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CLIMATE CHANGE: OVERCOMING THE BARRIERS TO ACTION
Remarks by Eileen Claussen
Earth’s Future: Taming the Climate
Columbia University Symposium
April 23, 2004
Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be here to celebrate Columbia University’s 250th anniversary. So let me begin by saying Happy Birthday to one of the world’s finest institutions of higher learning.
On the flight here today, I was thinking about the next 250 years and wondering what will become of Columbia and the wider world in that time. (Given the topic we are here to discuss, along with projections that Manhattan could well be threatened by sea level rise in the years ahead, I decided that Columbia always has a future as a great underwater oceanographic institution. So all is not lost.)
Yesterday, as all of you know, was Earth Day—or, as the Bush administration referred to it, Thursday, April 22nd. The 34th anniversary of Earth Day, I believe, provides an important opportunity to acknowledge how far we’ve come since the 1970s. Our air and water are cleaner, and we have laws to control pesticides, ocean dumping, and hazardous waste disposal. On the other hand, we still have to endure the music of long-lasting 70s rock bands such as Aerosmith and Kiss. So I suppose things have not universally improved. (My apologies to all of the Aerosmith and Kiss fans in the audience.)
Seriously, we have made significant progress on environmental issues since the 1970s—but, obviously, not nearly enough. And I commend you for commemorating Earth Day yesterday in such an appropriate and public-spirited way, by focusing your attention on an issue where we have not seen significant progress: global climate change.
During the first day of this symposium, you heard from Michael McElroy and a number of distinguished panelists about the state of our knowledge regarding the climate change issue. You heard about trends in global temperatures and what this means for the climate. You heard about ways we can possibly adapt to the predicted changes. And you heard some ideas about what can be done to slow down or stop climate change.
My job in this symposium is to try to explain why humanity is doing so little to prepare for the certainty of climate change. And, because I am genetically programmed to focus on solutions, I will also lay out some ideas for an overall approach that might help us chart a productive path forward on this issue.
But first a very brief refresher course on why we are here. We are here because there is overwhelming scientific evidence on three basic points: one, the earth is warming; two, this warming trend is likely to worsen; and three, human activity is largely to blame.
And so the question is: if we know these three things, why are we not acting on that knowledge? Why are we not doing more to limit those human activities that are the driving force in climate change—namely, our emissions of greenhouse gases stemming primarily from the burning of fossil fuels?
The answer, very frankly, is because we have allowed ourselves to be swayed by a number of tired excuses—excuses put forward, for the most part, by people and interests who plainly want nothing to happen to address the problem of climate change. The reason, more often than not, is that they have an economic interest in the status quo.
The first excuse for inaction usually revolves around the issue of scientific uncertainty. Even though we know that the earth is warming, that the warming will get worse, and that human activities are largely to blame, the fact that we cannot accurately predict exactly how much warming we will see or how quickly it will happen is used unfailingly as a reason for inaction.
But I submit to you that uncertainty in the science is not a valid reason to hold off on addressing this problem, given what we do know. The fact that we are uncertain about exactly how climate change will proceed may actually be a reason to act sooner rather than later. And I will tell you why:
First, current atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are the highest in more than 400,000 years. This is an unprecedented situation in human history, and there is a real potential that the resulting damages will not be incremental or linear, but sudden and potentially catastrophic. Acting now is the only rational choice under these circumstances.
· A second reason to act now is that the risk of irreversible environmental impacts far outweighs the lesser risk of unnecessary investment in reducing or mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
· Third, it is going to take time to figure out how best to meet this challenge--both the technology and the policy responses. We must begin learning by doing now.
· Fourth, the longer we wait to act, the more likely it is that the growth in greenhouse gas emissions will continue, and that we will be imposing unconscionable burdens and impossible tasks on future generations.
· Fifth, there is an obvious lagtime between the development of policies and incentives that will spur action and the results. So even if we do not wait, we will be waiting.
· And, last but not least, we can get started now with a range of actions and policies that have very low or even no costs to the economy.
This brings me to the second tired excuse that is used to argue for inaction in the face of climate change: the costs will be too high. This argument ignores the fact that if we do this right—and if we start sooner rather than later—we can minimize those costs. And, more important, we can minimize the very real economic costs of doing nothing.
Next week, the Pew Center will be releasing a report that weighs the potential costs of climate change in relation to the potential benefits. Yes, in the short term, there may be scattered economic benefits in sectors such as agriculture resulting from higher temperatures and more rainfall. However, our research shows that these benefits begin to diminish and eventually reverse as temperatures continue to rise. In other words, the potential economic damage from climate change far outweighs any short-term economic gain.
What kind of economic damage are we talking about? In 2002, the United Nations Environment Program released a report done in collaboration with some of the world's largest banks, insurers and investment companies. The report found that losses resulting from natural disasters appear to be doubling every 10 years and, if this trend continues, will amount to nearly $150 billion over the coming decade.
Over the last two years alone, we have seen horrific wildfires in the western United States and devastating flooding in central Europe and China. These are the kinds of events scientists predict will occur more frequently or with more intensity in response to climate change. Of course, it is impossible to conclusively link any one of these disasters to the broader warming trend, but we may be getting an idea of what’s to come. And we cannot allow those who argue that addressing this problem will cost too much to ignore the potentially devastating costs of allowing climate change to proceed unchecked.
What’s more, the costs of acting to address climate change can be kept at a manageable level—if we use economic instruments wherever possible; if we act thoughtfully and in phases, so that we allow for capital stock turnover and the development of new technologies; and if we provide certainty for the private sector to make wise investments and create new climate-friendly businesses.
Responding to climate change does not have to wreak economic havoc. A recent MIT study assessing the costs of the Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act found that a modest, national emissions trading system would cost less than $20 per household per year. In addition, a significant number of companies are showing that they can meet ambitious targets for reducing their emissions—targets of 10 percent, 25 percent, even 65 percent below 1990 levels—at minimal or no cost. I repeat: at minimal or no cost. Some companies are even saving money. For example recently announced that it had achieved its target of a 10-percent reduction in emissions eight years ahead of schedule—and at a savings of roughly $600 million due to more efficient energy use and streamlined production processes.
So while I would not argue that addressing climate change over the next 50 years is free, I do believe that with care and pragmatism, we can do what we need to without breaking the bank. Cost should not be a reason not to act.
A third excuse that we have allowed to stifle action against climate change is that the United States should not be asked to bear the economic costs of reducing our emissions while other countries, notably China and India, get a quote-unquote “free ride.” In other words, why should we have to do all this hard work if other people do not?
This argument is weak enough when you consider that we can reduce our emissions in economically feasible ways. It’s weaker still when you recognize that the United States already is lagging behind in the global technology race, with big implications for U.S. jobs. Our dallying over climate policy is ceding to Europe and Japan – which have already agreed to emission caps – the lead in developing climate-friendly technologies. And I say we should worry less about China and India attracting the polluting technologies of the last century, and worry more that we won’t be selling them the technologies of the 21st century.
The fact that developed countries should act first to reduce their emissions is enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (which the United States is a party to, thanks to the signature of our first President Bush: George H.W.). Why did the United States agree to this? Because developed countries are responsible for most of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and therefore should reduce their emissions first. And, because developed countries are far wealthier than developing countries, we have the means to take action now.
This is not to say, of course, that developing countries should have no responsibilities. Just as the United States and other developed nations will need to become more carbon-friendly as we turn over our capital stock, so must developing countries develop in more carbon-friendly ways. But to expect, or even to wish, that developing countries should face emission limits at the same time and on a similar scale as we do is folly.
We have now touched on three main excuses for doing nothing: the science is uncertain; the economic costs of addressing this issue are too high; and developed nations should not be asked bear this burden first. All of these excuses are used to delay action on this issue. In pushing for such a delay, people often resort to a fourth excuse that underlies all of the others: we can solve this problem if and when we really have to. But until then, leave us alone. This is what I call the “silver-bullet defense.”
Americans, by nature, are an optimistic people who have a deeply held faith in their ability to apply their down-home ingenuity to solve every problem that comes along. We live in a world of wrinkle-erasing botox injections, iron-free shirts and cellular phones with cameras built-in. We’ve got to be able to come up with an equally wondrous technology to solve this problem of global warming. Just give us time.
There are two problems with this argument. First, we don’t have time. You cannot launch an industrial revolution overnight—and that is exactly what we need: another industrial revolution. Second, climate change is too big a challenge for any one solution. It is going to take a wide-ranging portfolio of technologies, from energy-efficiency technologies and hydrogen to carbon sequestration, renewable fuels, coalbed methane, biofuels, nanotechnology and biotechnology. Developing these technologies and getting them to market is going to take a lot of hard work. We cannot just snap our fingers and make it happen.
We need to replace our existing energy system. Businesses, however, continue to receive mixed signals from policy-makers about whether or not we are serious about getting on with the challenge of weaning ourselves from fossil fuels. What’s more, the federal government spends even less than the private sector on energy-related RD&D, which is particularly disappointing when you consider the importance of energy to our economy, our security and our environment.
We can do better than this. We need to encourage, perhaps even require, the development of the full complement of technologies—some of which we may not even know about yet—that will begin to deliver real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
In the same way that we need a broad portfolio of technologies, we will need an array of policy solutions as well.
Among the most important of these is an economy-wide cap-and-trade system. This is a policy that sets targets for greenhouse gas emissions and then allows companies the flexibility to trade emission credits in order to achieve their targets in the most economic manner. This is the approach taken in the Climate Stewardship Act introduced last year by Senators Joseph Lieberman and John McCain. Their bill garnered the support of 43 U.S. senators and prompted the first serious debate in Congress about exactly what we need to be doing to respond to the problem of climate change. (A companion measure was introduced in the House of Representatives just last month.)
But a cap-and-trade policy alone is not enough. We also need an aggressive R&D program, government standards and codes, public infrastructure investments, public/private partnerships, and government procurement programs—and I am sure there are policies we haven’t even thought of yet. However, despite needing all these policies, we still seem to be waiting for an easy, catch-all answer that will get us out of this mess, just as we are waiting for a technology silver bullet to make the problem go away overnight. And waiting itself becomes yet another excuse for doing nothing.
But in doing nothing, we are making a choice. We are choosing to ignore what we know to be true—namely, that the earth is warming, that this warming is getting worse, and that human activity is largely to blame. We are choosing to leave as our bequest to future generations a world that will, in all likelihood, be very different from the world we live in today. We are choosing to saddle our children and our children’s children with an array of problems that may well be beyond their ability to solve.
This is not a case, in other words, where inaction can be explained in terms of benign neglect—“we just didn’t know.” Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, have reached an all-time high, according to a report last month from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. By putting off serious action, we are essentially making a conscious decision to make the problem worse. And for that, there is really no excuse.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are indeed many smart and inexpensive steps we can take beginning right now to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and start developing the low-carbon energy technologies of the future.
How can we start? Here are a few ideas—things we can do to lay the groundwork for reduced emissions, increased energy efficiency and improved energy security in the years ahead:
· Number One: We can require companies to track and disclose their greenhouse gas emissions. If it is true that what is measured is managed, then this is an essential step if we ever want to move forward with any kind of program for reducing emissions.
· Number Two: We can use a standard-setting process to set practical but progressive goals to improve the efficiency of our vehicles and our appliances.
· Number Three: We can make strategic public investments in promising technologies.
· Number Four: We can provide incentives for farmers and foresters to adopt practices that take carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soil, crops and trees.
· Number Five: We can step up efforts to determine whether we can safely and permanently sequester carbon in geologic formations deep underground at a reasonable cost.
· And Number Six: As I mentioned already, we can build an economy-wide system that sets modest but mandatory targets for reducing emissions and uses market approaches like emissions trading to meet them at the lowest possible cost.
That’s just a random assortment of things we can do right now. And none of these activities—not one—would pose any kind of serious threat to U.S. economic performance. Indeed, by creating the conditions for a new industrial revolution that encourages the development and deployment of low-carbon energy technologies, we can create new opportunities, new jobs, and new wealth.
The key as we move forward is to set a clear, long-term goal of where we want to be on this issue, and then to figure out the short- and medium-term steps that will get us there. At the Pew Center, we call it the “10-50 Solution.” By 10-50, we mean that we believe this is a 50 year issue and we should be thinking ahead and envisioning what our society and our economy will need to look like if we are to significantly reduce our emissions.
That’s the “50” part. Then, in order to make it manageable, we break it down into 10 year increments. And we identify the policies and strategies we can start pursuing in the next ten years and the decades to come so we can achieve our long-range goal.
That’s the “10” part.
The 10-50 approach takes a long-term view because we know it will take time to achieve the result that we need -- a low carbon economy.
At the same time, the 10-50 approach enables us to identify the practical steps we can take in the short-term and in the decades to come so we can achieve steady progress.
If we do this right, one step at a time with a long term goal - it will be like Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes who said, 'Know what's weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon…everything's different'.
In closing, let me say again that I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be here today. And I ask all of you to join with me and the Pew Center in saying that the time is past for making excuses about why we should not or cannot take serious action to address the problem of global climate change. With an approach based on sound science, straight talk, and a commitment to working together to protect the climate while sustaining economic growth, we can achieve real progress on this issue. And we must.
Columbia University is 250 years old this year. Let’s work together to ensure that, 250 years from now, there will be a symposium at this great university on what happened at the dawn of the 21st century to finally get a handle on this enormous problem.
Thank you very much.
The 10-50 Solution: A Decade-by-Decade Approach to Climate Change
Remarks by Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
April 22, 2004
Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be in Minneapolis. I know this may date me, but as I was on my way here to the home of the old Mary Tyler Moore show, I was reminded of an exchange between Mary and her boss, Lou Grant.
Lou Grant says, “You know, Mary, you’ve got spunk.”
“Well, thank you, Mr. Grant,” says Mary.
“And you know what?” says Lou. “I HATE spunk.”
In all seriousness, I honestly believe that everyone at this conference has spunk. And, unlike Lou Grant, I am a big fan of it. The reason you have spunk is that you are the leaders of the sustainability movement in America. And I am honored to be with such a distinguished group of environmental problem-solvers to celebrate Earth Day—or, as the Bush administration calls it, Thursday, April 22nd.
On the occasion of the 34th anniversary of Earth Day, I believe it is important to acknowledge how far we’ve come in that time. In 1970, after all, we had a lot of people driving around in monster vehicles powered by gas-guzzling V-8 engines. Today, by contrast, we have, well, a lot of people driving around in monster vehicles powered by gas-guzzling V-8 engines. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Seriously, we have made significant progress on these issues since the 1970s—but, obviously, not nearly enough. And today we have a choice.
We can fall over ourselves seeking short-term gains for our businesses and society—potentially at great expense to our future. Or, we can think ahead—there’s a novel idea—and invest in strategies, processes and ideas that will help to ensure that our businesses—and, indeed, our life as we know it—are still around 10, 20, or 50 years down the line.
In attending this conference, I know that all of you have made the second choice. And I congratulate you for your commitment to environmental problem-solving—which I hope will be the number-one growth industry of the 21st century.
Today, I would like to talk with you about the issue of climate change. No surprise there. And, understanding that this group is looking at a wide range of environmental and sustainability topics, I want to start with a brief overview of what we know about climate change and what we are (and are not) doing in response. I will conclude my remarks by suggesting to you a new approach for addressing this enormous problem—an approach that couples a long-term vision of progress with a solid understanding of the interim steps that will help us achieve that vision.
But first a description of the problem itself. Global temperatures increased approximately 1ºF over the twentieth century, and additional warming of 2.5º to 10º F is projected over the century to come. What is causing this warming? The driving force, although not the only force, is human emissions of greenhouse gases, which grew globally by approximately 10 percent during the 1990s.
In the same vein as the standard line, “It’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity,” climate change is about much more than rising temperatures. It is also about increases in sea level, changes in precipitation, including more frequent floods and droughts, an increase in extreme weather events, as well as other effects. As if that’s not enough, substantial increases in global mean temperature could set off large-scale changes to the earth’s systems such as a shutdown of the Gulf Stream or a melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet. The thresholds are uncertain and it may take centuries for these things to happen, but it is possible that warming in the 21st century could trigger these types of events—events that, once started, will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.
What are we doing to address this problem? At the global level, 121 countries have now ratified an agreement that would for the first time establish binding limits on worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases. I am talking, of course, about the Kyoto Protocol.
Over the last several years, there has been a lot of discussion of this treaty in political circles—much of it of a harshly critical nature—and I think it is important to remember what Kyoto is and what it is not. Most importantly, we must remember that Kyoto was never intended as the be-all and end-all solution to the problem of climate change. Rather, it was intended as a first step, a way to commit the nations of the world to real action to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. Right now, Kyoto’s targets take us only to 2012—just eight years away—when, in fact, we are going to have to work at this issue for decades to come.
The other thing to remember about Kyoto is that it is not only Russia’s fault that the treaty is right now in diplomatic limbo. As you may know, Kyoto cannot enter into force until it is ratified by countries responsible for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And, right now, Russia’s signature is needed to reach the 55-percent level.
In all the talk about whether or not Russia will ratify and all the outrage that will surely surface should they decide not to, it is useful to remember that, among other big emitters, the United States and Australia have already opted out. So there is plenty of blame to go around.
Even though it remains in limbo, and even though it may never enter into force as it currently stands, the Kyoto Protocol was and remains an historic achievement—as well as a powerful instrument for bringing the countries of the world together around a common understanding of the problem and of our shared role in addressing it. It is because of Kyoto, after all, that we are finally seeing some nations get serious about reducing their emissions. The European Union, for example, has adopted a carbon dioxide emission trading program. And Prime Minister Tony Blair has committed Great Britain to a 60-percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050--the first instance of a world leader taking a long-term view on how to address this problem.
So that’s the global story. Here in the United States, we have a different story. At the federal level, we have seen no real action on this issue from either the Bush or the Clinton administrations (although Congress did engage in a serious debate about the climate issue last year). At the same time, state governments and large corporations in this country are, in many instances, taking it upon themselves to shape solutions.
Let’s start in Washington. A lot has been made of the Bush administration’s ill-mannered rejection of the Kyoto Protocol way back in 2001. But the rejection itself wasn’t really all that shocking. This was a new administration with its own ideas about how to tackle the problems of the world. Rather, what was truly shocking was that the White House offered nothing in the way of an alternative global solution—and, equally important, no real plan for reducing the United States’ contribution to the problem.
Indeed, the White House and its congressional allies were none too friendly toward a plan put forward last year by Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman that would for the first time establish modest but binding targets for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. However, despite the opposition of the Bush administration and congressional leaders, the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act attracted a very respectable 43 votes in the Senate, showing strong and growing bipartisan support for mandatory action against climate change in the United States. (A companion measure was introduced in the House of Representatives just last month.)
Still, for real action on this issue in the United States, we need to look to the state capitals and corporate boardrooms.
First the states. In 2002, the Pew Center released a report entitled Greenhouse and Statehouse: The Evolving State Government Role in Climate Change. In it, we surveyed state activity on this topic and found that a variety of measures that have proven controversial at the federal level--such as renewable portfolio standards, emission targets, and mandatory reporting of emissions--have indeed been implemented at the state level, often with little dissent.
The state initiatives are an important development not only because they can help pave the way for federal action but also because of the simple fact that U.S. states are large emitters of greenhouse gases. Texas, for example, emits more greenhouse gases than France, the United Kingdom, or Canada. Ohio’s emissions exceed those of Turkey and Taiwan, and emissions in Illinois exceed those from The Netherlands. Clearly, if we are intent on scrutinizing—and, hopefully, celebrating—what is happening in these and other nations to address the problem of climate change, we also must take account of the actions of individual U.S. states with comparable levels of emissions.
The Pew Center’s report makes clear that states across America have initiated programs that are achieving real reductions in their emissions.
· For example, 13 states, including Texas, now require utilities to generate a specified share of their power from renewable sources.
· Two states, Wisconsin and New Jersey, have created mandatory reporting programs for large emitters of greenhouse gases.
· Massachusetts has established a multi-pollutant cap that requires six older power plants to reduce their CO2 emissions.
· And, in California, state lawmakers have gone beyond target-setting and reporting and are working to establish direct controls on carbon emissions from cars and SUVs.
What’s more, we now are seeing groups of states begin to discuss climate solutions on a regional basis. Thus you have the agreement among New York and nine other mid-Atlantic and northeastern states to discuss a regional “cap-and-trade” initiative aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. And, last September, the governors of three Pacific states—California, Oregon, and Washington—announced that they will be working together to develop policies to reduce emissions from all sources.
The second place in America, in addition to the state capitals, where real action is happening on the climate issue is in corporate boardrooms. At the Pew Center, we work with a group of leading companies that are committed to economically viable climate solutions. The 38 members of our Business Environmental Leadership Council together employ nearly 2.5 million people and have combined revenues of $855 billion. And here’s just a sampling of some of the things they are doing to reduce their emissions:
· Alcoa, for example, is developing a new technology for smelting aluminum that, if successful, will allow the company to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to half their 1990 levels over the next nine years.
· United Technologies, or UTC, has reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent since 1997. In addition, the company has exceeded its goal of reducing energy consumption as a percentage of sales by 25 percent from 1997 levels.
· And, of course, I want to mention DuPont, which made a voluntary pledge to reduce its global emissions of greenhouse gases by 65 percent by the year 2010. In 2002, DuPont announced that it had achieved this target eight years ahead of schedule.
· Another company that has met its target ahead of schedule is BP, which in 2002 announced that it had reduced its global greenhouse emissions by 9 million metric tons in just four years.
All of these are important developments, and they show how increasing numbers of leading companies see a clear business interest both in reducing their emissions and in helping to shape a climate-friendly future.
But the truth of the matter is that these companies are basically freelancing—as are the states that I have mentioned. In the absence of a broader national strategy to address this problem, corporate executives and state officials are taking it upon themselves to act. We should all applaud that and encourage them to do even more. However, the global nature of the climate issue demands much broader action and a much broader strategy to bring about revolutionary change in the way we power our economy.
Consider this: in order to stabilize the global climate, global emissions must eventually fall to well below their 1990 levels. Depending upon whom you talk to, the figure ranges from 50 to 95 percent! And this would have to be achieved by the end of the century. And as I mentioned earlier, the UK already has a plan in place to reduce its emissions by 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Where is the U.S.? As of 2000, we were 13.6 percent above 1990 levels, and we have no plan to reduce our emissions at all.
Clearly, individual states and a handful of companies cannot do this alone.
So how do we move forward? How do we create the impetus for broad, across-the-board reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases? At the Pew Center, we recently developed something we are calling the “10-50 Solution.” And, in case you were wondering, it is not a miracle household cleaner. Rather, it is a new way of thinking about the problem of climate change—and how to solve it.
By 10-50, we mean that we should be thinking ahead about where we want to be on this issue in 50 years (that’s the “50” part), and then identify the policies and strategies we can start pursuing in the next ten years and the decades to come so we can achieve our long-range goal. (That’s the “10” part.). In this, I am reminded of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s advice that, “As for the future, your task is not to foresee, but to enable it.”
Here is what we know. First, we know that we need a low-carbon economy by mid-century. Second, we know that it will take a new industrial revolution to get there, and that low-carbon energy technologies will play a critical role in that revolution. And, third, we know that all signs indicate that we cannot and will not achieve a low-carbon economy if we continue on a “business-as-usual” path.
I am not here to say exactly what the alternative, low-carbon path will look like or exactly where it will take us. No one can say that. Rather, I want to point out some of the issues or guidelines we need to be thinking about as we begin to chart that path and get going.
I believe we need to be thinking about four major issues as we map our path to a low-carbon future. The first of these is technology development—in other words, how to spark an energy technology revolution.
The 1990s saw the peak of an unprecedented technology boom in computer, information, and telecommunication technologies. But we did not see this unprecedented technological change spread into the energy sector. Despite more than a few optimistic predictions to the contrary, the energy sector continues on a conventional-technology trajectory – without many signs of substantial change.
One reason for this is that there are fundamental market and policy forces that keep an energy technology revolution from happening. Developing the technology to replace the existing and entrenched energy system will require massive investment. But businesses continue to receive mixed signals from policy-makers about whether or not we are serious about getting on with the challenge. So there is not sufficient incentive to place big bets on the development and diffusion of low-carbon energy technologies.
What’s more, the federal government spends even less than the private sector on energy-related RD&D, which is particularly disappointing when you consider the importance of energy to our economy and our national security—not to mention the implications of our energy use for the environment. While there is some support for some breakthrough technology, most of the investment remains attached to carbon-intensive energy technologies.
The second issue we need to be thinking about as we look ahead to a low-carbon future has to do with what happens after we develop the technologies we need. In other words, how do we ensure that new, climate-friendly technologies can enter the marketplace and compete?
Many people who concede that government has a role in fostering energy R&D simply stop there. Once the technology is developed, they say, consumers will simply go out and buy it. In fact, experience tells us differently.
The fact that R&D alone will not get technologies into the market became clear to us through some of our work over the last few years. This past year, we finished a report that looked at historical U.S. technology and innovation policies to see what lessons could be learned for addressing climate change. One of the key insights from this report is that past government policies that go beyond R&D -- to promote downstream adoption of technologies and learning by doing -- have greatly influenced technological change. This was true in the past, and is likely to be true in the future. The bottom line is that we must have specific policies both to push and to pull these technologies into the market.
You’ll notice that I said these technologies, which brings me to the third issue we need to pay attention to: There is no technological silver bullet solution to climate change.
This problem is just too big for any single solution. At a workshop we sponsored with the National Commission on Energy Policy last month on the 10-50 solution, we convened a group of experts and business leaders to look specifically at five technologies that are sure to play a prominent role in reducing the carbon intensity of our economy. These are: energy efficiency technologies; hydrogen; carbon sequestration/coal gasification; advanced nuclear technologies; and renewables. These five technologies are obviously very important, but I want to be clear today, as I was during our March workshop, that any future portfolio of low-carbon fuels and energy technologies will surely be broader than them. For example, important fuels and groups of technologies—from coalbed methane to biofuels, ocean wave power, geothermal energy, nanotechnology, and biotechnology—may all have important roles to play in a future low-carbon energy mix.
So we have all of these technologies, and the fact remains that not one of them is likely to be deployed in the marketplace on the scale and in the time frame needed to address climate change without an explicit and unprecedented set of policies from government. Our shared challenge will be to develop policies that are broad enough and neutral enough to provide incentives for a high level of innovation across the relevant energy, materials, and information technology industries. At the same time, we need these policies to be targeted and specific enough to give promising technologies a start down the road toward significant deployment--and to do so without dampening the competitive ingenuity that is a driver of the most innovative economy in the world: ours.
This brings me to the fourth and final issue we need to be thinking about as we try to respond in a decisive and effective way to the challenge of climate change. Just as there is no technology silver bullet, there is no policy silver bullet for transitioning to a low-carbon future. According to some people, all we need is a strong technology R&D policy; in other words, forget about adopting a mitigation policy. Still others say a mitigation policy is all we need – and that even a small price signal will do the trick now and forever, amen.
At the Pew Center, we think we need both a strong R&D and a strong mitigation policy, as well as some policies that we may not even know about yet.
The Pew Center has always been a strong advocate of an economy-wide cap-and-trade policy—in other words, a policy that sets targets for greenhouse gas emissions and allows companies the flexibility to trade emission credits in order to achieve their targets. We still believe that a cap-and-trade system is an essential step in the “10-50” strategy.
But we also believe that cap-and-trade by itself will not bring about the technological revolution that is necessary. An aggressive RD&D program, government standards and codes, public infrastructure investments, public/private partnerships and government procurement all probably have some role to play. What we need to do is refine what this portfolio of options should look like, and what the timing of each of the components should be.
So those are the four things we need to be thinking about: how to develop climate-friendly technologies; how to market them; how to ensure that we are looking broadly at the many technologies that can help while paying close attention to the most promising technologies; and how to arrive at a broad set of policies that will put this country on a track to real reductions in emissions.
In closing, let me say that it is clear from all of the work that the Pew Center is doing on this issue that we need vision. We need spunk. We need people like those of you at this conference to help us move the discussion of climate change away from the divisive debate over environmental vs. economic tradeoffs. Instead, we need to focus on the concrete steps we can take—both in this decade and in the decades to come—to get a handle on this enormous problem. Each of us has a role we can play:
· If you are a manufacturer, do you have a goal and a plan for reducing your emissions and energy use and, ultimately, adopting low-carbon sources of energy?
· If you are a real estate developer or architect, what are you doing to develop the prototype homes and office buildings of 2015 or 2025—structures that achieve new levels of energy efficiency and embrace climate-friendly technologies?
· If you are an engineer, to what extent are you engineering new processes and products that will deliver significant energy savings in the decades to come? Are you engineering the systems that will help us deliver on the promise of new low-carbon energy technologies?
· And, last but not least, if you are a government official, what policies can you put forward that will help your community or your state couple a long-term vision with short-term action to address this issue?
And don’t let me forget one other important category of people: citizens. In this year of presidential and congressional elections, as well as elections at the state and local levels, all of us, as citizens, need to be engaged on this issue.
Recent history shows us that our government, whether it is in Democratic or Republican hands, has a very hard time dealing with the issue of climate change in an effective way. There are a lot of interests lined up on the side of doing nothing. But the number of people at this conference, and all the great work that you are doing to solve environmental problems, suggests to me that our side can be just as strong—and stronger.
Thank you very much.
The 10-50 Solution: Technologies and Policies for a Low-Carbon Future
A workshop sponsored by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the National Commission on Energy Policy
March 25-26, 2004
The St. Regis Hotel, Washington, DC
On March 25-26th, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP) sponsored a workshop entitled “The 10-50 Solution: Technologies and Policies for a Low-Carbon Future.” The goal of this workshop was to articulate a long-term vision for a low-carbon economy within 50 years and to discuss the technologies, industrial processes and policies needed in the short and medium term to achieve it. Over 100 policy-makers, business leaders, NGO representatives, and leading experts participated in the event.
In preparation for the workshop, the Pew Center and NCEP commissioned background papers on technological advances in five key areas (efficiency, hydrogen, carbon sequestration/coal gasification, advanced nuclear technologies, and renewables) and on policies designed to promote these and other low-carbon technologies in the marketplace. Workshop presentations and final proceedings, including a summary of common themes and policies identified during the workshop, and workshop background papers are now available.
"A Climate Policy Framework: Balancing Policy and Politics"
Proceedings from the joint Aspen Institute/Pew Center Conference, March 2004
A diverse group of business, government, and environmental leaders, brought together by the Aspen Institute and the Pew Center, recommends a framework for a mandatory greenhouse gas reduction program for the United States. The group started with the premise that, if mandatory action is taken, climate policies should be environmentally effective, economical and fair. After a three-day dialogue, the participants reached consensus on a policy framework that is both effective and politically feasible.
President, Pew Center on Global Climate
The agreement reached today at COP 7 in Marrakech is a critical and commendable step forward in the international effort against climate change. Four years after negotiating the Kyoto Protocol, nations have now succeeded in turning its broad mandate into a workable framework for action. Now they must deliver on Kyoto's promise by bringing the Protocol into force and taking the necessary steps at home to fully implement it.
As other nations move to fulfill their Kyoto commitments, it is imperative that the United States also commit itself to a binding strategy that produces genuine emissions reductions. Over time, the aim must be to merge the U.S. and international efforts, as an effective strategy against climate change ultimately requires an overarching global framework in which all nations work together. Toward that end, any domestic effort in the United States should be consistent wherever possible with the Kyoto Protocol, and opportunities to link the regimes should be explored. The learning opportunities afforded by parallel approaches also can contribute to improved strategies when convergence becomes possible.
The period ahead promises continued uncertainty and new complications for U.S. business. Whatever short-term competitive advantage may result from the United States' rejection of Kyoto will be far outweighed in the long term by the harmful economic and environmental consequences of inaction. As demonstrated in a Pew Center report released last week, forward-thinking companies that have set their own greenhouse gas reduction targets find that the resulting efficiencies and innovations benefit not only the climate but also their bottom lines. A growing number of major companies will continue to work in the domestic and international arenas to advance sensible, cost-effective climate policies that can deliver both environmental and economic gains.
While today's agreement is a significant achievement, we must recognize that Kyoto, and any parallel effort that emerges in the United States, represent only first steps in addressing the long-term threat of climate change. As difficult as it has been to advance over the past decade from Rio to Kyoto to Marrakech, far greater challenges lie ahead as we continue to work toward a truly effective global strategy that will spare future generations from the grave risks of global warming.
Beyond Kyoto: Advancing the International Effort Against Climate Change
Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
The report is a compilation of six "think pieces" on core issues in developing an effective international response to global climate change. Working drafts of the papers were the focus of workshops in China, Germany, and Mexico. More than 100 people from nearly three dozen developed and developing countries have contributed as authors, reviewers, or workshop participants.
Dowload the Entire Report (pdf)
Download the Overview (pdf)
Report Topics and Authors:
A Long-Term Target: Framing the Climate Effort (pdf)
Jonathan Pershing and Fernando Tudela
Climate Commitments: Assessing the Options (pdf)
Equity and Climate: In Principle and Practice (pdf)
John Ashton and Xueman Wang
Addressing Cost: The Political Economy of Climate Change (pdf)
Joseph E. Aldy, Richard Baron, and Laurence Tubiana
Development and Climate: Engaging Developing Countries (pdf)
Tom Heller and P.R. Shukla
Trade and Climate: Potential Conflict and Synergies (pdf)
Recent Remarks by Elliot Diringer (June 2004)
Download the Entire Report (ZIP file)
For Immediate Release
December 3, 2003
Contact: Katie Mandes
New Pew Center Report Examines Core Challenges In Advancing
The International Climate Effort
Initiative Involves Experts, Officials, and Stakeholders from More Than 30 Countries
Washington, DC — An effective international response to global climate change requires a more flexible approach so that countries can take on different types of commitments best suited to their domestic circumstances, according to a report released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
The report, “Beyond Kyoto: Advancing the International Effort Against Global Climate Change,” is a compilation of six “think pieces” examining core issues in negotiating an effective long-term climate agreement. Topics include equity, cost, development, trade, commitments, and a long-term climate target.
The new report comes as negotiators are gathering in Milan for the Ninth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and as countries await a decision by Russia on ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Despite U.S. rejection of the Protocol, 120 countries have now ratified the treaty. Ratification by Russia would bring the Protocol into force and trigger negotiations starting in 2005 toward a second round of emission commitments.
“We are at a critical stage in the international climate effort. Kyoto’s entry into force would be a major achievement, but only a start. On the other hand, if Kyoto doesn’t get off the ground, the international community must begin thinking right away about the alternatives,” said Pew Center President Eileen Claussen.
“Either way, with or without Kyoto, we face the same challenge: engaging all the world’s major emitters—including the United States and the major developing countries—in a long-term effort that fairly and effectively mobilizes the resources and technology needed to protect the global climate. This new Pew Center report speaks to that challenge,” said Claussen.
The 170-page report was prepared by a dozen authors, most former climate negotiators, from developed and developing countries. Working drafts of the papers were broadly circulated earlier this year for review and comment and were the focus of international workshops convened by the Pew Center in China, Germany, and Mexico. In all, more than 100 officials, experts, and stakeholders from nearly three dozen countries contributed as authors, reviewers, or workshop participants.
The papers explore critical issues in the climate negotiations and a range of options for addressing them, but do not advocate specific approaches. “Our aim at this stage is to facilitate constructive thinking and dialogue. So the report does not offer definitive conclusions or recommendations. But common themes emerge from the papers and the workshops and we believe these are well worth considering as we move toward the next stage of climate diplomacy,” said Claussen.
Among the common themes highlighted in the report’s overview chapter:
- While the climate challenge is ultimately one of mobilizing technology, it is in the first instance one of mustering political will, and some approaches to international action can better assist in that than others.
- Scientific and economic uncertainty is not a justification for inaction, but rather an additional rationale for acting now.
- While climate change is a common challenge, countries will engage in collective action only if they perceive it to be in their interest. A multilateral approach must therefore recognize domestic concerns such as development and competitiveness.
- Bridging diverse national interests requires new mitigation strategies and a flexible architecture that can accommodate different types of commitments for different countries.
- Engaging actors beyond the climate circle is essential, both to build domestic support for action and to extend the climate effort into non-climate forums such as trade and development.
“One of the strongest themes to emerge in the papers and in our discussions is the need for greater flexibility so countries can take on the types of commitments best suited to their domestic circumstances,” Claussen said. “The challenge is providing that flexibility while at the same time ensuring that national efforts are equitable and that the overall effort is sufficient.”
The six think pieces explore the following issues:
A Long-Term Target: Framing the Climate Effort, by Jonathan Pershing and Fernando Tudela, examines the benefits and difficulties of establishing a more concrete long-term goal to guide and motivate climate action in the near and medium term. It argues that a host of uncertainties make the negotiation of a greenhouse gas concentration target extraordinarily difficult and that alternatives—such as an “activity-based” target or a non-binding hedging strategy—may be more practical.
Climate Commitments: Assessing the Options, by Daniel Bodansky, identifies the key variables in designing mitigation commitments, offers criteria for evaluating different approaches, and discusses the merits of several leading alternatives. It argues that the wide variance in national circumstances makes a unitary approach impractical and unlikely, and that future efforts might need to allow for multiple approaches.
Equity and Climate: In Principle and Practice, by John Ashton and Xueman Wang, explores the fundamental equity concerns that suffuse the climate debate and the challenges in arriving at a fair outcome. It argues that no single equity perspective or formula can be a basis for agreement, and that the goal instead must be a political package that achieves a rough qualitative balancing of competing equity claims. The authors suggest a set of outcomes that together could meet that test.
Addressing Cost: The Political Economy of Climate Change, by Joseph E. Aldy, Richard Baron, and Laurence Tubiana, examines the challenges of managing cost in future mitigation efforts. It identifies three critical cost dimensions that present themselves in negotiations— aggregate cost, relative cost, and cost certainty—and assesses how effectively alternative mitigation approaches address each.
Development and Climate: Engaging Developing Countries, by Thomas C. Heller and P.R. Shukla, explores how future climate efforts can help integrate climate concerns with the core development priorities of developing countries. It argues for a fundamental reorientation of climate policy to focus less on emission “outputs” and more on the underlying activities or “inputs” that drive them.
Trade and Climate: Potential Conflicts and Synergies, by Steve Charnovitz, explores potential interactions between the international trade regime and climate policies at both the national and international levels. It identifies potential conflicts between the goals of climate protection and trade liberalization, possible measures to avert such conflicts, and ways the trade and climate regimes can be mutually supportive.
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, non-profit, 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.
On November 4 and 5, 2003, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, under a grant from the Joyce Foundation, held a workshop in Chicago, IL, on State Policy Solutions to Climate Change. This workshop brought together state officials from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. State agencies represented included Agriculture, Commerce, Natural Resources, Environmental Protection, Administration, Energy, and Transportation. The purpose of the workshop was to have state officials share their experiences in implementing programs that reduce greenhouse gases and to reflect on the lessons learned.
Beyond Kyoto Workshop
In partnership with the
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
September 19-20, 2003
Climate Commitments: Assessing the Options
A Long-Term Target: Framing the Climate Effort
Jonathan Pershing and Fernando Tudela
Equity and Climate: In Principle and Practice
John Ashton and Xueman Wang
Trade and Climate: Potential Conflicts and Synergies
Addressing Cost: The Political Economy of Climate Change
Joseph E. Aldy, Richard Baron and Laurence Tubiana
Development and Climate: Engaging Developing Countries
Thomas C. Heller and P.R. Shukla
Climate Change: Then and Now
Remarks by Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Environmental Council of the States
AUGUST 11, 2003
Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be here in Salt Lake City and among so many friends. And I thank ECOS for inviting me here today.
I understand that a lot of you will be visiting the Utah Olympic Park this evening for some bobsledding and a ski jump aerial show. And I was interested to see that those of you who are actually interested in doing some bobsledding on your own have to pay an additional fee. As if your copayments at the emergency room will not be enough Ã
Seriously, I think it is quite fitting, here at the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, to discuss a topic that calls on all of us, both inside and outside of government, to exert and push ourselves and to test the limits of what we can achieve. That topic, of course, is global climate change. And today, I want to talk with you about what we have achieved looking six years back, and about the future work that must be done.
I know what you are thinking. You are probably thinking that I am here to talk about everything we are not doing. And, I will surely get to some of that, or else I would not be doing my job. I believe that the past six years have been a time of real and legitimate progress in how we think about the problem of climate change, and in what we are doing to address it. And I want to celebrate some of that with you today.
Think about it. In 1997, the debate on this issue was about whether to do anything. There were many, in the scientific, environmental and government community saying we had a very serious problem, and others, in industry, in the States, and in the Congress who either didn't believe that it was a problem or who believed that there was no rush to deal with it.
Fast forward to 2003, and you see how the debate has shifted. Now it is not about whether to do something but about what to do and when to do it. Even President Bush had to revisit his prior assumptions after he assigned a committee of the National Academy of Sciences to look into the matter--and they came back to him reporting that, and I quote "GHGs are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise." Temperatures are, in fact rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities. The report goes on to say that we can't exclude the possibility that natural variability has contributed as well--but the main point remains--the earth is warming, and humans must accept some responsibility for that warming.
Back in 1997, the nations of the world gathered in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate the outlines of a treaty that would for the first time establish binding limits on worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases. At the time, the Kyoto Protocol was derided by some in the United States as a fantasy itself--impractical to implement and even unfair in that it did not enlist developing countries in this "global" effort.
And, while some of the criticisms of the Protocol were and remain well founded, we can fast forward to today and see that 111 countries have so far ratified this watershed agreement, and its entry into force awaits the action of only one nation, Russia. What's more, now that the focus has shifted from negotiating Kyoto to implementing it, we are seeing the beginnings of a serious discussion about what comes after the first budget period in Kyoto--and how to engage developing countries, as well as the United States, in the global effort to reduce emissions.
We also are seeing the countries that are part of Kyoto starting to get serious about achieving its goals. The European Union, for example, has adopted a carbon dioxide emission trading program. And Prime Minister Tony Blair has committed Great Britain to a 60 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050--the first instance of a world leader taking an ambitious and long-term view on how to address this problem.
Back in 1997, the perception was that business was adamantly opposed to doing anything about climate change. And then things started to change. Lord John Browne, the CEO of British Petroleum (BP), made an announcement that his company accepted the science that global warming is a problem--and that it is caused in large part by the burning of fossil fuels. Browne went on to pledge that BP would voluntarily reduce its global greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent below 1990 levels before 2010, and they have met that target already, eight years ahead of schedule. In the six years since making its pledge, BP has joined with 37 other companies as part of the Pew Center's Business Environmental Leadership Council, a group that is committed to achieving real progress on this issue. Twenty-three of these companies, BP included, now have specific targets for reducing their emissions, and several more will be announcing targets in the coming months.
These companies have moved from acknowledging the science about climate change to showing what can be done to create a climate-friendly future while still maintaining our economic competitiveness, to becoming advocates for strong government requirements to address this issue.
Back in 1997, the issue of global climate change was not much of a concern at the state level, where other environmental priorities held sway. But today, we know that a majority of states have programs that, while not necessarily directed at climate change, are achieving real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Back in 1997, if you mentioned the problem of global climate change on Capitol Hill, you were either laughed at or told to leave the premises. The only congressional action on this issue came in the form of requirements that the United States do nothing. Thus we had the Byrd-Hagel resolution, which passed unanimously in the Senate, laying out strong reservations about the Kyoto Protocol negotiations without offering any alternative. And we also had an array of other amendments and so-called "riders" to appropriation bills that sought to prohibit the State Department, the EPA and other agencies from doing anything whatsoever on the issue of climate change.
Fast forward to 2003, and you see that instead of Byrd-Hagel, we now have Byrd-Stevens, a measure establishing a White House office dedicated to formulating a national strategy to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations.
In 1998, Republican Senator John Chafee and Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman were blasted by climate skeptics for writing legislation that would give companies credit for early reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, we had Senators Hagel and Voinovich, offering credit for early reductions, and Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman offering an economy wide cap and trade bill.
The McCain-Lieberman proposal brings together several features that would be critical to the success of a national climate change strategy.
The bill would establish ambitious and binding targets for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Equally important, it would provide companies with the flexibility to reduce emissions as cost-effectively as possible-thanks to the creation of a rigorous nationwide system allowing emissions trading and providing some credit for carbon storage. Last but not least, the bill would recognize those reductions that are being made now by the companies that are taking the lead on this issue and provide additional flexibility for these early actors.
In another couple of years we will look back and realize that the McCain-Lieberman proposal was pretty moderate.
Of course, I am not a Pollyanna on this issue. I know - and you know - that there are still a small number of skeptical scientists, and there are still those that prefer to do nothing. And some of these people have loud megaphones, and they continue to argue that the science is uncertain, and that action to deal with climate change will ruin the economy. And I also know - and you know - that these individuals are working very hard to see that we do not have a legitimate national policy on this issue.
But I do not believe that they will prevail. I believe strongly that there are also many certainties in the science; that there are many actions that can be taken with no negative economic impact, and that, with careful planning and execution, and with continued technological development, we can address this problem and still have a growing global economy. Which is precisely what we need to do.
So what happens now? Well, the first thing that must happen is for the United States to get a better handle on how we will supply and use energy in the decades ahead. The electric power and transport sectors account for over 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The extent to which we weigh the climate impacts of our energy choices will therefore be the key determining factor in whether we can and will achieve progress in reducing our emissions.
The current Capitol Hill debate on U.S. energy policy does not come close to the kind of hard-nosed assessment we need. In this year's House-floor debate over energy policy, congressmen were not even allowed to bring up climate change amendments, perhaps a sign that the House leadership was concerned about an amendment passing.
And the Senate ducked a robust debate on energy and climate policy by simply passing last year's Senate energy bill. Of course, that's not all bad - that Senate bill included the Byrd-Stevens provision, as well as a Brownback-Corzine provision establishing national reporting of greenhouse gas emissions. While the much-heralded vote on the McCain-Lieberman proposal was delayed, an agreement was reached that it will come up for a vote this fall.
In an effort to develop a clearer sense of the future energy picture for the United States, the Pew Center recently teamed up with Peter Schwartz and the Global Business Network to convene relevant experts from the business, academic and NGO sectors. Their charge was to envision a suite of future energy scenarios for the country and to describe the implications of these scenarios for U.S. policy on climate change, going out to 2035.
The group settled on three future energy scenarios:
- The first was titled Awash in Oil and Gas. In this scenario, as you might suspect from the title, oil and gas remain cheap and abundant. Oil and gas production technology continues to improve, OPEC collapses, and a highly competitive global oil market emerges. Concerns about U.S. oil import dependence are rarely mentioned, so there is little incentive to improve energy efficiency, and carbon emissions rise rapidly. Seventy percent of the coal plants operating in 2000 are still operational in 2035.
- The second scenario, Turbulent World, is one in which energy supply disruptions and threats to energy facilities lead to aggressive U.S. energy policy measures. The House of Saud falls, leading to oil price spikes and a federal focus on energy security, including tough vehicle efficiency standards of 50 miles per gallon by 2020, and a crash "moonshot" program to develop and commercialize hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. Threats to nuclear facilities and transmission failures lead the public and policy makers to prefer alternative energy systems. Because of its domestic abundance, coal is favored -- it continues its dominant role in electricity generation and becomes an increasingly important source of hydrogen.
- The third scenario, Technology Triumphs, envisions a future in which a convergence of four forces -- state policies, technological breakthroughs, private investment, and consumer interest -- push and pull climate-friendly technologies into the marketplace. Significant advances in renewables, distributed generation, and efficiency -- especially combined heat and power, building-integrated photovoltaics, and fuel cells -- result from the convergence of these four forces. In this scenario, many states adopt greenhouse gas standards for vehicles, move forward with initiatives to control greenhouse gases from powerplants, and continue to implement renewable portfolio standards.
Using an economic model developed by Argonne National Laboratory, we were able to project how each of these scenarios would affect the United States' energy technology mix and annual CO2 emissions over the next 30 years. Since the key purpose of scenario planning is not to predict the future, but rather to facilitate strategic planning in the face of deep uncertainty, it is useful to identify commonalities among the scenarios.
For example, natural gas use and distributed electric generation increase in all three hypothetical futures, continuing current trends. But another commonality across all three scenarios is that even by 2035 we are still using a lot of the same technology we use today because of significant inertia in the energy sector.
National climate policy was deliberately excluded from each of these "base case" scenarios. The most striking finding of the analysis was that even when we modeled the most optimistic assumptions about the future cost and performance of energy technologies, emissions rise. In Technology Triumphs, emissions rise by a total of 15 percent over 2000 levels by 2035; by 20 percent in Turbulent World, and by 50 percent in Awash in Oil and Gas.
Each of the three scenarios we looked at envisions a future when the only national policy measures in place to protect the climate, are voluntary measures. And the fact that none of these scenarios--even the most optimistic--resulted in any reduction in our carbon emissions highlights the fundamental need for a mandatory carbon emissions policy to address climate change. To state it more clearly, no combination of voluntary programs and research and development incentives will put us on a path that sustains economic growth, enhances economic security, and allows the U.S. to participate appropriately and proportionally in protecting the global climate.
But back to right now, a voluntary effort is all we have. Here I am, near the close of my remarks, and I have yet to offer a critique of the climate policies of the current occupant of the White House. I cannot let him and his Administration off the hook, even if he is trying to enjoy a few weeks of vacation in the parched Texas plains, where I would think the appeal of doing something--anything--to arrest global warming would be great. And if you think I am being partisan, I will be happy to offer a critique of the Clinton Administration's all talk no action policy as well.
But seriously, rather than establishing an absolute target for emission reductions-as many of the companies I have talked about have done-the Bush administration's climate strategy sets a voluntary "greenhouse gas intensity" target for the nation. The idea is to reduce the ratio of greenhouse emissions to U.S. economic output, or GDP. And the funny thing about the White House target--an 18 percent reduction in greenhouse gas intensity by 2012--is that it would allow actual emissions to grow by 12 percent over the same period.
That's not what I call progress. Progress would mean adopting a real-world domestic energy policy. It would mean engaging the full spectrum of business and society in the effort to reduce the U.S. contribution to this problem. It would mean adopting a clear, mandatory goal for emission cuts, along with sensible, business-friendly rules that give companies the flexibility they need to help meet this goal as cost-effectively as possible.
That would be progress. And it would put the federal government in the company of many businesses throughout the world, as well as entire countries and U.S. states that already are moving forward to address this issue.
In closing, allow me pay special tribute to the work that many of you are doing at the state level. In 2002, we released a report entitled Greenhouse and Statehouse: The Evolving State Government Role in Climate Change, that surveyed the current level of state activity on this topic. And we found that a variety of measures that have proven controversial at the federal level, such as renewable portfolio standards and mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, have been implemented at the state level, often with little dissent.
Texas and 13 other states, for example, now require utilities to generate a specified share of their power from renewable sources. Five states have carbon sequestration programs in place. Three have established reporting programs for greenhouse gas emissions, and two of these are mandatory programs. In addition, two states have overall caps on their emissions, and one state, California, is working on direct controls on emissions from motor vehicles.
And then there is the story of the efforts of New York state, under Governor Pataki, to create a regional market in which power plants can buy and sell carbon dioxide credits. To date, nine of ten states contacted by the governor have indicated that they are interested in working together to reduce emissions across the region.
The work that all of you are doing in your states is vitally important, both in reducing emissions and in showing that progress is possible--that we can protect the climate while at the same time promoting economic growth. Over the last six years, we have seen that climate change is an issue where solutions bubble up from below. Businesses, states, and localities begin to take it seriously, and they begin to take action to reduce their contribution to the problem. And, in the process, they create a climate that is more hospitable and more conducive to broader changes at the national and international levels.
As you gather here in this Olympic city, I encourage all of you to keep the torch burning for climate solutions--both within your states and at the federal level. You may not get a medal for your performance, but future generations will surely reward you with their admiration and their thanks.
Thank you very much.