Science

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.

Main Greenhouse Gases

The tables below present characteristics of major greenhouse gases. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) indicates the warming effect of a greenhouse gas, while the atmospheric lifetime expresses the total effect of a specific greenhouse gas after taking into account global sink availability. The lifetime indicates how long the gas remains in the atmosphere and increased radiative forcing quantifies the contribution to additional heating over an area. The vast majority of emissions  are carbon dioxide followed by methane and nitrous oxide. Lesser amounts of CFC-12, HCFC-22, Perflouroethane and Sulfur Hexaflouride are also emitted and their contribution to global warming is magnified by their high GWP, although there total contribution is still small compared to the other gasses.

 

Greenhouse
Gas

Chemical Formula

 Anthropogenic Sources

Atmospheric Lifetime1(years)

 GWP2 (100 Year Time Horizon)

Carbon
Dioxide

CO2

Fossil-fuel combustion, Land-use conversion, Cement Production

~1001

 1

 Methane

 CH4

Fossil fuels,
Rice paddies,
Waste dumps

121

25

Nitrous
Oxide

N2O

Fertilizer,
Industrial processes, Combustion

1141

298

Tropospheric Ozone O3Fossil fuel combustion, Industrial emissions, Chemical solventshours-daysN.A.

CFC-12

CCL2F2

Liquid coolants,
Foams 

100

10,900

HCFC-22

CCl2F2

Refrigerants

12

1,810

Sulfur Hexaflouride

SF6

Dielectric fluid

3,200

22,800

 

Pre-1750 Tropospheric
Concentration
3
(parts per billion)

Current Tropospheric
Concentration
4
(parts per billion) 

Carbon
Dioxide

280,0005

388,5006

Methane

7007

1,870 / 1,7488

Nitrous
Oxide

 2709

 323 / 3228

Tropospheric Ozone 2534

CFC-12

 0

.534 / .5328

HCFC-22 

 0

.218 / .19410

Sulfur Hexaflouride

 0

.00712 /.006738, 10

Source of graphical information and notes:
Blasing, T.J. ad K. Smith 2011.  "Recent Greenhouse Gas Concentrations."  In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change.  Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Cetner, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, TN, USA.  http://cdiac.ornl.gov/pns/current_ghg.html

Footnotes:

  1. The atmospheric lifetime is used to characterize the decay of an instanenous pulse input to the atmosphere, and can be likened to the time it takes that pulse input to decay to 0.368 (l/e) of its original value. The analogy would be strictly correct if every gas decayed according to a simple expotential curve, which is seldom the case. For example, CH4 is removed from the atmosphere by a single process, oxidation by the hydroxyl radical (OH), but the effect of an increase in atmospheric concentration of CH4 is to reduce the OH concentration, which, in turn, reduces destruction of the additional methane, effectively lengthening its atmospheric lifetime. An opposite kind of feedback may shorten the atmospheric lifetime of N2O (IPCC 2007, Section 2.10.3).
  2. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) provides a simple measure of the radiative effects of emissions of various greenhouse gases, integrated over a specified time horizon, relative to an equal mass of CO2 emissions.
  3. Pre-1750 concentrations of CH4,N2O and current concentrations of O3, are taken from Table 4.1 (a) of the IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), 2001. Following the convention of IPCC (2001), inferred global-scale trace-gas concentrations from prior to 1750 are assumed to be practically uninfluenced by human activities such as increasingly specialized agriculture, land clearing, and combustion of fossil fuels. Preindustrial concentrations of industrially manufactured compounds are given as zero. The short atmospheric lifetime of ozone (hours-days) together with the spatial variability of its sources precludes a globally or vertically homogeneous distribution, so that a fractional unit such as parts per billion would not apply over a range of altitudes or geographical locations. Therefore a different unit is used to integrate the varying concentrations of ozone in the vertical dimension over a unit area, and the results can then be averaged globally. This unit is called a Dobson Unit (D.U.), after G. M. B. Dobson, one of the first investigators of atmospheric ozone. A Dobson unit is the amount of ozone in a column which, unmixed with the rest of the atmosphere, would be 10 micrometers thick at standard temperature and pressure.
  4. Because atmospheric concentrations of most gases tend to vary systematically over the course of a year, figures given represent averages over a 12-month period for all gases except ozone (O3), for which a current global value has been estimated (IPCC, 2001, Table 4.1a).
  5. The value given by IPCC 2001, page 185, is 280 ± 10 ppm. This is supported by measurements of CO2 in old, confined, and reasonably well-dated air. Such air is found in bubbles trapped in annual layers of ice in Antarctica, in sealed brass buttons on old uniforms, airtight bottles of wine of known vintage, etc. Additional support comes from well-dated carbon-isotope signatures, for example, in annual tree rings. Estimates of "pre-industrial" CO2 can also be obtained by first calculating the ratio of the recent atmospheric CO2 increases to recent fossil-fuel use, and using past records of fossil-fuel use to extrapolate past atmospheric CO2 concentrations on an annual basis. Estimates of "pre-industrial" CO2 concentrations obtained in this way are higher than those obtained by more direct measurements; this is believed to be because the effects of widespread land clearing are not accounted for. Ice-core data provide records of earlier concentrations. For concentrations back to about 1775, see A. Neftel et al.
  6. Recent CO2 concentration (388.5 ppm) is the 2010 average taken from globally averaged marine surface data given by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Earth System Research Laboratory, web site: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/index.html#global.
  7. Pre-industrial concentrations of CH4 are evident in the "1000-year" ice-core records in CDIAC's Trends Online http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/atm_meth/lawdome_meth-graphics.html. However, those values need to be multiplied by a scaling factor of 1.0119 to make them compatible with the AGAGE measurements of current methane concentrations, which have already been adjusted to the Tohoku University scale. Ten thousand-year records of CH4, CO2 and N2O, from ice-core data, are also presented graphically in IPCC 2007, (Figure SPM.1).
  8. The first value in a cell represents Mace Head, Ireland, a mid-latitude Northern-Hemisphere site, and the second value represents Cape Grim, Tasmania, a mid-latitude Southern-Hemisphere site. "Current" values given for these gases are annual arithmetic averages based on monthly background concentrations for October 2009 through September 2010. The SF6 values are from the AGAGE gas chromatography - mass spectrometer (gc-ms) Medusa measuring system.
  9. Source: IPCC (2007). The pre-1750 value for N2O is consistent with ice-core records from 10,000 B.C.E. through 1750 C.E. shown graphically in figure SPM.1 on page 3.
  10. For SF6 data from January 2004 onward see http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ftp/ale_gage_Agage/AGAGE/gc-ms-medusa/monthly/. For data from 1995 through 2004, see the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Halogenated and other Atmospheric Trace Species (HATS) site at: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/hats/airborne/index.html.
     

United States Emissions

In this section, you can find information about the main sources of greenhouse gases emitted in the United States.

Click on the images below to view additional information on each figure.

 

 

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Gas

Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector

U.S. Trends in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Trends in CO2 Emissions

U.S. CO2 Emissions from the Electric Power Sector

 

Explore All the Facts & Figures Sections:

  1. Main Greenhouse Gases
  2. U.S. Emissions
  3. International Emissions

 

Adaptation to Climate Change: International Policy Options

Adaptation to Climate Change cover

Adaptation to Climate Change: International Policy Options

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
November 2006

By:
Ian Burton, University of Toronto
Elliot Diringer, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Joel Smith, Stratus Consulting Inc.

This report examines options for future international efforts to help vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change both within and outside the climate framework. Options outlined in the report include stronger funding and action under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, mandatory climate risk assessments for multilateral development finance, and donor country support for climate "insurance" in vulnerable countries.

Press release

Download entire report (pdf)

Introduction

 

From its inception, the international climate effort has focused predominantly on mitigation—reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent dangerous climate change. The next stage of the international effort must deal squarely with adaptation—coping with those impacts that cannot be avoided. This is both a matter of need, as climate change is now underway, and a matter of equity, as its impacts fall disproportionately on those least able to bear them. It also may be a condition for further progress on mitigation. Indeed, substantial new mitigation commitments post-2012 may be politically feasible only if accompanied by stronger support for adaptation.

Ambitious mitigation efforts can lessen, but not prevent, future climate change. While steep reductions in emissions could stabilize atmospheric GHG concentrations at lower levels than under “business as usual,” they likely would be well above current, let alone pre-industrial, levels.2 With higher concentrations will come further rises in temperatures and sea level, changes in precipitation, and more extreme weather. The early impacts of climate change already are being felt worldwide.3 Future impacts will affect a broad array of human and natural systems, with consequences for human health, food and fiber production, water supplies, and many other areas vital to economic and social well being. While certain impacts may in the nearer term prove beneficial to some, in the long term, the effects will be largely detrimental.4

Anticipating and adapting to these impacts in order to minimize their human and environmental toll is a significant challenge for all nations. Meeting it requires action at multiple levels, from the local to the international, within both public and private spheres. This paper explores one critical dimension of this multifaceted challenge—how adaptation can be best promoted and facilitated through future multilateral efforts.

Among the many issues confronting governments, two are especially daunting. The first is equity and its relation to cost. Difficult questions of fairness suffuse the climate debate but are particularly stark in the case of adaptation: those most vulnerable to climate change are the ones least responsible for it. Stronger international adaptation efforts—whatever form they might take, and whether understood as assistance or as compensation—will be possible, let alone effective, only insofar as affluent countries are prepared to commit resources. This is a question not of policy design but, rather, of negotiation and political will. Second, reliable information and relevant experience are in short supply. Relative to mitigation, the adaptation challenge is much less well understood—needs as well as solutions. A high priority in the near term is strengthening the knowledge base with better data and modeling to refine projections of future impacts, and with early insights from the field on the most effective responses.

It is at the same time essential to begin considering how future international efforts can best be structured. This paper examines underlying issues and lays out an array of possibilities. To set the issue in context, it looks first at the history and evolving nature of human adaptation to climate. It then highlights key issues in the design of adaptation policy, and summarizes and assesses international adaptation efforts to date. Finally, the paper outlines three broad and potentially complementary approaches to future international efforts:

  • Adaptation Under the UNFCCC—Initiating new steps under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to facilitate comprehensive national adaptation strategies and to provide reliable assistance for high-priority implementation projects.
  • Integration with Development—Integrating adaptation across the full range of development-related assistance through measures such as mandatory climate risk assessments for projects financed with bilateral or multilateral support.
  • Climate “Insurance”—Committing stable funding for an international response fund or to support insurance-type approaches covering climate-related losses and promoting proactive adaptation in vulnerable countries.



1. This report was prepared initially as input to the Climate Dialogue at Pocantico convened by the PewCenterin 2004-5, and in its final form reflects contributions from the dialogue. The Pocantico dialogue brought together 25 senior policymakers and stakeholders from 15 countries to recommend options for advancing the international climate change effort beyond 2012. The group’s report is available at: /global-warming-in-depth/all_reports/climate_dialogue_at_ pocantico/index.cfm.

2. Metz et al. (2001).

3. Parmesan, C. and G. Yohe (2003); Root, T. L. et al. (2003); Stott et al. (2004).

4. McCarthy et al. (2001).

 

Elliot Diringer
Ian Burton
Joel Smith
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Climate Change Institute to Engage State Legislatures

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Pew Center on Global Climate Change hosts a conference on understanding climate change science and the status of relevant technologies.

Conference
November 29 - December 1, 2006
Wingspread Conference Center
33 East Four Mile Road
Racine, Wisconsin 53402

From November 29 to December 1, 2006, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, in collaboration with the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Johnson Foundation, hosted a climate change institute for state legislators. The conference covered many issues including understanding climate change science, the status of relevant technologies, and how other levels of government and various states across the country are responding to climate change. The conference offered attendees a chance to meet experts in fields related to climate change as well as colleagues who are considering climate change issues throughout the nation.

Presentations

November 29, 2006

Dinner Keynote Speaker

  • An Alaskan Perspective on Climate Change - Reggie Joule, State Representative, Alaska
November 30, 2006

Climate Change 101

  • Jerry Mahlman, Senior Research Associate, Institute for the Study of Society and the Environment and the National Center of Atmospheric Research

Technology Update

  • M. Granger Morgan, Professor and Department Head, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University (pdf)
  • Patrick Hughes, Building Technologies Integration Manager, Engineering Science and Technology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (pdf)
  • Sally Benson, Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (pdf)
  • Keith Paustian, Professor of Soil and Crop Sciences, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University (pdf)
  • David Greene, Corporate Fellow, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (pdf)

Business Perspectives

  • Lewis L. Falbo, Director, Worldwide Safetey, Health, and Environmental Operations, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. (pdf)
  • Barbara J. Swan, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Alliant Energy (pdf)

Keynote Speaker

  • A Wisconsin Perspective on Climate Change - Robert W. Wirch, State Senator, Wisconsin
December 1st, 2006

What Are Other Countries Doing?

  • Elliot Diringer, Director of International Strategies, Pew Center on Global Climate Change (pdf)
  • James Reilly, Senior Energy and Environment Advisor, British Embassy (pdf)

What Are Local Governments Doing?

  • Julie Rosenberg, State and Local Capacity Branch, United States Environmental Protection Agency (pdf)

Next Steps for States

  • Judi Greenwald, Director of Innovative Solutions, Pew Center on Global Climate Change (pdf)
  • Paul Pinsky, State Senator, Maryland
 

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.

Climate Change: The State of the Question and the Search for the Answer

CLIMATE CHANGE: THE STATE OF THE QUESTION AND THE SEARCH FOR THE ANSWER

SPEECH BY EILEEN CLAUSSEN, PRESIDENT, PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE

ST. JOHNS UNIVERSITY, October 5, 2006

 

Thank you very much. It is an honor to be here at St. John’s and to be a participant in your religion and science project.

I thought I would open today with a passage from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring:

The history of life on earth has been a history of interaction between living things and their surroundings. To a large extent, the physical form and the habits of the earth’s vegetation and its animal life have been molded by the environment. Considering the whole span of earthly time, the opposite effect, in which life actually modifies its surroundings, has been relatively slight. Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world.

That species, of course, is us. And alter it, we have. Which brings me to the somewhat cryptic title of my remarks, The State of the Question and the Search for the Answer.

You might well ask -- what is the State of the Question? It seemed fairly straightforward to me when I first sat down to prepare these remarks, but the more I thought about it – the more elusive the question became. After much pondering, I decided that perhaps this needed to be done somewhat in reverse – that in order to figure out the State of the Question, we actually needed to first ask and answer a series of preliminary questions that will lead us finally to the state of the question.

So let’s begin our search with questions about the science of climate change, the technologies that can be used to address the problem, and the policies that will help get those technologies into the marketplace. And let me provide some relatively easy answers. And then I can move on to what I view as the larger question and the search for that answer.

  • First, do we know enough about the science of climate change to justify taking action now?
  • Second, do we as a civilization possess the capacity, the tools and the technologies to address this issue in a meaningful way?
  • And, third, are there are public policies that will help us reach our goals in ways that will not cause undue hardship?

Is the Science Certain?

Starting with the science, the question is: do we know enough to act? And the answer is unequivocally yes. Every year (and even every month, it seems), the science on climate change becomes more certain and more disturbing.

Consider September. NASA released a study showing higher temperatures and a pronounced retreat of winter sea ice in the Arctic over the past two winters. This study has raised the level of concern because although for years, scientists have reported declines in summer sea ice, this is the first time a similar pattern has been shown happening in the dark of the Arctic winter, a new step in the progression toward an ice-free Arctic. September also produced a report in the journal Nature putting to rest any suggestion that long-term changes in solar output, or luminosity, might be influencing global temperatures and climate. This claim has long been put forward as a reason for inaction – it’s not human interference that is causing the earth to warm, it’s a natural phenomenon. Not so according to solar astronomer Peter Foukal, who together with his colleagues has found that the theory of sunspot-driven climate change has no veracity. The impact of sunspots on the climate are simply too small and too constant to account for the changes in temperature that we are seeing.

So the drumbeat continues. And what the drumbeat tells us in no uncertain terms is that climate change is happening. Scientists are increasingly concerned too that the impacts we are seeing are happening much sooner than expected. Global temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last century, with average warming of as much as 4 degrees in some regions.

And this warming trend has accelerated in recent years. The ten warmest years recorded have all occurred between 1995 and 2005. 2005 itself was the second hottest year on record, surpassed only by 1998, when El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean contributed to above-average temperatures worldwide. And the trend continues in 2006. For the United States at least, the first six months of this year were the warmest such period on record. No U.S. state was cooler than average for the six-month period; and five states experienced record warmth.

Scientists say these increases in global temperatures will continue and accelerate in the years ahead. The projection is that average global temperature will rise by two-and-a-half to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century, with the level of warming in the United States projected to be higherthan the global average.

We are often asked if the role of human interference in this warming is equally unequivocal, and the answer is also yes. The level of warming we have seen cannot be explained by natural causes. Scientists have established a clear connection between rising temperatures and rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, primarily from the burning of coal and oil. In fact, looking back 400,000 years, we can see that global temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels go up and down together as if in a dance; they are intimately connected.

In 2004, a researcher named Naomi Oreskes conducted a review of over 900 peer-reviewed journal articles to see if there was indeed a consensus among the scientific community on the role of human actions on the climate, and what she found was this: not one of the authors disagreed with the evidence showing a human impact on the climate over the last several decades. Not one. Her findings titled, Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change, were published in the Journal Science.

Last year the United States National Academy of Sciences joined a group of 10 other science academies from throughout the world in a statement calling for “prompt action” on global warming by world leaders. The statement could not have been more explicit about the connection between human activity and climate change. It stated: “Action taken now to reduce significantly the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will lessen the magnitude and rate of climate change.”

Of course, it is not just rising temperatures that concern scientists but rather what those temperatures will mean to life on earth. We are confident that we will see an increase in weather extremes – more droughts, more storms, and more floods; the melting of glaciers and global sea-ice and the inevitable rise in sea-level; water shortages; and species loss, to name just a few. I will be talking later in my remarks about the impacts of climate change. For now, I will simply say that the impacts of climate change on the natural world will continue to intensify, and will become more and more substantial over time. And it is frankly remarkable to me that people, especially in Washington, still suggest that more research is needed before we should seriously deal with climate change.

Do We Have the Capacity to Respond?

And so the logical next question is— do we have the capacity and the technologies to do something about this? And the answer again is: Yes. We do. We may not have them all but we most certainly have more than enough to get started in a very serious way.

Each of us make choices every day that can make a difference. The cars we drive, the way we choose to get to work, the lighting and the appliances we have in our homes, the companies we invest in, the letters we do or do not write to our Congress people and our local and national newspapers. Each of us has a voice and a choice. There are countless things we can do in our daily lives to limit our impact on the climate.

And I know we have the capacity to solve this problem in large part because of the companies I work with on this issue. When we established the Pew Center in 1998, we knew that corporate involvement in shaping climate solutions was going to be essential. This was a real departure at the time—there was a real wall of opposition in corporate circles to even acknowledging that climate change was a concern. This was part of a deep-seated almost ideological divide that existed between ‘corporate America and ‘environmentalists’ – you were either pro-environment or pro-business – but you weren’t both. But climate change is different- it’s bigger and more complex than other environmental issues we have dealt with. So we persevered—and, since engaging our original 13 companies to launch our Business Environmental Leadership Council, we have grown the group to 41 companies today. These are mostly Fortune 500 firms representing most industrial sectors and many are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

Thinking back to those original members of the council and why they joined, I have a deep respect for the way they took a stand on this issue and defied the prevailing sentiment in industry and business. I remember a conversation I had with a CEO of one of these very large companies and I asked him why he had agreed to join the Pew Center when it was clearly not going to win him friends amongst his contemporaries and he told me that it was time to think about his legacy, his children and his grandchildren. He believed the science of climate change and felt a responsibility to the next generation.

But these are business leaders and so they were thinking about something else too: they were thinking about the bottom line, and whether they had the ability in their own operations to reduce emissions. In other words, they didn’t buy the argument that responding to climate change in a serious way would somehow bankrupt our economy.

Is it a going to be a challenge? Of course. Protecting the climate will require a decades-long commitment to develop and deploy new, low-carbon technologies around the world. But the fact is that many technologies exist right now that will allow us to begin making substantial cuts in our emissions of greenhouse gases. And I want to talk briefly about some of the most promising technologies for reducing emissions in two key sectors of the economy: electricity and transportation.

Starting with electricity, this sector produces 38 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Most of the electricity generated by the sector is used in buildings—homes, offices and industrial facilities. It powers everything from heating and cooling systems to computers, lighting and machinery. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions related to electricity use will require far-reaching changes in how we produce and consume energy. But “far-reaching” is not the same as “impossible.”

One of the members of the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council is Alcoa. And, over the last 20 years, this company has reduced the electricity required to produce a ton of aluminum by 7.5 percent.

Another member, IBM, has instituted energy conservation measures that resulted in a savings of 12.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity between 1990 and 2002. The resulting reduction in carbon dioxide emissions: 7.8 million tons. And the resulting savings to the company’s bottom line: $729 million in reduced energy costs.

And since 1990, customer energy efficiency programs at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) have cumulatively saved more than 138 million megawatt hours of electricity. As a result, the company has avoided between 36 and 80 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Do we have the capacity to reduce emissions? You bet we do and these companies are showing us how. They are also showing that they can do it in ways that do not compromise economic growth.

Now, all of these examples I have talked about are on the demand side of the electricity sector. They are all focused on reducing consumption at the level of the electricity consumer. What about the supply side? Do we have the capacity and the technologies to do something there as well? And, once again, the answer is a resounding yes.

Right now, we have the ability to produce electric power and heat much more efficiently using both fossil fuels and renewable energy. We can build power plants that use a process called Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle (IGCC). IGCC delivers efficiency gains along with reductions in air pollution by converting coal into a cleaner-burning gas. But right now, there are only two true IGCC plants in operation in the United States.

We can also build combined heat-and-power (or cogeneration) plants. Rather than wasting excess heat generated in the course of producing electricity, these cogeneration plants capture it for use in heating homes and industrial sites. The ABB Group of Companies have built approximately 1,500 small cogeneration plants in Europe. These plants produce both electricity and steam to heat nearby buildings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent compared to coal-fired power plants. In the United States, however, cogeneration is nowhere near reaching its potential for delivering significant reductions in emissions.

And then there are renewable sources of energy. Large-scale renewable energy can be cost-competitive with other forms of conventional electricity in some cases. But renewables such as wind power, solar power and biomass still count for only a tiny share of overall electricity generation in the United States. The reason: today’s marketplace (and today’s public policy environment) favor traditional energy sources.

And then there are the technologies that show great potential in reducing emissions from power generation, but that require additional work. One example is underground storage (or sequestration) of carbon. In the IGCC power plants I mentioned, carbon can very easily be captured for long-term storage in underground geological formations. This is an enormously promising option for protecting the climate. In a nation that currently meets more that half of its electricity needs with coal, you would think we would be all over this, trying to figure out how to make sequestration work. But our efforts in this arena pale in comparison to the need. The Federal government is investing in one massive demonstration that will not be completed until 2018. What we need are multiple, smaller demonstrations that yield results more rapidly and that will affect investment decisions in the coal burning power plants that are being planned for construction over the next decade. All 130 of them.

Cars and trucks are responsible for 32 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions – but again significant reductions in these emissions can be achieved through the use of “off-the-shelf” or already existing technologies. One recent study found that commercial (and cost-effective) technologies exist right now to increase fuel economy and/or reduce tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 25 percent. Over the longer term, technologies like plug-in hybrid engines, biofuels made from agricultural products and hydrogen fuel cells promise even larger reductions.

This is not pie-in-the-sky stuff. We simply need to do our homework to develop and refine and test the full range of technologies—and, if they work, then provide the support they need to move from the laboratory to the marketplace.

Opponents of strong action to address climate change often focus on the economic costs of dealing with the issue. Yet if we look closely at the analyses they use to support their claims, we can see that the models are full of assumptions that defy reality, that the policies modeled are far more draconian than contemplated by any policymakers, and that the costs of not acting are not included. The bottom line is that, yes, significant investments are needed. And a technological revolution, which is what we need, will not be free. But addressing this issue in a reasonable and concerted way will not bankrupt our economy. Not addressing it just might.

U.S. insurance company AIG has warned of—and I quote—“far-reaching negative impacts on economies and societies worldwide” from climate change. According to the global insurance giant, Allianz, climate change already is increasing the potential for property damage at a rate of between 2 and 4 percent every year.

And it is not just about the benefits that will come with avoiding costs. Think for a moment about the economic opportunities tied to developing and deploying these new and emerging technologies I’ve talked about. GE has committed to doubling its investment in environmental technologies to $1.5 billion by 2010. That is the equivalent of starting a new Fortune 250 company focused exclusively on clean technology. This is what I call a win-win. GE sees the potential for real profits – green is green -- and I see the potential for real progress on the climate front.

If we do it right, protecting the climate could mean new industries, new markets and new jobs, as well as a new future for localities and states that successfully position themselves as centers of innovation and technology development for a low-carbon world. In many cases, however, the benefits and the opportunities tied to climate action simply are not a part of the conversation – and the result is added support for the myth that we can’t afford to do anything about this issue.

But the truth is that we can’t afford not to do this. We know what technologies will get us started on a path to reduced emissions, and we also know that there are promising technologies out there that can deliver substantial, long-term reductions as part of a global energy technology revolution.

Are There Policies That Can Help?

This brings us to the third question: do policy solutions exist that will prove effective without causing more harm than good. And the answer, again, is yes.

A revolution such as this simply will not happen without a push and a pull from government. And the fact is, we know what kind of policies will work to reduce emissions across the economy. Again, there is no question about this. And we also know what kind of policies won’t work. For example, while the White House and its allies continue to say that our current, voluntary climate policies are enough, U.S. emissions keep on rising. Last year, the Department of Energy reported a 2-percent jump in greenhouse gas emissions between 2003 and 2004. Since 1990, our emissions have increased by more than 16 percent.

Voluntary policies are not going to get the job done. Mandatory policies are clearly what we need. And so in 2005, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan measure calling for a national, mandatory, market-based program to slow, stop and, ultimately, reverse the growth in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Although the measure was nonbinding, it marked the first time the Senate has gone on record to support mandatory action on this issue.

Among the key climate policy solutions we know about is “cap-and-trade.” This is a policy that requires emissions reductions while allowing companies to trade emission credits so they can achieve their reductions as cost-effectively as possible. The most important benefit of this approach: it establishes a value for emissions reductions, as well as an economic advantage for the technologies that can achieve them.

The cap-and-trade model already has proven successful in this country in reducing emissions of the pollutants that cause acid rain. We know it can work. Cap-and-trade, in fact, is the cornerstone of climate legislation introduced by Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, and others, in both the Senate and the House have also introduced cap and trade legislation. In the state of California, where Governor Schwarzenegger

recently signed the most ambitious state program to address climate change, there is authorization to move forward with a cap and trade program. Many of the businesses we work with at the Pew Center support the cap-and-trade approach because it is effective—and because it will grant them the flexibility they need to achieve the necessary reductions at the lowest possible cost.

Here in New York, your governor is supporting a cap-and-trade initiative together with seven other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. It is called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or “RGGI”). This innovative pact among the states is aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the region. It’s the first cap-and-trade program to control these emissions in the United States—and it reflects a sophisticated understanding among these governors that mandatory, market-based policies are essential. It also reflects an acknowledgment that, when it comes to government action on climate change, the more parties that work together, the greater the efficiencies and the lower the costs. This is why the ultimate goal has to be a national cap-and-trade system that covers the entire U.S. economy.

But cap-and-trade is not the only policy solution to climate change. We need a wider range of policies. Governments also need to invest in research to develop some of the most critical, long-term, climate-friendly technologies. And policies are needed to ensure that those technologies that reduce emissions can gain a solid foothold in the marketplace.

Many of these policies are sector specific. I already talked about the transportation sector and its emissions. And it’s worth noting here that many governments around the world have adopted more stringent policies than the United States to reduce tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions and/or increase the fuel economy of cars and trucks. Even China has higher standards than we do. So, of course, it is clearly possible. Despite the automobile companies’ resistance, technologies exist to reduce emissions from this sector. And by adopting tougher but reasonable standards, we can hasten the rollout of cost-effective, commercially available technology to reduce vehicle emissions.

Typically, the state of California has been a national leader on this issue. Lawmakers in that state have taken steps to begin regulating carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks. It is a policy that 10 other states are poised to follow if it survives a legal challenge from the automakers. California’s standard for vehicles could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 30 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2020. And the reductions will build from there as other states follow California’s lead. And, once again, the work of California, like the work of New York and its partners here in the East, will build momentum for national action to reduce emissions from cars and trucks.

So that’s an important policy solution in the transportation sector. In the electricity sector, a policy that shows real promise for reducing emissions is something called the “renewable portfolio standard” (or RPS). As of today, 22 states, including such large emitters as Texas and California, now require that electric utilities generate a specified amount of electricity from renewable sources. These states see an RPS not only as a way to protect the climate but also as a way to support new energy industries and new jobs. The state of Texas, for example, estimates that the amount of renewable energy that has entered the system because of the state’s RPS exceeds the amount of renewable energy produced in the state over the past 100 years. By reducing fossil fuel generation, the Texas program should cut carbon dioxide emissions by 3.3 million tons. And this is a policy that was signed into law by none other than former Governor George W. Bush.

The work that states like Texas and California are doing on the climate issue could produce enough material for an entire lecture—and I encourage you to visit the Pew Center’s website so you can see our database of state activities and related reports. My point today is that these states know what types of policies will be needed to reduce our nation’s emissions—and a growing number of our lawmakers in Washington know it too. It is going to take mandatory, market-based policies, as well as policies that support research, development and deployment of new low-carbon energy technologies.

And it is also going to take international policies. This, too, is not in question. Climate change is a global problem requiring global action. Even if we were to get smarter about reducing the United States’ contribution to climate change, global energy use will continue to surge, carbon dioxide emissions will continue to grow, and climate change will remain a significant threat. We cannot protect the climate without a global framework that enlists all countries to do their part to reduce emissions, and that provides poorer countries with the support they need to do so. Because climate change is truly an issue that knows no bounds.

The Kyoto Protocol has been the focus of a lot of attention and a lot of discussion (and a lot of controversy) over the past several years. Kyoto, of course, is the international agreement that commits participating countries to specific targets for reducing their emissions. However, Kyoto’s targets take us only to 2012, and without commitments from the United States, Australia, China and other major emitters, it’s not nearly enough. What’s needed looking forward is a new global framework for action, one that engages all the major emitting countries and that provides them with the flexibility they need to reduce emissions in ways that make the most sense for them.

The Pew Center recently held a series of discussions with a range of policy makers, companies and NGOs from 15 countries to consider the elements of a global framework that looks beyond 2012. The participants laid out a number of clear priorities. For example, they strongly endorsed market-based approaches as a core element of the international effort, but they said we shouldn’t necessarily limit ourselves to Kyoto-style targets setting binding absolute caps on emissions. Most importantly, they understood that not every nation is the same; not every nation has the same emissions profile; not every nation has the same capability; and not every nation is in the same state of development. So we have to be flexible and we have to recognize that developing countries, who are still trying to supply their populations with basic services, including electricity, may have to make their contribution to solving this problem in a different way.

From this effort, and from the work we are continuing to do that will further flesh out this framework, it is clear that there are policies at the global level that can lay the groundwork for effective action. But the global discussion on future frameworks is only beginning – and the United States is not even at the table.

The Search for the Answer

So if I could briefly recap: The scientific integrity of climate change is solid – the earth is warming. This warming will likely manifest itself in ways that are detrimental to life as we know it. And human actions are largely to blame for the warming.

We have the capacity to solve this problem. Many of the technologies to combat global warming already exist. And importantly, we know that there are policies we can put in place that will unleash the kind of technological revolution we are going to need.

So now, after searching through some of the answers we arrive at the State of the Question. And it is this:

Given everything we know, why are we doing so little to address climate change?

And I believe the answer to this question leads us directly into the provinces of values and ethics, because it forces us to confront a still more fundamental question: what is our responsibility to others? What is our responsibility to our children and our grandchildren, and to their children and grandchildren? Do we leave them a world that is better or worse than the one we inherited? Of course most people, when asked, would insist that we should leave a world that is better than the world that we inherited. But if we do not grapple with this problem, if we do not adjust our behavior in an intelligent, measured way—we will neither protect our environment nor sustain a growing global economy. And the world we leave will be in far worse condition that the one we were born into.

The first thing we have to understand is that it is not we but future generations who will likely bear the brunt of the effects of climate change. And the brunt will be borne not by the wealthy but by the poor.

Consider for a moment some of the expected impacts of a changing climate: more flooding and more droughts; a scarcity of fresh water resources; extended heat waves; more powerful storms and other extreme weather events; rising sea levels; damage to fragile ecosystems; diminished agricultural yields; and threats to human health as communicable diseases now known mainly in the tropics will worsen and spread to temperate climates.

Consider only the issue of sea level rise. By the end of the century, if nothing is done to rein in emissions of greenhouse gases, global sea level may be three feet higher than it is today, bringing unforgiving impacts to low-lying coastal communities throughout the world.

And we know that these impacts will be borne disproportionately by those least able to cope. So why are we paralyzed?

An estimated 97 percent of all natural disaster-related deaths happen in developing countries. These countries need help doing two things: they need help with planning so that disasters do not inflict such an enormous toll on their societies; and they need help with investments in safe drinking water supplies, better sanitation, sustainable farming, safer housing, anything that can help their residents make it through these disasters and resume their lives, and livelihoods, without having to start all over.

In addition to a responsibility to future generations, we also have a responsibility to the poor, both today and tomorrow. In developed and developing nations, poor people do not have the resources to respond and adapt to climate change in the same way in which the rest of us can respond and adapt.

Think about what we saw last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We saw an American city, New Orleans, completely devastated, and we saw the city’s poorest residents suffering the most. I cannot categorically say that Katrina was caused by global warming, although scientists have observed that hurricanes are becoming more intense, and will continue to do so as ocean temperatures rise. What I can say, however, is that Katrina was a bitter taste of things to come. None other than the CEO of Wal-Mart, Lee Scott, has referred to climate change as “Katrina in slow motion.”

The disproportionate impact of Katrina on poor people should serve as a reminder to us all: people with resources can move and rebuild and start new lives in the event of hurricanes and other weather disasters brought about by climate change. Poor people, on the other hand, often have nowhere else to go, nowhere else to turn, no resources to make the kinds of changes in their lives that will protect them from this global problem.

What strikes you most when you look at the data on the impacts of climate change is that the most vulnerable countries are in the developing world. Africa, for example, is extremely susceptible to the impacts of climate change; in fact, the continent and its people already are showing signs of having trouble adapting to a warmer world.

Africa, of course, is not alone. Other parts of the developing world face similar threats. In Bangladesh, a one-meter rise in sea level would inundate 17 percent of the country. Even in areas that might be spared from flooding, the availability of freshwater will be threatened as saltwater intrudes into estuaries and groundwater.

Agriculture in developing countries will take a special hit. Wheat, for example, will virtually disappear as a crop in Africa; there will be substantial declines in Asia and South America as well. At a time when we are looking anew at debt forgiveness and other strategies for reducing disparities between rich and poor countries, it is essential that we consider the role of climate change in making those disparities even more pronounced.

And what of the developing countries whose very existence is threatened by climate change? I am talking here about small island states such as Tuvalu. This is a nine-island chain in the central Pacific that is home to 11,000 residents. On average, these islands are just one meter above sea level. As sea levels rise, these people will have to leave their homeland, becoming the world’s first climate refugees – but certainly not the last.

Now, if all of these countries I’ve talked about had in some way been largely responsible for climate change, that might be another matter. Maybe we would look at the issue a little differently, for example, if Africa had produced the lion’s share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions over time and now was being asked to suffer the consequences.

But Africa produces just 2 to 3 percent of worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases. The United States, by contrast, with just 5 percent of the global population, is responsible for more than 20 percent of worldwide emissions. And there is also the issue of cumulative emissions. The fact is that climate change is a problem that has been decades in the making as carbon dioxide and other gases have accumulated in the atmosphere over time. These gases have a long life and can remain in the atmosphere for decades or even centuries. And, in the span of the last century or so, it was the United States and other already developed countries that were producing the lion’s share of these emissions.

Looking only at carbon dioxide, the United States was responsible for more than 30 percent of global emissions between 1850 and 2000. The comparable figure for China: just 7 or 8 percent. Even considering the high rates of projected growth in China’s and India’s emissions, the cumulative contributions of developed and developing countries to climate change will not reach parity until sometime between 2030 and 2065.

Clearly all of the major emitting countries need to be a part of the solution to climate change. But saying that all of today’s big emitters should be equally responsible for reducing their emissions is like going to a restaurant and having a nice dinner and then running into a friend who joins you for coffee. And, when the check comes, you make your friend who only had the coffee split the cost of the entire dinner. Yes, developing countries need to do their part, but there is no denying that the developed world, including the United States, has a moral and ethical responsibility to act first.

We also have a responsibility to help developing nations adapt to a warming world. No matter what we do, some amount of global warming already is built into the climate system. There will be impacts; there already are impacts. And it is people living in poverty in the developing world who will face the most serious consequences.

So it really comes down, again, to a question of responsibility. What is our responsibility? And it is not just our responsibility to our fellow man (or woman). There is also our responsibility to the natural world, to the earth. Beyond human societies, the natural world also will suffer from the effects of climate change. In fact, we are already seeing changes in the natural world due to climate change. Coral reefs are at risk because of warmer and more acidic ocean waters. Polar bears are threatened by declines in sea ice. Species already are disappearing because of new diseases connected to climate change. In short, climate change holds the potential of inflicting severe damage on the ecosystems that support all life on earth.

So why, then, have we failed to take responsibility? Why has there been such an absence of political will?

As I consider the politics of climate change, I am drawn to two answers.

First, this is a problem that demands solutions and sacrifice now, even though its most serious consequences will be felt in the future. Our democratic political institutions are based on time horizons that correspond to political terms of two, four or six years. But climate change is a problem that, although we are beginning to see impacts now, reserves its most severe consequences for future decades and centuries.

For a member of Congress or a President to ask today’s voters to sacrifice in some way when the benefits are not immediately apparent (and, frankly, hard to conceive) is asking a lot. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask, but we need to understand the nature of our democratic political system. Any time a politician even suggests that there is a possibility that we should perhaps consider raising the gasoline tax, he or she is virtually guaranteed to be slammed by opponents in the next election. The pretext of the attack is that this politician is threatening our way of life.

It is now vs. the future. Today vs. tomorrow. And, more often than not, today is going to win. Our present generation enjoys the benefits of doing next to nothing to address climate change in the form of low energy costs, convenience and ample creature comforts. Even hinting that we may have to sacrifice some of those benefits for some elusive future gain does not win elections. Tomorrow does not win elections; today does.

The second answer revolves around money. In the same way that the voters of today benefit from the current system, so too do the influential interests that support today’s political campaigns and that have a strong lobbying presence in Washington and many state capitals. There is no National Association of Tomorrow’s People in Washington, but there are countless trade groups whose sole purpose is to make sure that our lawmakers’ decisions protect the ability of today’s industries and businesses to maximize current profits. Yes, many businesses have come around to recognizing the need for action to protect the climate, seeing it as assuring profits in the future. But the balance remains tilted in favor of the status quo. Today’s interests support political campaigns. Tomorrow’s interests do not.

And, in the same way that our national democratic systems are not well equipped to deal with a problem such as climate change, our international system is even more poorly equipped. We simply do not have mechanisms in place for mobilizing (and enforcing) international action on an issue such as this. And, given the potential for varying climate impacts in varying places around the world, some nations may erroneously think they will be better off as climate change continues, at least in relation to others. And, as a result, there are these varying levels of incentives, and varying levels of alarm, about the problem. And the result is an inability to reach consensus about a global approach.

And, it is because of the inadequacy of our political institutions (both domestic and international) to deal with an issue such as this that those with a vested interest in the status quo can prevail. All they have to do is raise questions about the science, the technology or the policies—and our institutions, which already are enormously challenged by this problem, simply back off.

James Freeman Clarke once said. “A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation.” Ladies and gentlemen – I believe it is time for statesmanship.

And while I am happy to discuss the shortcomings of many in leadership positions in this country – I don’t believe they bear the whole of the burden for their actions (or lack thereof). The public – you and I -- bear some of the responsibility. We have not clearly told our elected officials that we believe this is a vital issue – for today and tomorrow; that we are willing to change our energy habits and to make sacrifices if necessary. We have not made our voices heard.

And we must find a voice for those who do not have one – future generations, and people without means. For far too long, climate change has ranked near the bottom tier of environmental issues – but climate change at its core is not an environmental issue, it is a moral and ethical issue. I believe we will only see progress on this issue if and when our leaders finally see it that way.

While conducting some research to prepare for today, I reread the statement on climate change on the Catholic Bishop’s website and there was one part – attributed to Pope John Paul that I found beautiful in its’ simplicity – It says:

At its core, global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures. It is about the future of God's creation and the one human family. It is about protecting both "the human environment" and the natural environment.1 It is about our human stewardship of God's creation and our responsibility to those who come after us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “When we have arrived at the question, the answer is already near.”

So what is the question? I believe it is this: Why are we shirking our responsibility to address climate change? And Emerson was right: the answer is near. Because in arriving at this question, we are acknowledging that we should be doing more, much more, to protect our climate. We know what we need to do, and we know we can do it. We simply need to muster the courage and the political will to put the status quo behind us and shape a safer, better future for our planet and the generations to come.

Now, I will welcome your questions. Thank you very much.

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.

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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.

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

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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