reasons.

Carbon sequestration programs will not be implemented in a policy vacuum. New program design will need to take existing programs, regulations, and resources into consideration, including the large and sophisticated infrastructure that supplies the nation’s many forest and agriculture landowners with educational, technical, and financial support. A key asset that the government has at its disposal is the resourcefulness of many of these landowners. Given practical and political considerations, incentive-based approaches combined with technical assistance are the most effective and feasible policy tools the federal government will have to begin implementing a domestic carbon sequestration strategy. Moreover, the structure needed to deliver incentives for sequestration is already in place in the form of numerous programs contained in the 2002 Farm Bill, including the Conservation Security Program, the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program.

The government has a great deal of experience with these programs, and, although each was designed to promote specific activities or land management practices, many of the targeted practices also sequester carbon. The practice-based approaches incorporated in these programs have received broad political support. Indeed, it may well be possible to achieve substantial gains in carbon conservation and sequestration simply by relying on existing institutions and programs. In many cases, greater gains could be achieved by increasing budgets and expanding programs. Thus, the federal government should provide substantial and sustained funding for Farm Bill programs that have been successful in promoting carbon sequestration.

An alternative to providing incentives for specific activities or management practices is to employ results-based approaches that provide rewards to landowners in proportion to the actual amount of additional carbon sequestration they achieve. This approach is foreshadowed in the domestic 1605(b) voluntary reporting program. It is also reflected in the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol at the international level. The advantage of a results-based approach is that it encourages private landowners and project developers to develop innovative land-management practices that are adapted to local conditions. Rather than prescribing the sequestration practices for which the government will pay, the results-based approach frees the landowner to take whatever steps are appropriate to increase carbon stocks, and the reward is directly proportional to the accomplishment.

Incentives or rewards in a results-based program could take several forms. Two leading candidates are subsidy payments and carbon credits. A subsidy payment would take the form of an announced price—in dollars per ton—that the government would pay for carbon sequestration. This approach could be implemented by modifying existing government incentive-based programs. Alternatively, carbon credits could be established in conjunction with a “cap-and-trade” program. Large point sources such as power plants could be allowed to meet their caps, at least partially, by purchasing emission credits awarded for increasing sequestration on forest and agricultural lands. This approach would allow private landowners to receive income for sequestering carbon and would assist entities subject to emission caps to meet their targets at lower costs.

However, results-based approaches are less familiar to the agricultural and forest communities than existing programs that provide incentives for specific practices. Moreover, if credits are allocated to individual landowners under a results-based approach, the government will have to insure that there are adequate methods to provide consistent, reliable, quantified estimates of the greenhouse gas impacts of changes in land management and use. If the government can gain broad acceptance for a results-based approach, and develop the estimation protocols needed to gauge the appropriate rewards, it may be possible to unleash substantial creativity among the broad range of landowners in the United States in achieving increased carbon sequestration.

The government can employ all of the approaches described in this report—providing educational programs through its extension services, enhancing sequestration on government land, urging states to adopt regulations that encourage carbon sequestration, providing incentives for sequestration-promoting practices, and developing results-based programs—to achieve the greatest effect.

Conclusions

 

 

 

0

Early Observations on the European Union’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme

As of February 2006 161 countries had ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force on February 16, 2005 (United Nations 2006). The Protocol signifies broad international agreement that the developed nations should take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the bulk of which have been emitted from the industrialized world.
The European Union’s leadership in the climate change arena was evident before the Protocol formally went into force. In 2000 the European Union (E.U.) initiated the comprehensive European Climate Change Program. A cornerstone of this program is the Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme, or the E.T.S. (European Union 2003), which was launched in 2005 and is the most ambitious emissions trading system ever established.
This paper describes how the E.T.S. is working thus far and it also asks what U.S. policymakers can learn from the E.T.S.’s early implementation as they develop climate change policies in the United States. The greenhouse gas reduction plans implemented across the E.U. necessarily vary because each Member State’s regulatory, historical, political, and economic circumstances are unique and because each country has a different emissions goal under the E.U.’s climate change burden-sharing agreement. These sundry approaches offer a diverse range of experiences to draw on as U.S. policymakers try to craft greenhouse gas regulatory schemes at the state, regional, and national levels.
Any evaluation of the E.T.S. must be regarded as preliminary as it went into effect little more than a year ago. Still, the E.U.’s policies represent the most ambitious effort in the world to address climate change and, as such, it makes sense for U.S. policymakers at all governmental levels to understand the practical details of the European experience to date. And to the extent that U.S. policymakers would like to link domestic market-based programs with trading opportunities elsewhere in the world, it helps to appreciate the ways in which the design of domestic programs can facilitate or hinder that end.
This paper is organized as follows: (a) background on the European Climate Change Program; (b) general observations about the E.T.S.; (c) E.T.S. National Allocation Plans; (d) allowance trading in the E.T.S.; and (e) linking the E.T.S. with projects and programs outside of the E.U. Many sub-topics are treated within these broader categories, including but not limited to: the use of so-called “project-based” mechanisms (the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation); costs and benefits of greenhouse gas reductions; allowance price caps; non-E.T.S. greenhouse gas reduction measures; competitive effects; and, centralized vs. decentralized government control.
This research is supported by, and it has been completed in collaboration with, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The author acknowledges the invaluable support of Patrick J. Roach, who provided expert research assistance and whose thoughtful, knowledgeable input has greatly enriched all aspects of this work. Appendix A lists the E.T.S. experts who provided interviews, information, and/or comments. Without their gracious help this paper would not have been possible. Pew Center staff provided insightful questions and comments.
This paper does not give a detailed overview of the E.T.S. Readers seeking more background information on how the program works may consult either the Pew Center’s recent paper on this topic (Pew Center on Global Climate Change 2005) or the European Commission’s internet sites on the European Climate Change Program (http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/climat/eccp.htm) and the E.T.S. (http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/environment/climat/emission.htm).

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Congressional Testimony of Jay Gulledge - Examining the "Hockey Stick" Controversy

TESTIMONY

JAY GULLEDGE, Ph.D., SENIOR FELLOW
PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE

July 27, 2006

At the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing: Questions Surrounding the ‘Hockey Stick’ Temperature Studies: Implications for Climate Change Assessments

Examining the "Hockey Stick" Controversy

View slides related to this testimony (pdf).

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I am Jay Gulledge, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow for Science and Impacts at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. I am also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville, which houses my academic research program on carbon cycling.

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. In our eight years of existence, we have published almost seventy reports by experts in climate science, economics, policy and solutions, all of which have been peer-reviewed and reviewed as well by the companies with which we work.

Forty-one major companies sit on the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council, spanning a range of sectors, including oil and gas (BP, Shell), transportation (Boeing, Toyota), utilities (PG&E, Duke Energy, Entergy), high technology (IBM, Intel, HP), diversified manufacturing (GE, United Technologies), and chemicals (DuPont, Rohm and Haas). Collectively, the 41 companies represent two trillion dollars in market capitalization and three million employees. The members of the Council work with the Pew Center to educate the public on the risks, challenges and solutions to climate change.

If you take nothing else from my testimony, please take these three points:

1. The scientific evidence of significant human influence on climate is strong and would in no way be weakened if there were no Mann hockey stick.

2. The scientific debate over the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) has been gradually evolving for at least 20 years. The results of the Mann hockey stick simply reflect the gradual development of thought on the issue over time.

3. The impact of the McIntyre and McKitrick critique on the original Mann paper, after being scrutinized by the National Academy of Science, the Wegman panel and a number of meticulous individual research groups, is essentially nil with regard to the conclusions of the Mann paper and the 2001 IPCC assessment.

The science of climate change is an extraordinary example of a theory-driven, data-rich scientific paradigm, the likes of which, arguably, has not occurred since the development of quantum mechanics in the first half of the twentieth century. The product of this strong scientific framework is a body of strong, multifaceted evidence that man-made greenhouse gases are causing contemporary global warming, and that this warming trend is inducing large-scale changes in global climate. The primary evidence is based on physical principles and observational and experimental analysis of contemporary climate dynamics, as opposed to analyses of past climates, which are the subject of this hearing. We can now say with confidence that the evidence of human influence on climate is strong, as described by Dr. Cicerone.

Although paleoclimatology – the study of ancient climates – is an important part of the climate science framework, reconstructions of temperature over the past millennium play a secondary, expendable role in the larger body of evidence, as stated in the recent NAS report titled, Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years: “Surface temperature reconstructions are consistent with other evidence of global climate change and can be considered as additional supporting evidence” (National Research Council 2006, p. 23; hereafter referred to as the NAS report). Dispensing with such reconstructions entirely or proving them fundamentally flawed would have little, if any, impact on our understanding of contemporary climate change. This statement does not imply that millennial climate reconstructions are unimportant, but their main influence will be in the future, when their potential to reveal how climate varied across the earth’s surface from year-to-year in the past (i.e. an annual record of spatially explicit climate dynamics) is fully realized. At that point, such reconstructions will be used in a manner parallel to thermometer records today. This capability would contribute significantly to resolving the current genuine debate in climate science, which is not about whether humans are changing the climate—a point over which there is no scientific controversy—but is about how much human influences will change the climate in the future as a result of greenhouse gas accumulation and other forcings we apply to the climate system. In other words, the goal of spatially explicit paleoclimate reconstructions is to help climatologists determine how physical forcings, such as solar radiation, volcanic eruptions, land-use changes, and changes in atmospheric greenhouse gases, have affected the planet in the past, so that we can improve estimates of how they will do so in the future.

The early MBH reconstructions (Mann et al. 1998; Mann et al. 1999; hereafter referred to as MBH98 or MBH99 or, collectively, MBH) were the first to offer spatially explicit climate reconstructions and therefore represented a breakthrough in climate change science that continues to develop and promises to further our understanding of climate physics in the future. The Wegman report’s conclusion that paleoclimatology “does not provide insight and understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change” (p. 52), fails to appreciate that the purpose of Dr. Mann’s research is to improve our knowledge of physical mechanisms of climate change by examining how they operated in the past.

Turning our attention to the methodological issues this hearing seeks to investigate, in my opinion, the Wegman report failed to accomplish its primary objective, which was “to reproduce the results of [McIntyre & McKitrick] in order to determine whether their criticisms are valid and have merit” (p. 7). Although the panel reproduced MM's work—verbatim—it only partially assessed the validity, and did not at all assess the merits, of the criticisms directed toward the MBH reconstructions. For instance, MM (McIntyre and McKitrick 2003; McIntyre and McKitrick 2005; heafter referred to collectively as MM) allege that the so-called MBH “hockey stick” result is biased by methodological errors that undermine the conclusion that the late 20th century was uniquely warm relative to the past 1,000 years. This critique only has merit if, after correcting for the errors pointed out by MM, the resulting reconstruction yields results significantly different from the original result that can no longer support the claim of unusual late 20th century warmth. However, the Wegman Report takes no steps to make such a determination.

Fortunately, a different group, one well qualified both statistically and climatologically to tackle this question of merit, had already performed the task several months before the Wegman Report was released. The study by Wahl & Ammann (In press; hereafter referred to as WA06), was peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in the journal Climatic Change early last spring, and has been publicly available in accepted form since last March (http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/ccr/ammann/millennium/refs/ WahlAmmann_ClimChange2006.html). This study, titled, Robustness of the Mann, Bradley, Hughes Reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere Surface Temperatures: Examination of Criticisms Based on the Nature and Processing of Proxy Climate Evidence, carefully reproduced the MBH98 reconstruction and then used their faithful reproduction to test MM’s suggested corrections. They tested each of the criticisms raised by MM in all of their published papers, including both the peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed papers. Given that this report specifically examined MM’s criticisms, including the decentering issue that was the main focus of the Wegman report, it is unfortunate that the Wegman report dismissed it in a footnote (p. 48) as “not to the point.”

WA06 have performed a meticulous and thorough evaluation of MBH98, and the answers that this committee seeks about the MBH reconstructions are to be found within this report. After examining each of MM’s three methodological criticisms, WA06 accepted two of them as valid, and have used them to correct the MBH98 reconstruction. I will now show you what effect these corrections have on the MBH98 reconstruction, and then reconsider the uniqueness of the late 20th-century warming trend in the light of these corrections.

The original MBH98 “hockey stick” is shown as a gray line (Fig. 1). The WA06 reproduction of MBH98 is shown in red (Fig. 1). Except for a couple of minor simplifications, WA06 remained faithful to the original MBH method and retained all of the original MBH data, including the original instrumental temperature series from 1992. They wrote their own computer code to perform the calculations, using the R programming language, as recommended by the MM and the Wegman report, rather than the original Fortran language used by Dr. Mann. As you can see, the two reconstructions are materially the same. This result demonstrates that MBH98 can be reproduced based on information available in the original MBH papers and supplemental information and data available on the Internet.

July 27 2006 Testimony Figure 1

July 27 2006 Testimony Figure 2

With this successful reproduction in hand, WA06 were able to test the effects of each of MM’s criticisms on the outcome of the MBH98 reconstruction. After carefully considering the validity of MM’s three criticisms of MBH’s reconstruction methodology, WA06 agreed that 1) decentering the proxy data prior to Principle Component analysis and 2) including the poorly replicated North American Gaspé tree-ring series from 1400-1449 both affected the MBH results. After correcting for these effects, WA06 obtained the results shown in blue (Fig. 2, left frame). The result is a slightly warmer (0.1 °C) early 15th century, with no other time period affected. MM’s third methodological criticism surrounding the inclusion of the bristlecone/foxtail pine series was rejected for several reasons. The right frame in Fig. 2 illustrates that excluding these series has little effect on the MBH98 reconstruction, except to force it to begin in 1450 instead of 1400, because of lack of a data. Since the exclusion had little effect, and losing these data series would hinder reconstructions of earlier climate, WA06 rejected this criticism.

July 27 2006 Testimony Figure 3

The additional 15th-century warmth revealed by making the valid MM corrections still does not approach the warmth of the late 20th century, so MM’s critique cannot yet be said to have merit. However, the corrected result creates the impression of an upward temperature trend backward in time before 1400, begging the question of what would happen to the Middle Ages in the 1,000-year MBH99 reconstruction if it were also corrected? Answering that question is requisite for determining the merit of MM’s critique of MBH. The original 1,000-year MBH99 reconstruction is shown in blue and the corrected version is shown in red (Fig. 3; Ammann & Wahl, submitted). Carrying the correction back to the full millennium reveals that the largest effects remain in the early 15th century, and both earlier and later periods were less affected. Therefore, there is very little difference between the corrected MBH98 and MBH99 reconstructions and the originals, and the original observation that the late 20th century is uniquely warm in the context of the past 1,000 years is not affected. Hence, the valid methodological caveats that MM pointed out do not undermine the main conclusions of the original MBH papers or the conclusion of the 2001 IPCC assessment.

The scientific debate over the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) has been on the same trajectory for at least 20 years, with early indications that the MWP was not a globally coherent event becoming more solid over time. The MBH99 reconstruction represented an evolutionary step—not a revolutionary change—in this established trajectory. The 1990 IPCC figure that Mr. McIntyre, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and Dr. Wegman have used in their own assessment of past climate is a cartoon, as stated by Dr. Wegman in his testimony last week. I have confirmed this with a number of individuals who were involved with the 1990 IPCC report or with versions of the schematic that pre-dated the 1990 IPCC report. The schematic is not a plot of data and is inappropriate as a comparison to MBH. The text of the 1990 IPCC report clearly states that the figure is a "schematic diagram" and that “it is still not clear whether all the fluctuations indicated were truly global” (p. 202). Furthermore, only three sources of information were cited and those sources conflicted on whether the Northern Hemisphere was warm or cold: “The late tenth to early thirteenth centuries… appear to have been exceptionally warm in parts of western Europe, Iceland and Greenland… China was, however, cold at this time, but South Japan was warm…” Clearly, this report certainly did not paint a picture of any consensus regarding a Medieval Warm Period as a hemisphere-wide phenomenon and characterizing it as such reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of climate science.

The 1992 and 1995 IPCC reports continued this same trajectory of thought. Four years before MBH99, citing 6 papers—still a very limited number, but twice as many as were cited in 1990—the 1995 report stated:

There are, for this last millennium, two periods which have received special attention, the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. These have been interpreted, at times, as period of global warmth and coolness, respectively. Recent studies have re-evaluated the interval commonly known as the Medieval Warm Period to assess the magnitude and geographical extent of any prolonged warm interval between the 9th and 14th centuries… The available evidence is limited (geographically) and is equivocal. …a clearer picture may emerge as more and better calibrated proxy records are produced. However, at this point, it is not yet possible to say whether, at a hemispheric scale, temperatures declined from the 11-12th to the 16-17th century. Nor, therefore, is it possible to conclude that the global temperatures in the Medieval Warm Period were comparable to the warm decades of the late 20th century” (p. 174).

Remember that this was written by a team of climatologists as a consensus statement. The consensus at this time, as in 1990 and 1995, was that there was no strong evidence of a hemisphere-wide MWP.

Continuing the same trajectory, the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report examined evidence from 10 cited sources for the MWP. The consensus at this point seemed to be turning to the conclusion that there actually was a generally warm Northern Hemisphere during the Middle Ages, but that it was not a strong, coherent pattern of warming:

It is likely that temperatures were relatively warm in the Northern Hemisphere as a whole during the earlier centuries of the millennium, but it is much less likely that a globally-synchronous, well defined interval of “Medieval warmth” existed, comparable to the near global warmth of the late 20th century… Marked warmth seems to have been confined to Europe and regions neighboring the North Atlantic.

Since the MBH reconstructions were hemisphere-wide, and the MWP probably was not, it should not surprise us that the reconstructions lack a strong MWP (MBH99 does show slightly warmer temperatures in the 9th to 14th centuries than in the 15th to 19th centuries).

All available evidence indicates that the situation during the Middle Ages was fundamentally different that what is happening with climate today, which is a well-documented, globally coherent warming trend that is happening North, South, East, and West; at low latitudes and high latitudes; over land and over—and into—the sea. There are new data, published earlier this year, indicating that the atmosphere above Antarctica has warmed dramatically in recent decades (Turner et al. 2006). There is no large region on Earth where large-scale 20th century warming has not been detected, which simply cannot be said of the MWP.

Wahl and Ammann (2006) have demonstrated that the results of MBH are robust “down in the weeds”:

Our examination does suggest that a slight modification to the original Mann et al. reconstruction is justifiable for the first half of the 15th century (~ +0.05°), which leaves entirely unaltered the primary conclusion of Mann et al. (as well as many other reconstructions) that both the 20th century upward trend and high late-20th century hemispheric surface temperatures are anomalous over at least the last 600 years.

The NAS has affirmed the MBH results are also robust in the bigger picture, as well:

The basic conclusion of MBH99 was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on icecaps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years. Not all individual proxy records indicate that the recent warmth is unprecedented, although a larger fraction of geographically diverse sites experienced exceptional warmth during the late 20th century than during any other extended period from A.D. 900 onward. (p. 3)

Examination of the IPCC reports through time, as well as the primary scientific literature, reveals why the MBH results are so robust—MBH simply assimilated all the available evidence into a quantitative reconstruction—evidence that had already been evaluated qualitatively as lacking a coherent MWP.

This committee is seeking to know the significance of the criticisms leveled at the MBH reconstruction for climate change assessments. The significance is that these criticisms have resulted in the most thoroughly vetted single climate study in the history of climate change research. Dr. Tom Karl summarized the impact most succinctly in his testimony to this committee last week when he said that he would stand by the IPCC’s original assessment: “If you ask me to give qualifications about the findings in the 2001 report with the same caveat in terms of defining likelihood, I personally would not change anything.” Hence, the impact of the MM critique, after being scrutinized by the NAS, the Wegman panel, and a number of meticulous individual research groups, is essentially nil with regard to the conclusions of MBH and the 2001 IPCC assessment.

Also relevant to this committee's questions about climate change assessments is the revelation that climate scientists do know their business, and that a lack of knowledge of geophysics is a genuine handicap to those who would seek to provide what they deem "independent review.” If the assessment of climate science presented in Mr. McIntyre's presentation to the NAS committee, the Wegman Report, and the WSJ is an example of what can be expected from those who have not conducted climate research, then the investigation launched by this committee has demonstrated clearly that “independent review” by non-climate scientists is an exceedingly ineffective way to make climate change assessments.

References

Mann, M E, R S Bradley and M K Hughes (1998). "Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries." Nature 392(6678): 779-787.

Mann, M E, R S Bradley and M K Hughes (1999). "Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties, and limitations." Geophysical Research Letters 26(6): 759-762.

McIntyre, S and R McKitrick (2003). "Corrections to the Mann et al. (1998) proxy data base and northern hemisphere average temperature series." Energy & Environment 14(6): 751-771.

McIntyre, S and R McKitrick (2005). "Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance." Geophysical Research Letters 32(3).

National Research Council, C O S T R F T L, 000 Years. (2006). "Surface temperature reconstructions for the last 2,000 years." from http://www.nap.edu/catalog/ 11676.html.

Turner, J, T a Lachlan-Cope, S Colwell, et al. (2006). "Significant warming of the Antarctic winter troposphere." Science 311: 1914-1917.

Wahl, E and C Ammann (In press). "Robustness of the Mann, Bradley, Hughes reconstruction of northern hemisphere surface temperatures: Examination of criticisms based on the nature and processing of proxy climate evidence." Climatic Change (accepted).

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