Science

Forests & Global Climate Change

forestrycover

Forests & Global Climate Change: Potential Impacts on U.S. Forest Resources

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
February 2003

By:
Herman Shugart, University of Virginia
Roger Sedjo, Resources for the Future
Brent Sohngen, The Ohio State University

Press Release

Download Entire Report (pdf)

Foreword

Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Approximately one-third of U.S. lands are covered by forests, which makes forest ecosystems prominent natural resources that contribute to biodiversity, water quality, carbon storage, and recreation. Forests also play a significant role in the U.S. economy, and forestry or forestry-related enterprises are the dominant industries in many U.S. communities. Human-induced climate change over the next century is projected to change temperature and precipitation, factors that are critical to the distribution and abundance of tree species.

Forests and Global Climate Change is the ninth in a series of Pew Center reports examining the potential impacts of climate change on our environment and health. A previous report in this series addressed the risks to terrestrial ecosystems posed by climate change. This report details the likely ecological and economic impacts of climate change over the next century on the U.S. forestry sector. Key findings include:

Forest location, composition, and productivity will be altered by changes in temperature and precipitation. Climate change is virtually certain to drive the migration of tree species, resulting in changes in the geographic distribution of forest types and new combinations of species within forests. Generally, tree species are expected to shift northward or to higher altitudes. In addition, climate change is likely to alter forest productivity depending upon location, tree species, water availability, and the effects of carbon dioxide (CO2) fertilization.

Changes in forest disturbance regimes, such as fire or disease, could further affect the future of U.S. forests and the market for forest products. Increased temperatures could increase fire risk in areas that experience increased aridity, and climate change could promote the proliferation of diseases and pests that attack tree species. Such disturbances may be detrimental to forests themselves, but may have a lesser impact at the market level due to salvage operations that harvest timber from dying forests.

U.S. economic impacts will vary regionally. Overall, economic studies indicate that the net impacts of climate change on the forestry sector will be small, ranging from slightly negative to positive impacts; however, gains and losses will not be distributed evenly throughout the United States. The Southeast, which is currently a dominant region for forestry, is likely to experience net losses, as tree species migrate northward and tree productivity declines. Meanwhile, the North is likely to benefit from tree migration and longer growing seasons.

As a managed resource, the implications of climate change for the forestry sector are largely dependent upon the actions taken to adapt to climate change. The United States has vast forest resources and currently consumes less timber than grows within the country each year. If professional foresters take proactive measures to substitute thriving tree species for failing species, to relocate forestry industry to productive regions, and to salvage trees during dieback, the sector may minimize the negative economic consequences of climate change.

A number of challenges currently limit our understanding of the effects of climate change on forestry. Existing projections for future changes in temperature and precipitation span a broad range, making it difficult to predict the future climate that forests will experience, particularly at the regional level. The ecological models used to relate forest distribution and productivity to changes in climate introduce additional uncertainty. Thus, current projections could fail to accurately predict the actual long-term impacts of climate change on the forestry sector.

The authors and the Pew Center gratefully acknowledge the input of Ralph J. Alig, Linda Joyce, G. Cornelis van Kooten, and William H. Schlesinger on this report. The Center would also like to thank Joel Smith of Stratus Consulting for his assistance in the management of this Environmental Impacts Series.

Executive Summary

Climate change is expected to have far-reaching consequences for forests and, subsequently, timber production in the United States. Although studies have shown that forests have adapted to temperature increases of 2-3°C (3.6-5.4°F) in the past, these changes occurred over thousands of years. Current climate predictions suggest that average global mean temperatures could rise 1.5-5.8°C (2.7-10.4°F) over this century alone. Such rapid changes in a relatively short period of time could affect forests significantly. Understanding how climate change will affect future forests and markets, however, is a complex task. Ecological and economic processes are exceptionally complicated, and understanding how integrated ecological and economic systems will respond to changing climate conditions remains a challenge. In spite of a number of remaining uncertainties, this report describes the many important insights into this process discovered over the last 10-20 years of research.

This report explores the potential effects of climate change on both natural and managed forest ecosystems, which differ significantly in their potential responses to climate change. Managed forests, such as forest plantations, receive significant amounts of human intervention in the form of planting, thinning and other management activities. These interventions have the potential to ameliorate the adverse effects of climate change. However, large areas of forest are considered natural and receive minimal direct human management, and thus may be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. This duality within the forest sector makes it more difficult to state with precision what the overall economic impacts of climate change on forests will be. Further, the ecological changes caused by climate change could have large implications both for non-market attributes (e.g., biodiversity) and for other economic sectors associated with forests (e.g., recreation and water supply). The economic analysis in this report, however, focuses strictly on timber market impacts.

One of the most important ways that researchers discover clues about how forest ecosystems will respond to climate change is to explore the historical record for data regarding the impacts of past climate changes. This record indicates that individual tree species respond to warming either by changing their ranges or by increasing or decreasing their abundance. More recently, researchers have developed sophisticated models to explore how species distributions may change as climate changes. These changes could include increases or decreases in forest area, changes from one forest type to another, or movements of specific species from place to place.

In addition to species migration, it is important to consider how climate change could affect the productivity of forests (i.e., annual growth in forests). Existing studies show both positive and negative impacts on overall productivity, depending on the climate scenario. Further, some locations could experience higher productivity while others experience lower productivity. For example, forests in the southern United States are generally sensitive to the effects of drying, and productivity is more likely to decline there, while productivity is generally predicted to rise in the northern United States in response to low to moderate warming.

Understanding how productivity will change is complicated by an incomplete understanding of the effects of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations on plant growth and ecosystem processes (so-called “carbon fertilization”). Experimental evidence suggests that carbon fertilization is likely to increase individual tree growth. Some evidence also suggests that the CO2 effect makes trees use water more efficiently, thereby making them less vulnerable to drought. Other evidence, however, suggests that the effects of carbon fertilization decline as trees age and at wider spatial scales where forest losses from other processes become important. Unfortunately, most measurements have been made on individual trees in experimental conditions, and not on entire forest ecosystems. In natural forests, and even in managed industrial forests, enhanced growth in trees could be offset by increased natural mortality elsewhere in the system. This is certainly the case for plantation forests where foresters usually predict increased thinning with higher growth in well-stocked stands.

While more precise regional estimates will be made as climate models provide a fuller understanding of regional climate change, and as ecological impacts become clearer, the existing results suggest that timber production could shift northward. Although some shifting will occur throughout most U.S. forests, the shifts would be strongest if the area suitable for southern softwoods expands northward. Hence, southern forests and markets appear most susceptible to climate change, in part because southern species are sensitive to drying effects, and in part because northward migration would erode the comparative advantage for timber production currently enjoyed by southern producers. Southern forests are also the most important economically since they account for well over one-half of U.S. production.

Changes in the frequency and intensity of disturbances like forest fires, pest infestations, and windthrow (i.e., from large storm events) are likely to have large consequences for the structure of both natural and managed forests. Natural forests, in particular, will be heavily influenced by changes in disturbances. Because disturbance has long been an important issue in forest management, managers have a number of tools available for adapting industrial and other managed forests as conditions change. Large-scale disturbances, however, can have substantial effects on markets. For example, although disturbances can cause substantial forest dieback, such ecological damages have the potential to cause short-term increases in timber supply, depressing timber prices for consumers.

As with agriculture, forest landowners have many options for adapting to the types of changes likely to occur with climate change, such as by salvaging dead and dying timber and by shifting to species that are more productive under the new climatic conditions. The long time lags between planting and harvesting trees, however, complicate the decisions for landowners. Adaptation can also occur at the market level, such as changing the types of species used in producing end products. End products are made from a wider variety of species today than 30 years ago; such adaptations help protect the market from large-scale changes in supply.

The following summarizes the current understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on U.S. forests and timber markets over the next century:

1. Tree species generally are expected to migrate northward or to higher altitudes in response to increased temperatures. While species will adapt over time by moving from one region to another, differential rates of change may cause significant differences in the types of natural stands in the future. Rates will depend critically on (a) how fast seeds migrate into new regions that are climatically suitable for a species after a climate change, (b) changes in the spread of insects and disease, (c) the spread of wildfire in different climates, and (d) human interventions to promote species migration.

2. Forest productivity is expected to change, but the changes could be positive or negative. Forests could become more or less productive, depending on how much climate changes (including both temperature and precipitation), how forests respond to higher carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, whether mortality changes, and whether disturbance-induced dieback increases or decreases. Many of these factors are expected to vary from region to region, suggesting that economic impacts are likely to differ among regions in the United States.

3. The effect of additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on forested ecosystems (“carbon fertilization”) is complex and uncertain, but it has large implications for understanding how forest productivity will change. Most studies suggest that forest area and productivity will increase if carbon fertilization enhances forest growth, but will decline if carbon fertilization does not occur. Plant-level experiments suggest that carbon fertilization will enhance tree growth, at least for some period of time. Scaling these results up to the ecosystem level is complex, but available studies suggest that carbon fertilization will be limited by competition, disturbance, and nutrient limitations. It is important to continue developing a better understanding of carbon fertilization effects, particularly at the ecosystem scale.

4. Changes in the frequency and severity of forest disturbance, such as storm damage, fires, and pests are likely to affect forest structure and function. The impact on markets, while generally negative, can be ameliorated by salvage. At the market level, salvage associated with disturbances can increase timber supply and reduce prices in the short-term, which benefits consumers. However, increased disturbance and lower prices generally have negative effects on landowners.

5. United States timber markets have low susceptibility to climate change because of the large stock of existing forests, technological change in the timber industry, and the ability to adapt. The United States currently consumes less timber than grows within the country each year, providing a cushion if climate change has short-term impacts on supply. Further, companies already substitute a wide array of species in end products, so that if particular species are negatively affected by climate change, markets can adapt by changing the types of species used in the production of end products. In addition, landowners can assist natural migration of timber by planting southern species in the North.

6. Economic studies have tended to find small negative to positive overall effects on timber production in the United States. While the studies have looked at a wide range of potential climate change effects across species within the United States, the net productivity effects used by the studies have tended to be positive over the long-term. Higher forest productivity translates into increased timber yield, increased timber inventory, increased supply, and lower prices. Lower prices generate overall net benefits, although they primarily benefit consumers at the expense of landowners. Lower forest productivity has the opposite effect.

7. Northern states may gain from climate change if productivity increases and if southern species move north, while southern states may lose production. Producers in southern regions are the most vulnerable to climate change because they have a large share of the nation’s current timber production capital, and the highly productive species in that region are sensitive to potential drying effects. Northern states are generally predicted to gain productivity and market share during climate change.

8. Understanding the economic effects of climate change on timber production is limited by scientific understanding of several key factors that control the response of natural and managed forests to climate change. Additional research is needed to enable ecologists and foresters to develop a more robust understanding of future changes in U.S. climate, ecosystem responses to climate change, the relationship between forest productivity and timber yield, and adaptation options available to foresters. Future clarification of these uncertainties will permit more informed assessments of the economic impacts of climate change to the forestry sector.

Conclusions

Unlike other sectors, such as agriculture, that are almost exclusively comprised of managed systems, forests are comprised of both natural and managed systems. This makes it more difficult to state with precision what the overall economic impacts of climate change on forests will be. Further, understanding the impacts on forests and timber markets is difficult given the long time lags between the planting and harvesting of trees.

Despite the many practical problems with understanding climate change impacts on forested ecosystems and timber markets, the combination of historical observation, modeling results, and experimental data allows us to draw several conclusions. Future research will certainly revise these conclusions, but the following points summarize the most important findings in the research to date regarding the overall impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems and timber markets over the next century:

1. Tree species generally are expected to migrate northward or to higher altitudes in response to increased temperatures. While species will adapt over time by moving from one region to another, differential rates of change may cause significant differences in the types of natural stands in the future. Rates will depend critically on (a) how fast seeds migrate into new regions that are climatically suitable for a species after a climate change, (b) changes in the spread of insects and disease, (c) the spread of wildfire in different climates, and (d) human interventions to promote species migration.

2. Forest productivity is expected to change, but the changes could be positive or negative. Forests could become more or less productive, depending on how much climate changes (including both temperature and precipitation), how forests respond to higher carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, whether mortality changes, and whether disturbance-induced dieback increases or decreases. Many of these factors are expected to vary from region to region, suggesting that economic impacts are likely to differ among regions in the United States.

3. The effect of additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on forested ecosystems (“carbon fertilization”) is complex and uncertain, but it has large implications for understanding how forest productivity will change. Most studies suggest that forest area and productivity will increase if carbon fertilization enhances forest growth, but will decline if carbon fertilization does not occur. Plant level experiments suggest that carbon fertilization will enhance tree growth, at least for some period of time. Scaling these results up to the ecosystem level is complex, but available studies suggest that carbon fertilization will be limited by competition, disturbance, and nutrient limitations. It is important to continue developing a better understanding of carbon fertilization effects, particularly at the ecosystem scale.

4. Changes in the frequency and severity of forest disturbance, such as storm damage, fires, and pests are likely to affect forest structure and function. The impact on markets, while generally negative, can be ameliorated by salvage. At the market level, salvage associated with disturbances can increase timber supply and reduce prices in the short term, which benefits consumers. However, increased disturbance and lower prices generally have negative effects on landowners.

5. United States timber markets have low susceptibility to climate change because of the large stock of existing forests, technological change in the timber industry, and the ability to adapt. The United States currently consumes less timber than grows within the country each year, providing a cushion if climate change has short-term impacts on supply. Further, companies already substitute a wide array of species in end products, so that if particular species are negatively affected by climate change, markets can adapt by changing the types of species used in the production of end products. In addition, landowners can assist natural migration of timber by planting southern species in the North.

6. Economic studies have tended to find small negative to positive overall effects on timber production in the United States. While the studies have looked at a wide range of potential climate change effects across species within the United States, the net productivity effects used by the studies have tended to be positive over the long-term. Higher forest productivity translates into increased timber yield, increased timber inventory, increased supply, and lower prices. Lower prices generate overall net benefits, although they primarily benefit consumers at the expense of landowners. Lower forest productivity has the opposite effect.

7. Northern states may gain from climate change if productivity increases and if southern species move North, while southern states may lose production. Producers in southern regions are the most vulnerable to climate change because they have a large share of the nation’s current timber production capital, and the highly productive species in that region are sensitive to potential drying effects. Northern states are generally predicted to gain productivity and market share during climate change.

8. Understanding the economic effects of climate change on timber production is limited by scientific understanding of several key factors that control the response of natural and managed forests to climate change. Additional research is needed to enable ecologists and foresters to develop a more robust understanding of future changes in U.S. climate, ecosystem responses to climate change, the relationship between forest productivity and timber yield, and adaptation options available to foresters. Future clarification of these uncertainties will permit more informed assessments of the economic impacts of climate change to the forestry sector.

About the Authors

Dr. Herman H. Shugart
University of Virginia

Herman H. Shugart is the W.W. Corcoran Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. Prior to joining the University of Virginia in his current capacity in 1984, he worked for 13 years in Tennessee – eventually as a Senior Research Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and as a Professor in Botany at the Graduate Program in Ecology at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Shugart has also served as a Visiting Fellow in the Australian National University (1978-1979, 1993-1994), in Australia’s Commonwealth Industrial and Scientific Research Organization, Division of Land Use Research (1982) and Division of Wildlife and Ecology (1993-1994), in the International Meteorological Institute at the University of Stockholm, Sweden (1984), and in the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria (1987,1989).

Dr. Shugart has served on the editorial board of several scholarly journals including Ecology, Ecological Monographs, Annual Reviews in Ecology and Systematics, Biological Conservation, Landscape Ecology, Journal of Vegetation Science, Forest Science, Global Change Biology, and The Australian Journal of Botany. He is the author of 300 publications including 12 books, 65 book chapters and 114 papers in peer-reviewed journals. A recent book, Terrestrial Ecosystems in Changing Environments was published in 1998 by Cambridge University Press, which reviews the ecological issues of predicting responses to global and regional climatic change. Recent honors include his election, as a foreign member, to the Russian Academy of Sciences in recognition of his work in Forest Ecology (2001); his designation as the 1999 Distinguished Alumnus from his alma mater, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas; and his identification as a Highly Cited author (top 1/2 percentile of scientific citations) in the area of Ecology/Environment by the Institute for Scientific Information.

Dr. Shugart received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Zoology at the University of Arkansas and received his Ph.D. (also in Zoology) from the University of Georgia in 1971.

Roger A. Sedjo
Resources for the Future

Dr. Sedjo is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Forest Economics and Policy Program at Resources for the Future (RFF), a Washington based policy research organization, and the President of the Environmental Literacy Council (ELC), a nonprofit environmental education group. Dr. Sedjo has written extensively on forest and environmental issues, both domestic and international, having authored or edited fourteen books related to forestry, natural resources and the environment. His early work focused on timber supply and forest plantation issues, while more recent work is devoted more to the environmental aspects of forests.

Dr. Sedjo has served on a number of scientific panels and was a member of the Secretary of Agriculture’s Committee of Scientists, which made recommendations on Forest Service planning, and edited a recent book, A Vision for the US Forest Service (2000). He was a co-Chair of the chapter on “biological carbon sinks” in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Third Assessment Report (2001). He was also a contributor to two chapters in the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report (1995 ). Additionally, he has worked for the past several years with the Japanese Government in assessing their options toward meeting their carbon targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Recently, he has completed a study for the Department of Energy that resulted in the report, Estimating Carbon Supply Curves for Global Forests and Other Land Uses (with Brent Sohngen and Robert Mendelsohn). In addition, his recent papers on climate change have been featured in Bulletin of the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Journal of Agricultural and Resources Economics, and Environment Science and Policy.

Dr. Sedjo has been a consultant to a wide array of organizations including the World Bank, the Global Environmental Facility, the Asian Development Bank, U.S. Agency for International Development, the OECD, Harvard Institute for International Development and others. Dr. Sedjo earned his B.A. and M.S. degrees at the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. at the University of Washington (Seattle).

Dr. Brent L. Sohngen
The Ohio State University

Brent Sohngen is an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics at The Ohio State University. Prior to his appointment at Ohio State in 1996, he was a Gilbert White Postdoctoral Fellow at Resources For the Future in Washington, D.C.

His primary research interests lie in modeling land-use and land-cover change, examining impacts of climate change in the forestry sector, and the economics of nonpoint source pollution. Dr. Sohngen also leads an extension and outreach program in environmental and natural resource economics. The program focuses on linking research on natural resource and environmental economics to natural resource policy and management issues in the state of Ohio.

He obtained a bachelor’s degree from the Department of Agricultural Economics at Cornell University in 1991, and a doctorate from Yale University in 1996.

Brent Sohngen
Herman Shugart
Roger Sedjo
0

Press Release: New Report: Climate Change Poses Challenges for U.S. Forestry

For Immediate Release: 
February 26, 2003

Contact:  Katie Mandes
(703) 516-0606

NEW REPORT: Climate Change Poses Challenges for U.S. Forestry


Washington, DC - One-third of U.S. lands are covered by forests, making forest ecosystems one of the nation's most prominent natural resources. In addition to their contribution to biodiversity, water quality, and recreation, forests also play a significant role in the U.S. economy, and forestry or forestry-related enterprises are the dominant industries in many U.S. communities. According to a new study by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, the U.S. forestry sector will face a number of challenges in the next century due to the impacts of climate change.

The Pew Center report, Forests and Global Climate Change: Potential Impacts on U.S. Forest Resources, explores the challenges climate change will pose to forest ecosystems and related economic enterprises over the next century.

"Changes in forest productivity, the migration of tree species, and potential increases in wildfires and disease could cause substantial changes to U.S. forests," said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "Moreover, these ecological impacts will have direct implications for our economy. The timber industry in the southern United States is particularly vulnerable."

The key conclusions of the report include:


Forest location, composition, and productivity will be altered by changes in temperature and precipitation. Climate change is virtually certain to drive the migration of tree species, resulting in changes in the geographic distribution of forest types and new combinations of species within forests. In addition, climate change is likely to alter forest productivity depending upon location, tree species, water availability, and the effects of carbon dioxide (CO2) fertilization.


Changes in forest disturbance regimes, such as fire or disease, could further affect the future of U.S. forests and the market for forest products. Increased temperatures could increase fire risk in areas that experience increased aridity, and climate change could promote the proliferation of diseases and pests that attack tree species.


U.S. economic impacts will vary regionally. Overall, economic studies indicate that the net impacts of climate change on the forestry sector will be small, ranging from slightly negative to positive impacts; however, gains and losses will not be distributed evenly throughout the United States. The Southeast, which is currently a dominant region for forestry, is likely to experience net losses, as tree species migrate northward and tree productivity declines. Meanwhile, the North is likely to benefit from tree migration and longer growing seasons.


As a managed resource, the implications of climate change for the forestry sector are largely dependent upon the actions taken to adapt to climate change. The United States currently has vast forest resources, and more timber grows within the United States than is consumed each year. If professional foresters take proactive measures, the sector may minimize the negative economic consequences of climate change.


A number of challenges currently limit our understanding of the effects of climate change on forestry. Existing projections for future changes in temperature and precipitation span a broad range making it difficult to predict the future climate that forests will experience, particularly at the regional level. Thus, current projections could fail to accurately predict the actual long-term impacts of climate change for the forestry sector.

Part of "Impacts" Series

Forests and Global Climate Change: Potential Impacts on U.S. Forest Resources, was prepared for the Pew Center by Herman Shugart (University of Virginia), Roger Sedjo (Resources for the Future), and Brent Sohngen (The Ohio State University). It is the ninth in a series of Pew Center reports examining the potential impacts of climate change on the U.S. environment. Other Pew Center reports focus on domestic and international policy issues, climate change solutions, and the economics of climate change.

Click here for a complete copy of this report and previous Pew Center reports.

Climate Change: The Next 50 Years - One Decade at a Time

Climate Change:  The Next 50 Years - One Decade at a Time

Remarks of Eileen Claussen, President
Pew Center on Global Climate Change

SRI in the Rockies

October 18, 2002

Thank you very much and good morning. It is a pleasure to be here. I have to say that even the sound of SRI in the Rockies has an appealing ring to it. You can probably make just about anything sound better by adding those three little words: "In the Rockies." They're certainly more attractive than the three words I usually hear: "Inside the Beltway."

So I'd like to start by saying thank you to the conference organizers - not only for this wonderful setting, but also for the opportunity to speak with you about what I believe to be one of the most profound challenges of our time: the challenge of global climate change.

But I'd also like to say thank you to all of you. Because after many years of working to protect our environment, I've come to two very important realizations. First, you're better off working with the marketplace than against it. And second, positive change more often than not is the product of committed individuals who take the time to figure out what's right, and then act on it. Socially responsible investing blends those two realities into a very powerful force for change. And I can't tell you how pleased I am to be speaking to the SRI community about meeting the challenge of global warming. So again, thank you.

I'd like to cover a lot of ground today. I'll start with a quick overview of what science tells us about the risks and realities of global warming. Then I'll lay out in broad terms the challenge we face in the decades ahead if we are to avert the worst consequences of climate change. I'll highlight some of the efforts already underway to meet that challenge, both in government and in the business community. And finally, I'd like to talk about the critical role that all of you can and must play in getting more people and more companies to do the right and responsible thing.

So, as any informed discussion of climate change should, let's start with the science. In a word, it's compelling. There is overwhelming scientific consensus on three basic points: the earth is warming; this warming trend is likely to worsen; and human activity is largely to blame. Yes, you can find scientists who will argue otherwise. But these are the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which draws on the expertise of hundreds of climate scientists around the world. They are also the findings of a special, well-balanced panel put together by the National Academy of Sciences at the request of President Bush.

True, the earth's temperature has always fluctuated. But ordinarily these shifts occur over the course of centuries or millennia, not decades. The 1990s were the hottest decade of the entire millennium. The last five years were among the seven hottest on record. Scientists project that over the next century, the average global temperature will rise two to ten degrees Fahrenheit. A ten-degree increase would be the largest swing in global temperature since the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago.

What are the likely consequences? We can expect rising sea levels, increased flooding and increased drought& more powerful storms, extended heat waves, and other types of extreme weather events. In some communities, global warming is no longer a theoretical matter. The impacts are being felt right now. Just ask the people of Alaska, where roads are crumbling and homes are sagging as the permafrost begins to melt.

Increasingly, we will all feel the impacts in our pocketbooks and our portfolios. Earlier this month, the United Nations Environment Program released a report done in collaboration with some of the world's largest banks, insurers and investment companies. The report found that losses resulting from natural disasters appear to be doubling every 10 years and, if this trend continues, will amount to nearly $150 billion over the coming decade. This summer's wildfires here in the West and floods in central Europe are some of the latest examples. It's impossible to conclusively link any one of these disasters to the broader warming trend. But linked or not, these events give us a very real and very frightening preview of what's in store if the warming trend continues.

So what do we do about it? How do we protect ourselves, and future generations, from the rising risks of global warming? The short answer is that we must fundamentally transform the way we power our global economy. To keep our planet from overheating, we must dramatically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The primary source of these gases is the combustion of fossil fuels. So our goal over time must be to steadily reduce our reliance on coal and oil and to develop new sources of energy - clean energy.

Clearly, this is a tall order. In fact, it will take nothing short of a new industrial revolution. Some revolutions happen overnight. This one will take time. It takes time to develop and adopt new technologies. It takes time to turn over our capital stock. But we can't afford to let this revolution take too long - every day, our emissions of greenhouse gases grow larger. So the first step in this revolution might be setting a goal - a long-term goal. Allow me to propose one. I propose that within 50 years we have in place all the technologies we need to power our economy without endangering our climate. I think it's a reasonable goal, one we can reach - provided we start right now and keep at it, one decade at a time.

This 50-year climate revolution must reach across each of the major energy-producing and -consuming sectors of our economy. In the electricity sector, we must burn coal more efficiently, increase our use of natural gas -- and ultimately move to renewables like solar and wind. In transportation, we can dramatically improve fuel economy right now, but at the same time should be switching to hybrid engines and developing alternatives like hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that will make the internal combustion engine obsolete. In the building sector, we need to take advantage of all the smart designs available right now to make our homes, offices and stores far more energy efficient. And in the industrial sector, we need to redesign the entire chain of commerce -- from inputs, to production processes, to product mixes, to the reuse and recycling of both waste and the products themselves.

All told, these changes imply technological and economic transformation on an unprecedented scale. How do we start? Here are some of the things we can do in decade one to get this revolution underway.

We can start by requiring companies to track and disclose their greenhouse gas emissions. We can assure companies taking steps now to reduce their emissions that their efforts will be recognized in any future regulatory system. We can raise efficiency standards. We can make strategic public investments in promising technologies. We can encourage farmers and foresters to adopt practices that take carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soil, crops and trees. We can step up efforts to determine whether we can safely and permanently sequester carbon in geologic formations deep underground. And we can begin building an economy-wide system that sets mandatory targets for reducing emissions and uses market approaches like emissions trading to meet them at the lowest possible cost.

So that's the challenge - revolutionize the way we power our economy in 50 years, one decade at a time. Is there any evidence that we're stepping up to the challenge? Not enough, I'm afraid, but perhaps more than you think.

Let's look first at the international picture. After a decade of negotiations, we are on the verge of establishing the first international constraints on greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union and Japan have ratified the Kyoto Protocol and if, as promised, Russia follows suit, the treaty will enter into force next year. Kyoto is only a start - its targets are far short of the emission reductions that ultimately will be needed, and it doesn't address developing countries, where much of the emissions growth in the coming decades will occur. But Kyoto is an important start. It lays a foundation and it reflects the determination of the international community to face up to this challenge.

The United States, of course, has chosen to stand outside this international effort. President Bush has rejected Kyoto and offered up instead a domestic strategy that relies exclusively on voluntary action. The President's strategy sets a goal of reducing greenhouse gas intensity 18 percent by 2012. That might sound good, but it allows actual emissions to keep on growing. It is essentially business as usual. It effectively writes off decade one.

But if you look past the administration - if you look at what's happening elsewhere in Washington and across the country - the picture is a bit more encouraging. And that's in part because a funny thing happened on the way to Kyoto. Just as the President's rejection helped save the Protocol by rallying other nations to its defense, it elevated the issue here at home as well - both in the press, and in the political arena.

In Congress, members of both parties are more eager than ever to demonstrate their interest in climate protection. Nearly twice as many climate change bills were introduced in Congress over the past year as in the previous four years combined. One of the major sticking points in the stalled negotiations over an energy bill is a set of bipartisan climate provisions that would force the administration to start taking the issue seriously.

And in an interesting bipartisan pairing, Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain plan to introduce a bill this year setting a national cap on greenhouse gas emissions and allowing companies to buy and sell carbon credits. The bill is not likely to move anywhere fast, but it will help spark a long overdue debate on just how the United States will live up to its obligations as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

One thing that's interesting is that when you get outside Washington - when you're no longer inside the Beltway, that is - you find people moving right past debate to action. A growing number of states and communities are taking steps to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. At least 42 states have programs that, while not necessarily directed at climate change, are achieving real emission reductions. Texas and 13 other states require utilities to generate a share of their power from renewable sources. New York State's new energy plan sets a goal of reducing emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Some states are going beyond target-setting and establishing direct controls on carbon from power plants and - in the case of California - from cars and SUVs.

The message being sent by the states is that with or without Kyoto - and for that matter, with or without Washington - there is growing support in the United States for getting serious about climate change.

Increasingly, we are hearing the same message from the business community as well. Many companies are not waiting for government mandates - they're taking steps to reduce their emissions right now. At last count, we had identified more than 40 major companies that have publicly committed themselves to greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Let me share just a few examples. Alcoa is aiming to reduce its emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. DuPont is aiming for a 65 percent reduction. Toyota, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson& all have adopted targets for reducing emissions. Rohm and Haas, TransAlta, and BP have already achieved their targets and set new ones. BP, in fact, has cut emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels - eight years ahead of target - and now has pledged to keep them there at least until 2010.

The list of companies taking voluntary action keeps growing. Many are signing up with EPA's Climate Leaders program, which helps companies measure their emissions and begin to reduce them. Even Exxon-Mobil, a leading champion of the administration's business-as-usual strategy, recently ran ads touting its efforts to get a handle on its emissions.

These voluntary efforts are encouraging. They're to be commended. But they're not enough. The companies that are truly committed to tackling climate change know that we will never achieve the deep emission cuts we need unless everyone moves far enough, and fast enough, in the right direction. And that will happen only if the government requires it. That is why the companies we work with at the Pew Center recently called for the development of a comprehensive national climate strategy that is flexible and market-based but also has teeth - a strategy of mandatory, not voluntary, reductions.

And this leads me, finally, to your role in launching our 50-year climate revolution. I said earlier that I've learned it's better to work with the market than against it. In fact, I believe that ultimately only the market can mobilize the resources and the ingenuity needed to meet the challenge of climate change. The market, of course, will only deliver if there is a demand. That is why mandatory government policies are so critical. But the demand should not come from government alone. It should come from each of us as well - as consumers and as investors. And there, you are at the leading edge.

As socially responsible investors, you can help distinguish between the companies that are just painting themselves green, the companies that are actually cutting their emissions, and the companies that are going the next step and calling on government to mandate action by all. To do that, you need to need to know how a company is managing its carbon risk - what its emissions look like and what it's doing to reduce them. You need to know which companies are seizing the opportunities presented by climate change - which companies are looking ahead and investing now in the technologies we need in place 50 years from now. And you need to know which companies are pressing our elected leaders to do the right thing.

Increasingly, investors are demanding the information they need to make these assessments, and they're demanding corporate accountability on climate change. This year saw a record number of shareholder resolutions on climate change, and record support for them. Some drew votes of nearly 30 percent. In most cases, the resolutions were withdrawn when the companies agreed to enter into dialogue about their greenhouse gas emissions and their disclosure practices.

We talk a lot about the environment. But if you are a business, or an investor, or a fund manager, the environment within which you operate is the market. And the rules of the market will change. The climate, in essence, will stop being free. There will be a cost for emitting carbon. Those who understand that reality, and make the adjustment, will not only survive but thrive. Because in every change there is opportunity, and the rewards flow to those who seize them first. But those who ignore the realities and fail to adjust will pay the price.

You can help focus attention on these new realities - on both the risks and the opportunities. Keep impressing upon other investors, analysts, and companies themselves that climate change is a serious challenge that demands serious action. Tell them that if they want to be winners in the carbon-constrained world of the future, the time to start is now. Make sure CEOs understand that they ignore this issue at the peril of their companies and their shareholders -- not to mention, future generations.

Keep spreading the word because the market is both a harsh arbiter and the great mobilizer. And you are the market. 

Download Transcript (in Word format)

Coastal and Marine Ecosystems & Global Climate Change: Potential Effects on U.S. Resources

Download Report

Coastal and Marine Ecosystems & Global Climate Change: Potential Effects on U.S. Resources

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
August 2002

By:
Victor S. Kennedy, University of Maryland
Robert R. Twilley, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Joan A. Kleypas, National Center for Atmospheric Research
James H. Cowan, Jr., Louisiana State University
Steven R. Hare, International Pacific Halibut Commission

Press Release

Download Entire Report (pdf)

Foreword

Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

The world’s oceans cover approximately 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, indicating their importance to the global environment. In addition to having a large influence on global heat transport and precipitation, the oceans are comprised of diverse habitats that support a wealth of marine wildlife. They also provide humans with a wide variety of goods and services including foods, recreational opportunities, and transportation corridors. Based upon current scientific evidence, emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are projected to cause significant global climate change during the 21st century. Such climate change will create novel challenges for coastal and marine ecosystems that are already stressed from human development, land-use change, environmental pollution, and over-fishing.

“Coastal and Marine Ecosystems & Global Climate Change” is the eighth in a series of Pew Center reports examining the potential impacts of climate change on the U.S. environment. It details the likely impacts of climate change over the next century on U.S. coastal and marine ecosystems, including estuaries, coral reefs, and the open ocean. Report authors, Drs. Victor Kennedy, Robert Twilley, Joan Klepas, James Cowan, Jr., and Steven Hare find:

Temperature changes in coastal and marine ecosystems will influence organism metabolism and alter ecological processes such as productivity and species interactions. Species are adapted to specific ranges of environmental temperature. As temperatures change, species’ geographic distributions will expand or contract, creating new combinations of species that will interact in unpredictable ways. Species that are unable to migrate or compete with other species for resources may face local or global extinction.

Changes in precipitation and sea-level rise will have important consequences for the water balance of coastal ecosystems. Increases or decreases in precipitation and runoff may respectively increase the risk of coastal flooding or drought. Meanwhile, sea-level rise will gradually inundate coastal lands. Coastal wetlands may migrate inland with rising sea levels, but only if they are not obstructed by human development.

Climate change is likely to alter patterns of wind and water circulation in the ocean environment. Such changes may influence the vertical movement of ocean waters (i.e., upwelling and downwelling), increasing or decreasing the availability of essential nutrients and oxygen to marine organisms. Changes in ocean circulation patterns can also cause substantial changes in regional ocean and land temperatures and the geographic distributions of marine species.

Critical coastal ecosystems such as wetlands, estuaries, and coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Such ecosystems are among the most biologically productive environments in the world. Their existence at the interface between the terrestrial and marine environment exposes them to a wide variety of human and natural stressors. The added burden of climate change may further degrade these valuable ecosystems, threatening their ecological sustainability and the flow of goods and services they provide to human populations.

The authors and the Pew Center gratefully acknowledge the input of Drs. Richard Beamish, Michael Fogarty, and Nancy Rabalais on this report. The authors would also like to thank Andrea Belgrano, Jay Blundon, Lou Codispoti, Victoria Coles, Raleigh Hood, Richard Kraus, Thomas Malone, Ray Najjar, Roger Newell, Michael Pace, Frieda Taub, and Peter Vogt for comments on early drafts. The Pew Center would also like to thank Joel Smith of Stratus Consulting for his assistance in the management of this Environmental Impacts Series.

Executive Summary

Since life began on earth, changes in the global climate have affected the distribution of organisms as well as their interactions. However, human-induced increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are expected to cause much more rapid changes in the earth’s climate than have been experienced for millennia. If this happens, such high rates of change will probably result in local if not total extinction of some species, the alteration of species distributions in ways that may lead to major changes in their interactions with other species, and modifications in the flow of energy and cycling of materials within ecosystems.

The predicted changes may have a significant effect on coastal ecosystems, especially estuaries and coral reefs, which are relatively shallow and currently under stress because of human population growth and coastal developments. Significant environmental factors that affect the structure (e.g., plant and animal composition) and function (e.g., plant and animal production, nutrient cycling) of estuarine and marine systems and that are expected to be part of global climate change include temperature, sea-level rise, the availability of water and associated nutrients from precipitation and runoff from land, wind patterns, and storminess. Temperature, in particular, influences organism biology, affects dissolved oxygen concentrations in water, and plays a direct role in sea-level rise and in major patterns of coastal and oceanic circulation.

Predictions of the effects of climate change on coastal and marine ecosystems are associated with varying degrees of confidence. There is some confidence in predictions of how increases in temperature will affect plant and animal physiology, abundances, and distributions; aquatic oxygen concentrations; and sea level. There is also some confidence in predictions of the effects of sea-level rise on shallow continental margins, including flooding of wetlands, shoreline erosion, and enhanced storm surges. There is less confidence regarding temperature’s influence on interactions among organisms, and even less as to its effects on water circulation patterns. It is also difficult to predict the effects of climate change on precipitation, wind patterns, and the frequency and intensity of storms.

Many species are sensitive to temperatures just a few degrees higher than those they usually experience in nature. A rise in temperature as small as 1oC could have important and rapid effects on mortality of some organisms and on their geographic distributions. Given that temperature increases in the coming century are predicted to exceed 1oC, the major biological change resulting from higher temperatures in U.S. coastal waters may be altered distributions of coastal organisms along the east and west coasts. The geographic ranges of heat-tolerant species such as commercial shrimp on the East Coast may expand northward, while the southern range boundaries of heat-intolerant organisms such as soft clams and winter flounder may retreat northward. The more mobile species should be able to adjust their ranges over time, but less mobile species may not. Such distributional changes would result in varying and novel mixes of organisms in a region, leaving species to adjust to new predators, prey, parasites, diseases, and competitors. Some species would flourish and others would not, and we have no way of predicting at present which species would prevail. Fisheries would also be affected as some species are lost from a region or as others arrive. Warmer conditions would support faster growth or a longer growing season for aquacultured species, but might become too warm for some species in a particular region, requiring a change in the species being cultured.

Because water expands and glaciers melt as temperatures warm, higher temperatures would raise sea levels, inundating coastal lands and eroding susceptible shores. In salt marsh and mangrove habitats, rapid sea-level rise would submerge land, waterlog soils, and cause plant death from salt stress. If sediment inputs were limited or prevented by the presence of flood-control, navigational, or other anthropogenic structures, marshes and mangroves might be starved for sediment, submerged, and lost. These plant systems can move inland on undeveloped coasts as sea levels rise on sedimentary shores with relatively gentle slopes, but seaside development by humans would prevent inland migration. Marshes and mangroves are critical contributors to the biological productivity of coastal systems and function as nurseries and as refuges from predators for many species. Thus their depletion or loss would affect nutrient flux, energy flow, essential habitat for a multitude of species, and biodiversity. Some organisms might thrive (e.g., shrimp, menhaden, dabbling ducks, some shorebirds), at least over the short term as marshes break up and release nutrients or become soft-bottom habitat. Other organisms would be lost from affected areas if their feeding or nesting grounds disappeared and they could not use alternative habitats (e.g., Black and Clapper Rails, some terns and plovers).

Climate change may decrease or increase precipitation, thereby altering coastal and estuarine ecosystems. Decreased precipitation and delivery of fresh water alters food webs in estuaries and affects the amount of time required to flush nutrients and contaminants from the system. Although reduced river flow would decrease nutrient input in estuaries with relatively uncontaminated watersheds, there could be different effects in polluted watersheds that contain point sources of nutrients and contaminants that are not a function of river flow. The combined effects of human development and reduced river flow would degrade water quality conditions, negatively affecting fisheries and human health through such changes as increased presence of harmful algal blooms and accumulation of contaminants in animals and plants. Increased rainfall and resultant freshwater runoff into an estuary would increase stratification of the water column, leading to depleted oxygen concentrations in estuaries with excess nutrients. It would also change the pattern of freshwater runoff in coastal plain watersheds, such as along the southern Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. In those regions where water resources are managed by humans, the effects of increased flooding would depend on how managers controlled regional hydrology.

Wind speed and direction influence production of fish and invertebrate species, such as in regions of upwelling along the U.S. West Coast. If upwelling is slowed by changes in wind and temperature, phytoplankton production could be lowered. Where upwelling increases as a result of climate change, productivity should also increase. In some coastal regions, alongshore wind stress and buoyancy-driven density differences help produce water movements that transport larval fish and invertebrates to nurseries, such as in estuaries. Climate-related changes in these circulation patterns that hinder such transport might alter the species composition of coastal ecosystems.

Increases in the severity of coastal storms and storm surges would have serious implications for the well-being of fishery and aquaculture industries, as has been demonstrated by the effects of recent intense hurricanes along the U.S. East Coast. Most ecosystems can recover rapidly from hurricanes, but the anthropogenic alteration of coastal habitats may increase the ecological damage associated with more severe storms.

The immense area and the modest extent of our knowledge of the open ocean hamper predictions of how ocean systems will respond to climate change. Nevertheless, it is clear that increased temperature or freshwater input to the upper layers of the ocean results in increased density stratification, which affects ocean productivity. Coupled physical/biogeochemical models predict a net decrease (~5 percent) in global productivity if atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) reach a doubling of pre-industrial levels, increasing oceanic thermal stratification and reducing nutrient upwelling. Because productivity varies regionally, simple extrapolation to particular U.S. marine waters is difficult, although some high-latitude areas might benefit from warmer temperatures that lengthen the growing season. Open ocean productivity is also affected by natural interannual climate variability associated with large-scale climate phenomena such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Climate-driven changes in the intensity or timing of any of these phenomena could lead to marked changes in water column mixing and stratification and, ultimately, a reorganization of the ecosystems involved, for better or worse.

Increased CO2 concentrations lower ocean pH, which in turn changes ocean carbonate chemistry. This may have negative effects on the myriad planktonic organisms that use calcium carbonate to build their skeletons. Some of these organisms appear to play important roles in ocean-atmosphere interactions, but we cannot yet predict any effects that might arise from their diminishment.

Finally, coral reefs, which are already threatened by multiple stressors such as abusive fishing practices, pollution, increased disease outbreaks, and invasive species, would also be at risk from changes in seawater chemistry, temperature increase, and sea-level rise. Lower ocean pH and changed carbonate chemistry would decrease the calcification necessary for building coral reef material. Increased warming would lead to coral bleaching, the breakdown in the symbiotic relationship between the coral animal and the unicellular algae (zooxanthellae) that live within coral tissues and allow corals to thrive in nutrient-poor waters and to secrete massive calcium carbonate accumulations. If sea levels were to rise at a pace faster than corals could build their reefs upward, eventually light conditions would be too low for the zooxanthellae to continue photosynthesis. On reefs near low-lying coastal areas, sea-level rise would likely increase coastal erosion rates, thus degrading water quality and reducing light penetration necessary for photosynthesis and increasing sedimentation that smothers and stresses coral animals. Losses of coral reefs would mean losses in the high biodiversity of these systems as well as the fisheries and recreational opportunities they provide.

About the Authors

Dr. Victor S. Kennedy
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Dr. Kennedy is a marine ecologist who has spent over 30 years working as a research scientist on the ecology and physiology of aquatic animals. His early training included studying the effects of temperature on survival and physiology of estuarine species. His research in the 1960s helped convince the State of Maryland to revise its regulations governing discharge of heated water from power plants and other industrial facilities into Chesapeake Bay. Beginning in 1989, he used his experience with the effects of temperature on aquatic organisms to write papers and make presentations at scientific meetings on the possible effects of climate change. He is a co-author of the recent assessment for the mid-Atlantic coastal region that appeared in Climate Research and is the lead author of the Center's report, "Coastal and Marine Systems and Global Climate Change."

Dr. Kennedy is a Professor at the Horn Point Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, where he performs research, directs the Multiscale Experimental Ecosystem Research Center, and teaches graduate students. In addition to his research activities in Chesapeake Bay, he has worked as a marine ecologist in the coastal waters of New Zealand and in the coastal and offshore waters of Newfoundland, Canada. He has had extensive experience as a science editor, spending five years as the Editor of the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, as well as editing or co-editing six technical books. He served as president of two scientific organizations.

Dr. Robert R. Twilley
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Dr. Twilley is the Director for Ecology and Environmental Technology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dr. Twilley received his B.S. and M.S. (Biology) from East Carolina University, and his Ph.D. (Botany/Systems Ecology) from the University of Florida, after which he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in coastal oceanography at the University of Maryland. His research interests include ecosystem ecology, estuarine and coastal ecosystems; biogeochemistry of mangroves and tropical estuarine ecosystems; and ecosystem management and restoration of coastal regions. Among his various professional activities, Dr. Twilley currently serves on the editorial boards for Mangroves and Salt Marches and Environmental Science and Policy, and he previously served as a guest editor for Ecology and as an associate editor for Estuaries. Dr. Twilley is an active member in several professional societies including the Ecological Society of America, Estuarine Research Federation, Society of Wetland Science, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for the Society of Wetland Scientists (1993-97), Dr. Twilley has contributed to 71 publications and received a Distinguished Professor award for the 1999-00 academic year at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Joan A. Kleypas
National Center for Atmospheric Research

Joan Kleypas specializes in examining how environmental factors control coral reef development at the global scale. She has a bachelor's degree in Marine Biology (Lamar Univ., Texas), and a master's in Marine Ecology (Univ. of South Carolina). She obtained a Ph.D. from James Cook University, as a Fulbright scholar to Australia, where she conducted a reef coring program to examine the causes for differences in coral reef development in the southern Great Barrier Reef. From there she moved to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Boulder, Colorado, to examine not only how climate affects coral reefs, but also how coral reefs affect climate. Much of this work entailed modeling reef response to sea level and temperature changes since the last ice age. She is currently involved with issues relating to the direct effects of increasing atmospheric CO2 on coral reefs; i.e., how CO2-induced changes in seawater chemistry affect the rates at which reef-building coral and algae secrete their calcium carbonate skeletons. She continues to work at NCAR as an Associate Scientist with Scott Doney, in the broad field of ocean biogeochemistry and its role in the global carbon cycle. Dr. Kleypas has also taught numerous courses in geology, oceanography, and global change as a visiting professor at Colorado College.

Dr. James H. Cowan, Jr.
Louisiana State University

James H. Cowan, Jr. is a Professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences and the Coastal Fisheries Institute at the Louisiana State University. He received B.Sc. (Biology) and M.Sc. (Biological Oceanography) degrees from Old Dominion University, and M.Sc. (Experimental Statistics) and Ph.D. (Marine Sciences) degrees from the Louisiana State University. Among many other professional activities, he has thrice served on National Research Council study committees and technical review panels concerning fisheries issues, has twice served on the Ocean Sciences Division, Biological Oceanography Review Panel for the National Science Foundation, and has served as a U.S. delegate both to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the Pacific Marine Sciences Organization (PICES). He currently is Chairman of the Reef Fish Stock Assessment Panel and a member of the Standing Scientific and Statistical Committee for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. He has served as President of the Early Life History Section, and on the Outstanding Chapter Award and Distinguished Service Award committees for the American Fisheries Society. He has almost 20 years of experience conducting fisheries research in marine and estuarine ecosystems, has authored more than 75 refereed publications in the primary fisheries literature, served four years as an associate editor for Estuaries, the journal of the Estuarine Research Federation, for 6 years as an associate editor for Gulf of Mexico Science, and currently is an associate editor for Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.

Dr. Steven R. Hare
International Pacific Halibut Commission

Dr. Steven Hare is a quantitative biologist with the International Pacific Halibut Commission in Seattle, Washington. His principal duties are to assess the status of the Pacific halibut resource, determine a sustainable harvest level and conduct life history investigations. Dr. Hare obtained his B.S. in Engineering at the University of Michigan and both his M.S. and Ph.D. at the University of Washington in Fisheries Science. His main area of research is fisheries oceanography, in particular the organizing influence of climate on marine resources of the North Pacific. Dr. Hare is a co-discoverer, and was responsible for naming, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, an important mode of Pacific climate variability. In his 20 years as a fisheries biologist, Dr. Hare has worked for the University of Washington and National Marine Fisheries Service. He has also spent considerable time working overseas with stints in Oman and Guinea-Bissau and a tour of duty in the Peace Corps in the Solomon Islands.

James H. Cowan, Jr.
Joan A. Kleypas
Robert R. Twilley
Steven R. Hare
Victor S. Kennedy
0

Press Release: New Report: Climate Change Threatens the Future of Marine Ecosystems

For Immediate Release:  
August 14, 2002

Contact: Katie Mandes
703-516-4146

New Report: Climate Change Threatens the Future of Marine Ecosystems

Washington, DC - Comprising nearly 70 percent of the Earth's surface, the world's oceans not only play a crucial role in influencing the global climate, but also harbor some of the most diverse and important ecosystems on the globe, both ecologically and economically. According to a new study by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, U.S. coastal and marine ecosystems will become increasingly challenged in the next century by the potential impacts of climate change.

"Climate change could likely be the 'sleeper issue' that pushes our already stressed and fragile coastal and marine ecosystems over the edge," said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "Particularly vulnerable are coastal and shallow water areas already stressed by human activity, such as estuaries and coral reefs. The situation is analogous to that faced by a human whose immune system is compromised and who may succumb to a disease that would not threaten a healthy person."

Based on current projections for climate change in the next century, The Pew Center report, Coastal and Marine Ecosystems and Global Climate Change: Potential Effects on U.S. Resources, explores the hazards climate change will pose to delicate marine life. The key conclusions of the report include:

  • Temperature changes in coastal and marine ecosystems will influence organism metabolism and alter ecological processes such as productivity and species interactions. Species are adapted to specific ranges of environmental temperature. As temperatures change, species' geographic distributions will expand or contract, creating new combinations of species that will interact in unpredictable ways. Species that are unable to migrate or compete with other species for resources may face local or global extinction.
  • Changes in precipitation and sea-level rise will have far-reaching consequences for the water balance of coastal ecosystems. Increases or decreases in precipitation and runoff will respectively increase the risk of coastal flooding or drought. Meanwhile, sea-level rise will gradually inundate coastal lands. Coastal wetlands may migrate inland with rising sea levels, but only if they are not obstructed by human development.
  • Climate change is likely to alter patterns of wind and water circulation in the ocean environment. Such changes may influence the vertical movement of ocean waters (i.e., upwelling and downwelling), increasing or decreasing the availability of essential nutrients and oxygen to marine organisms. Changes in ocean circulation patterns can also cause substantial changes in regional ocean and land temperatures and the geographic distributions of marine species.
  • Critical coastal ecosystems such as wetlands, estuaries, and coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Such ecosystems are among the most biologically productive environments in the world. Their existence at the interface between the terrestrial and marine environment exposes them to a wide variety of human and natural stressors. The added burden of climate change may further degrade these valuable ecosystems, threatening their ecological sustainability and the flow of goods and services they provide to human populations.

" It is increasingly apparent that the United States needs a strategy to address the very real threat of climate change. The longer we wait, the graver the risks - and the cost of averting them," said the Pew Center's Eileen Claussen.

Part of "Environmental Impacts" Series

Coastal and Marine Ecosystems and Global Climate Change: Potential Effects on U.S. Resources was prepared for the Pew Center by Victor S. Kennedy (University of Maryland), Robert R. Twilley (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Joan A. Kleypas (National Center for Atmospheric Research), James H. Cowan, Jr. (Louisiana State University), and Steven R. Hare (International Pacific Halibut Commission). It is the eighth in a series of Pew Center reports examining the potential impacts of climate change on the U.S. environment. Other Pew Center reports focus on domestic and international policy issues, climate change solutions, and the economics of climate change.

A complete copy of this report and other Pew Center reports can be accessed from the Pew Center's web site, www.c2es.org/global-warming-in-depth/policy/reports/.

###



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.

Climate Change: Myths and Realities

Climate Change: Myths and Realities
Remarks of Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Emissions Reductions: Main Street to Wall Street
"The Climate in North America"
New York, New York
July 17, 2002
Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here. I'd like to congratulate Swiss Re for its vision and initiative in pulling this conference together and I'd like to say how delighted I am that the Pew Center has been able to collaborate with you in shaping this wonderful program. And it's a great venue. Some of you, I imagine, have been visiting this museum since you were kids. And if you were like most kids, what probably impressed you was the dinosaurs. When I knew I'd be coming here to talk about climate change, I couldn't help but recall a very funny "Far Side" cartoon I'd seen once. A dinosaur is standing at a lectern before a group of other dinosaurs. And he says: "The picture's pretty bleak, gentlemen. The world's climates are changing, the mammals are taking over, and we all have a brain about the size of a walnut."

Now I don't know if it was climate change, a giant meteor, or puny brains that drove the dinosaurs to extinction - or maybe all three. But whatever the scientists ultimately decide, I think it really all boils down to this: the dinosaurs disappeared from the face of the earth because they couldn't adjust to new realities. And that lesson applies quite aptly, I think, to our topic today - the challenge of global climate change. I don't mean to imply that we are in imminent danger of being wiped off the face of the earth - at least, not on account of global warming. But climate change does confront us with profound new realities. We face these new realities as a nation, as members of the world community, as consumers, as producers, and as investors. And unless we do a better job of adjusting to these new realities, we will pay a heavy price. We may not suffer the fate of the dinosaurs. But there will be a toll on our environment and on our economy, and the toll will rise higher with each new generation.

What I'd like to do this morning is lay out some of the new realities thrust upon us by global warming. And I'd like to do that in part by examining - and, I hope, dispelling - some common myths about global warming. These are persistent myths, and I believe they are persistent for two reasons: first, because some people, including some people of influence, would rather deny the realities than face up to them; and second, because there are some modern-day dinosaurs who are not prepared to evolve. These relics thrived under the old realities, and they think the key to their survival is persuading us that these old realities still hold. Instead, I think, they are hastening their own extinction.

Before taking up some of these myths one by one, let me share with you a brief example. It comes from the Wall Street Journal. I have to say that on its news pages the Journal does a very good job with this issue. Its reporting on climate change is fair and it's insightful. But when it comes to the editorial page, I am afraid the Journal has distinguished itself as one of the most persistent and most powerful purveyors of climate change mythology. My example comes from an editorial that ran last July. It takes the form of a question. "Why," the Journal asks, "Why require the nations of this planet to spend the hundreds of billions of dollars necessary to reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions when we don't even know if the earth's climate is getting permanently hotter or if that temperature change is caused by human activity or if that change is even dangerous?" Before reading this, I didn't know it was possible to squeeze so many myths into a single sentence.

So allow me to begin unpacking them. Our first myth: We don't really know if the climate is changing or, if so, why. Here's the reality: there is overwhelming scientific consensus that the earth is warming, that this warming trend will worsen, and that human activity is largely to blame. Certainly you can find scientists who will argue otherwise. But these are the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. body that draws on the expertise of hundreds of climate scientists around the world. President Bush was among those who doubted the science, so he asked the National Academy of Sciences to undertake a special review. The NAS established a very well balanced panel, including some well-known skeptical scientists, and then came back with the very same conclusions: the planet is warming and we are largely responsible.

How significant is this warming? The earth's temperature has always fluctuated, but ordinarily these shifts occur over the course of centuries or millennia, not decades. The 1990s were the hottest decade of the entire millennium. The last five years were among the seven hottest on record. Scientists project that over the next century average global temperature will rise two to ten degrees Fahrenheit. A ten-degree increase would be the largest swing in global temperature since the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago. In some communities, this is no longer a theoretical matter. The impacts are being felt right now. Just ask the people of Alaska, where roads are crumbling and homes are sagging as the permafrost begins to melt.

Which leads me to the second myth: Even if the earth is warming, that may actually help us more than hurt us. Here's the reality: In the short-term there will be winners and there will be losers. For instance, farms and forests will be more productive at some latitudes, but less productive at others. In the long term, though, any possible benefits from global warming will be far outweighed by the costs.

You may have heard about a new climate report that the United States submitted recently to the United Nations. The President tried to distance himself from the report, even though the White House had approved it, because some of his supporters didn't like its implications. But the "bureaucracy," as the President put it, actually did a very credible job of presenting what we know about the likely impacts of global warming here in the United States.

We face both increased flooding and increased drought. Extended heat waves, more powerful storms, and other extreme weather events will become more common. Rising sea level will inundate portions of Florida and Louisiana, while increased storm surges will threaten communities all along our nation's coastline. New York City could face critical water shortages as rising sea level raises the salinity of upstate aquifers and reservoirs. And a good chunk of lower Manhattan that's built on landfill could again be submerged. We can adjust to some of these things, if we're willing to pay the price. But many of the projected impacts are irreversible - when we lose a fragile ecosystem like the Everglades or Long Island Sound, it can never be replaced.

Let's turn now to a third myth: There's so much uncertainty - about the science, about the economics - that we need to wait for better information before we can decide how to respond. The reality is that there are several very compelling reasons that we must begin to act right now - and uncertainty itself is one of them.

It's important to understand the long-term nature of this challenge. There's a lot of inertia in the system, in both the economy and the climate, and overcoming it is going to take time. The greenhouse gases we've already placed in the atmosphere will continue to warm the planet for many decades if not centuries. Right now, there is about 40 percent more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The CO2 concentration is projected to reach twice the pre-industrial level by the middle of this century. This doubling of CO2 is the scenario most scientists have relied on in projecting the likely impacts of global warming. But here's what's really troubling: If we continue with business as usual, by the turn of the century greenhouse gas concentrations will be approaching three times the pre-industrial levels. In other words, we may be facing consequences far more severe than those already projected.

In order to stabilize concentrations anywhere within this range - two to three times the pre-industrial level - we must significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the decades ahead. That will require major new technologies. Developing those technologies and turning over the existing capital stock will take time. We need to figure out the right mix of approaches to move us to a climate-friendly economy as cost-effectively as possible. And we'll do a better job at that if we allow ourselves time to learn by doing. All of these are reasons we need to start now.

But perhaps the most compelling reason is uncertainty itself. Uncertainty cuts both ways. It's possible the impacts of warming will be less severe than projected. They could also be worse. For instance, most of our computer modeling assumes a linear relationship between rising temperatures and impacts: as the planet warms, the impacts grow proportionately worse. But there's evidence that some parts of the climate system work more like a switch than a dial. That is why some scientists worry more about the non-linear event - the catastrophic event - like the breakup of the West Antarctic ice sheet or the collapse of the Gulf Stream. So, for me, uncertainty is hardly a reason to delay action. Quite the contrary - it's a powerful argument for acting right now.

Myth number four: We can't afford to address climate change. Well by now you can probably tell that as far as I'm concerned, we can't afford not to address climate change. But let's take a closer look at the cost question. Let's start with the numbers. They're all over the place. For every study you can cite showing that a serious climate program will mean certain economic ruin, I can cite one showing that it will be an economic boon. The point is: You shouldn't believe any of them. There does not yet exist an economic model capable of simulating the real costs and benefits of significantly reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the past few years, we have been working with top economists from some of our leading universities to methodically dissect the models and expose their weaknesses. Most models, for instance, do a poor job of projecting how rising energy prices will lead producers or consumers to substitute other goods and services; how price signals will drive new technology and innovation; or how businesses will respond to changes in policy. The models also have a difficult time weighing the near-term costs of emission reduction against the long-term benefits of avoiding climate change impacts. Some projections look only at the cost side and don't even consider the benefits. Our goal now is to build a better model, and we're getting close. But until then, I suggest you be very wary of anyone claiming to know precisely what it will cost to tackle climate change over the long term.

There is another source of data that I believe is instructive, though, and that is the experience of companies that are taking serious steps right now to reduce their emissions. A growing number of companies are voluntarily committing themselves to greenhouse gas reduction targets. At last count, we had identified more than 40, most either based in the United States or with significant operations here. Some of you may have seen the television ads being run by BP touting its success. The company has cut emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels - eight years ahead of target - and now has pledged to keep them there at least until 2010. Alcoa is aiming to reduce its emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. DuPont is aiming for a 65 percent reduction.

We recently studied several companies that have taken on targets and found that they are motivated by several things. They believe the science of climate change is compelling. They know in time the public will demand strong climate protections, and they can get ahead of the curve by reducing their emissions now. They want to encourage government policies that will work well for business. The companies also cited one other important motivation: To improve their competitive position in the marketplace. And that, in fact, has been the result. The companies are finding that reducing emissions also helps to improve operational efficiencies, reduce energy and production costs, and increase market share - all things that contribute to a healthier bottom line. I'm not going to argue that addressing climate change is necessarily profitable. But I think the evidence so far suggests that it is certainly affordable.

Finally, our fifth myth: Even if climate change is real, and even if addressing it is affordable, the issue is so big and so complex, and the threat is so far off in the future, we will never motivate people to do anything about it. As to whether we can get people to move fast enough, or far enough, I think the jury is still out. But the reality is: people are beginning to act. And some who may not be prepared to act will soon be forced to.

Exhibit A is Kyoto. You'll notice I've gotten this far without even mentioning the Kyoto Protocol, but that's not because it's no longer relevant. In fact, it's more relevant than ever. True, President Bush rejected Kyoto. But the result was even stronger support among other nations. The negotiations are now complete. Japan and the European Union have already ratified it. All that is needed to bring the treaty into force is for Russia to ratify, and odds are that will happen next year if not sooner. Now the U.S. may be out of Kyoto. But U.S. companies are not. Any company producing or selling in a Kyoto country - and that includes all of Europe - will soon know what it means to operate in a carbon-constrained world. U.S. business has a direct stake in ensuring that Kyoto, and any domestic requirements that flow from it, are implemented sensibly and fairly.

There are promising signs of action closer to home as well. The President's rejection of Kyoto not only helped save the Protocol - it elevated this issue in the United States. Climate change has become a political story and the press is keeping it alive. The recent report to the United Nations is a good example. The report contained no new information, it outlined no new policy initiative, and the administration made no announcement of it. Yet it made network news and page one of the Times.

In Congress, meanwhile, members of both parties suddenly seem eager to demonstrate their interest in climate protection. Nearly twice as many climate change bills were introduced in Congress over the past year as in the previous four years combined. The energy bill passed in April by the Senate includes two bipartisan climate provisions - one establishing a new office in the White House charged with developing a long-term climate strategy, the other establishing a system for tracking and reporting greenhouse gas emissions that is voluntary at first but after five years could become mandatory. These are only modest first steps, and there's no saying they will wind up in the final energy bill, if there is a final energy bill. But I think some form of reporting bill will probably be enacted by the end of next year. And some lawmakers are already looking much further down the road. Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, an interesting bipartisan duo, plan to introduce legislation later this year to cap greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and establish an economy-wide emissions trading system. It is, frankly, hard to imagine such legislation being enacted anytime soon. But the fact that it is even being drafted shows that this issue is taking on a new political potency.

For real action, though, you need to look at the states. At least two-thirds of the states have programs that, while not necessarily directed at climate change, are achieving real emission reductions. For instance, Texas and 13 other states have enacted renewable portfolio standards, requiring utilities to generate a share of their power from renewable sources. A growing number of states are tackling climate change head on. New York, for instance, just adopted a state energy plan that sets a goal of reducing emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The New England states have agreed to the same target as part of a compact with neighboring provinces in Canada. Some states are going beyond target-setting and establishing direct controls on carbon. New Hampshire recently became the third state to enact mandatory controls on carbon from power plants. And California, of course, is out ahead of everyone with a new law regulating carbon from cars and light trucks. The new law is headed straight to the courts. But whether or not it survives, it has already sent a powerful message: With or without Kyoto, and with or without Washington, there is growing support in the United States for getting serious about climate change.

So let's recap. Five myths: We don't know if the earth is warming or, if so, why. If it is warming, don't worry - climate change will do us more good than harm. With all this uncertainty, we just don't know enough to act. We can't afford to act. And even if we could, people will never be motivated enough to tackle a problem so big and so complex. And five realities: The earth is warming, largely because of human activity. In the long run, any benefits from warming will be far outweighed by the costs. There are plenty of reasons to start acting right now - and uncertainty is one of them. The companies that understand this are demonstrating that we can afford to do it. And people are in fact beginning to act - internationally, in statehouses, in corporate boardrooms, and maybe even in the U.S. Congress.

Let me add one more reality: The actions we are seeing today, while encouraging, are barely a start. The only way to keep our planet from overheating is to dramatically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. There are plenty of steps we can take right now, starting with a systematic effort to improve energy efficiency throughout the economy - in our cars, our factories, our offices and our homes. In generating electricity, we can substitute natural gas for dirtier coal and oil. We can expand the capacity of our farms and forests to soak up carbon from the atmosphere. And we can invest in similar efforts around the world. But these are all intermediate steps. In the long run we need to fundamentally transform the way we power the global economy. Our goal, over time, must be to steadily reduce our reliance on coal and oil and adopt clean sources of energy that can power our economy without endangering our climate. It is a tall order. In fact, it requires nothing short of a new industrial revolution.

I believe that to get this revolution going, four major forces must be brought to bear. The first is technology - or, more accurately, a vast array of new technologies: new fuels, new engines, new industrial processes, and new ways to generate electricity. The second major force is the marketplace, because only the marketplace can mobilize the investment, the productive capacity, and the ingenuity that will be needed. But the market will deliver only if it perceives a demand. And for that we must bring to bear a third force - the force of government. Government must signal the market that the time to start investing is now. It must set clear, enforceable goals, and it must provide sensible rules giving companies the flexibility to meet those goals as cost-effectively possible. And government will do that when the fourth and most critical force is brought to bear - the force of public opinion. That, I believe, is only a matter of time.

I'd like to elaborate just a bit on one of these forces, and that is the marketplace. The market, of course, helped create global warming - although the economists, I suppose, would say it was more a case of "market failure." The climate, as they say, is the quintessential "commons," the public good that is free to everyone, and therefore valued by no one. But even now that we understand its value, and the risks of continuing to overburden it, the market cannot possibly fix the problem of its own accord. It is simply incapable of factoring in the very long-term costs and benefits, of giving them sufficient weight, to drive the investments that are needed in the short-term. That is why government must give it direction. But given the right direction and the right incentives, harnessed instead of stifled, the market can be a very powerful force for climate protection.

Now if you are a business, or an investor, the market is the environment within which you operate. And as society comes to grips with climate change, the rules of the market will change. The climate will stop being free. There will be a cost for emitting carbon. From the business perspective, that will be the most important new reality. And it will require some adjustment. Those who understand that reality, and make the adjustment, will not only survive but thrive. Because in every change there is opportunity, and the rewards flow to those who seize it first. But by the same token, those who ignore this new reality and fail to adjust will pay the price. The market is a harsh arbiter. It will figure out quickly enough who's done a good job of managing their carbon risk, and who has not. If you want to make sure you're a market winner in the carbon-constrained world of the future, and not a loser, the time to start is now.

Those are some of the new realities we face, some of the realities we have brought upon ourselves. I think we would all be well advised to start adjusting to them. We have one advantage over the dinosaurs: our brains our bigger. Only time will tell whether we have the collective will to put all of that brainpower to work. Thank you very much.

Leading Source on Global Warming Issues Eileen Claussen Provides Data-Based Information to Inform Federal Decision Makers

Leading Source on Global Warming Issues--Eileen Claussen--Provides Data-Based Information to Inform Federal Decision Makers

Question and Answer with The Pew Charitable Trusts

July 2002

PEW WIRE: Is human-induced climate change occurring? What scientific evidence exists to substantiate this and what are some anticipated effects of climate change?

CLAUSSEN: Multiple lines of evidence provide independent validation of the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Scientists have observed warming over the past century in the atmosphere, at the earth's surface, and in the oceans as well. These trends cannot be explained without considering increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations--including those generated from human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. In conjunction with this warming, scientists are also seeing increases in precipitation, retreat of glaciers around the world, reductions in Arctic sea-ice, and the continuation of a long upward trend in global sea-level. There is also some evidence that the world's wildlife are starting to respond to the warming such as earlier reproduction times in plants and animals and changes in the geographic distribution of some species.

PEW WIRE: Can you recap of the political history of climate change?

CLAUSSEN: Governments launched the international effort against climate change with signing in 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The convention set an ultimate objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Developed countries, agreeing to take the lead, adopted a non-binding aim of returning their emissions to 1990 levels by 2000.

Three years later, recognizing that the voluntary target was insufficient and that most countries would not meet it, parties to the Convention agreed to negotiate new, binding targets for developed countries. Five months before the negotiations were to conclude, in July 1997, the U.S. Senate adopted the BrydHagel resolution, saying the United States should not sign a binding treaty if it would cause undue economic harm or did not include new commitments for developing countries. In December 1997, the Clinton administration agreed to the Kyoto Protocol, setting binding targets for developed countries only (for the United States, 7 percent below 1990 emissions by 2008-2012). (Countries included in Annex B to the Kyoto Protocol and their emission targets.) However, President Clinton did not submit Kyoto to the Senate for ratification.

Shortly after taking office, President Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol. Despite the U.S. withdrawal, other countries are moving ahead with Kyoto. Japan and the European Union have ratified the Protocol, and Russia is expected to within the next year, meeting the necessary threshold for bringing the treaty into force. In February, President Bush presented a new climate change strategy with a non-binding target of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas intensity (define) 18 percent by 2010. However, this target essentially continues the trends in greenhouse gas intensity reduction seen over the past two decades and translates into a 12 percent increase in actual emissions. It would allow U.S. emissions to rise to 30 percent above 1990 levels by 2010. Click here to view the Pew Center's analysis of President Bush's climate change plan.

PEW WIRE: How does the Pew Center fit into the climate change puzzle?

CLAUSSEN: The Pew Center on Global Climate change is dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. Established in 1998, the independent, non-profit, nonpartisan Pew Center has become the leading voice for concrete, cost-effective action against climate change. We work with top scientists and economists to unravel the complexities of climate change and with government leaders in Washington and abroad to put in place both policy and practical solutions. The Pew Center also works with leading corporations to develop solutions that are both practical and effective. The 38 members of the Business Environmental Leadership Council come together through the Pew Center to develop and share climate change strategies, with a principal focus on market-based approaches. Companies also set emissions reduction targets. BP, for example, met its target to reduce GHG emissions by 10% from 1990 levels in 2010 seven years early and Dupont will reduce emissions by 65% below 1990 levels by 2010. All these facets of the Pew Center mission contribute to our goal of providing a smooth transition to a clean energy economy that ensures both a stable climate and strong, sustainable growth. View a full list of policy, economic, and scientific analysis and reports.

PEW WIRE: Taking into account the political, scientific and economic aspects of climate change, why is now a particularly good time to begin seriously addressing climate change issues?

CLAUSSEN: An immediate signal that initiates action is required in order to provide a smooth and cost-effective transition to a stable concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere--a challenge that will take decades, if not generations, to address. A recent Pew Center brief, The Timing of Climate Change Policy, identifies many compelling reasons to begin taking action now, including: the substantial future climate change that is already inevitable and its potential to generate serious environmental impacts; the opportunity to learn about the economys responsiveness in order to construct an optimal policy path over time; the need to manage possible future GDP losses; and the need to provide time and incentives for a broadly-based technological response to the problem.

The argument that delay is the best strategy for addressing global climate change runs counter to what we understand about technology, the economy and climate science itself. It risks allowing significant escalation of the problem while providing little in the way of a momentum towards a long-term solution. In contrast, moving forward with a real and rational program to reduce greenhouse gases allows us to address this challenge in a way that is timely, consistent, meaningful, and cost-effective. Learning by doing is essential to addressing an issue as complex as climate change, and so we must begin to test approaches now.

PEW WIRE: Looking to the future, what are some effective first steps in reducing emissions?

CLAUSSEN: A mandatory GHG reporting and disclosure program would be an effective first step in any domestic GHG reduction program. Similar to the federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program, a mandatory GHG reporting program would apply to all major sources of GHG emissions and require disclosure of their reports to the public. Such a reporting program would: (1) provide a solid foundation for a U.S. program to reduce GHG emissions, (2) provide the basis for government assurances that companies would not be penalized for their early reductions under a future climate policy, and (3) potentially create a powerful incentive for voluntary reductions. The program should be comprehensive, but should be implemented in phases to allow for the development of widely accepted and sound reporting protocols.

The 107th U.S. Congress has acted upon legislation regarding the tracking and reporting of GHG emissions. Other legislation being considered would require development of a U.S. National Climate Change Strategy with the goal of stabilizing atmospheric GHG concentrations.

In the long-term, an effective emissions reduction program should couple mandatory greenhouse gas reductions with technology development and market mechanisms. Such a program should promote new technologies and practices and provide a foundation upon which to secure long-term emissions reductions (e.g., through a program that caps GHG emissions but allows for trading among entities subject to the cap). Moving forward with a real and rational program to reduce GHGs will allow us to address this challenge in a way that is timely, consistent, meaningful, and cost-effective.

Press Release: Two New Pew Center Reports Focus on Transportation-Sector Solutions

Press Release
For Immediate Release:
May 14, 2002
 

Contact: Katie Mandes
             (703) 516-4146     

THE ROAD TO REDUCED GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES:

Two New Pew Center Reports Focus on Transportation-Sector Solutions

Washington, DC - With transportation-related emissions of carbon dioxide growing at a rapid pace around the globe, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change today released two reports identifying policies and strategies that could help slow the growth of emissions in developing countries.

"If current motorization patterns prevail, there will be another 700 million vehicles globally over the next two to three decades. Establishing policies and infrastructure now to accommodate this tremendous growth is imperative, said the Pew Center's Eileen Claussen. "In the developing world, climate change is not a priority and economic and social development drive the decision making of transportation policy-makers. The key is to identify strategies that address high priority local issues while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Claussen said.

According to one of the Pew Center reports released today, Transportation in Developing Countries: An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies, transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions grew at an annual rate of 5.6 percent in the developing countries of Asia between 1980 and 1998; the rate of growth for all developing countries was 4 percent. If current trends continue, the report projects that the number of motor vehicles in use around the world will double in the next 20 to 30 years, with much of the increase occurring in developing nations. Despite the projections, however, the report identifies many inexpensive and attractive options to keep emissions growth to a minimum-from improved motor vehicle technologies to the promotion of "car sharing" and other strategies.

The other report, Transportation in Developing Countries: Greenhouse Gas Scenarios for South Africa, builds on previously released Pew Center studies focusing on Shanghai, China, and Delhi, India. While projecting significant increases in transportation-related emissions of carbon dioxide in South Africa in the coming years, the report identifies public and private sector initiatives that could reduce emissions growth while easing traffic congestion and cutting air pollution.

"Our objective is not to prevent developing countries from growing or from enjoying the convenience of personal transportation," said Claussen. "Rather, the goal must be to make sure that South Africa and other countries develop transportation systems that are climate-friendly at the same time that they meet the needs of the people who use them."

Part of "Solutions" Series
Transportation in Developing Countries: An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies was authored by Daniel Sperling, founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. The lead author of Transportation in Developing Countries: Greenhouse Gas Scenarios for South Africa Jolanda Prozzi specializes in transportation economics and policy analysis at the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas, Austin.

The two reports released today are the latest in the Pew Center's Solutions series, which is aimed at providing individuals and organizations with tools to evaluate and reduce their contributions to climate change. Other Pew Center series focus on domestic and international policy issues, environmental impacts and the economics of climate change.

A complete copy of this report -- and previous Pew Center reports -- is available on the Pew Center's web site, www.c2es.org/projects.

###


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 conducting studies, launching public education efforts and working with businesses to develop market-oriented solutions to reduce greenhouse gases. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. The Pew Center includes the Business Environmental Leadership Council, which is composed of 36 major, largely Fortune 500 corporations all working with the Pew Center to address issues related to climate change. The companies do not contribute financially to the Pew Center - it is solely supported by contributions from charitable foundations.

The Timing Of Climate Change Policy

Download the PDF

Introduction

Over the past several decades, the scientific community has arrived at a consensus that the earth’s climate is being changed by human influences, most importantly the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other “greenhouse gases” (GHGs) into the atmosphere. The most recent estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that, under a “business as usual” scenario, the average global temperature will rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century.1" This is a significant change: the high end of this range is equal to the change in the average global temperature associated with the end of the planet’s last ice age, 10,000 years ago. But, during that ice age, it took thousands of years to reach this level of warming — not just one century.

The virtual certainty that human influences are causing these significant changes in our climate naturally leads to the questions of what actions to take and when to take them. A previous Pew Center domestic policy brief, entitled The U.S. Domestic Response to Climate Change: Key Elements of a Prospective Program, evaluates possible policy approaches.

This “In Brief” addresses the timing of action to reduce GHG emissions. In October 2001, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change held a workshop inviting leading scientists, economists, and other analysts to discuss this question.2 The Workshop on the Timing of Climate Change Policies revealed a consensus that action to address global climate change must begin now if it is to be effective. An immediate signal that initiates action is required in order to provide a smooth and cost-effective transition to a stable concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere — a challenge that will take decades, if not generations, to meet. Workshop participants identified many compelling reasons to begin taking action now, including:

  • The reality that current atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have not been exceeded during the past 420,000 years (the period for which ice core data are available) and will soon exceed a doubling of pre-industrial levels resulting in a situation unprecedented in human history with unknown consequences;
  • The potential for catastrophes that defy the assumption that damages resulting from climate change will be incremental, smooth, and linear;
  • The risk of irreversible environmental impacts (as compared to the lesser risk of unnecessary investment in GHG reduction or mitigation);
  • The need to learn about the pace at which society can begin a transition to a climate-stable economy;
  • The likelihood of imposing unconscionable burdens and impossible tasks on future generations;
  • The need to create incentives to accelerate technological development that will allow us to address the climate change problem; and
  • The ready availability of “no regrets” policies that have very low or even no costs to the economy.

This In Brief explores the points outlined above.

 

0

State and Corporate Action on Climate Change: Multiple Benefits From Multiple Approaches

State and Corporate Action on Climate Change: Multiple Benefits From Multiple Approaches

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

National Governors Association Workshop
Washington, DC

February 28, 2002

Thank you. I'm delighted to be here this morning to talk with all of you about climate change. And, before I begin, I want to tap into the spirit of the recently concluded Olympics by awarding a few medals. The first medal goes to the White House. It is for speed skating around an issue, and is awarded in recognition of the Bush Administration's recently announced climate policy. This policy could just as easily have won the slalom competition for the way it zigs and zags around the real problem. Or perhaps it should have been entered in the downhill race, because that's where it will inevitably lead us-downhill.

That said, I think there are plenty of medals to go around. The former administration, for example, is a prime candidate for the gold in the biathlon. This is the competition, of course, in which you do two entirely different things-such as talking big on the international stage about your commitment to addressing climate change while doing next to nothing at home to put any kind of serious policies in place. I apologize for being so harsh in my assessment, but you can rest assured I was not pressured in any way by other judges on the panel.

Seriously, though, it's always a pleasure to spend some time with a group of people who are not only interested in learning about climate change, but are in a position to do something about it. A little later on I'll talk about what many states already are doing about it, and why it's in your state's interest as well as the national interest for you to do even more. But first I'd like to spend just a couple of minutes looking at where we stand in our efforts to address climate change, both here in the United States and abroad, and where ultimately we need to go.

The best place to start, I think, is with the science. And here, I believe, the consensus that has emerged is quite clear. Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the report prepared last year by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences are agreed on three main points: 1) the earth is warming; 2) human activity is largely to blame; and 3) the warming trend is likely to accelerate in the years ahead. And the implications are profound, affecting everything from farming and tourism to the reliability of the water supply and the livability of our coasts. Of course there are always uncertainties, and there always will be. But these uncertainties cut both ways, and are not an excuse for inaction. For example, it is possible that the impacts will be less severe than we expected. But it is equally possible that the effects will not be linear, and that we are in for some serious and negative climate surprises, such as a dramatic shift in the Gulf Stream current that warms Western Europe.

So, with or without uncertainty, I believe it is absolutely essential that we act. Now what is it we need to do? There are lots of ways we can begin to attack this problem, and I'll come back to those. But right now I want to lay out the big picture - the grand scheme, if you will. I'll be blunt about it: In the long run, the only solution is a fundamental transformation in the way we power our global economy. To keep our planet from overheating, we must dramatically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The primary source of these gases is the combustion of fossil fuels. So our goal, over time, must be to end our reliance on coal and oil and to develop new sources of energy that can power our growing economy without endangering our climate. Yes, it is a tall order. It implies technological and economic transformation on an unprecedented scale. In fact, it demands nothing short of a second industrial revolution.

Is this revolution underway? Let's look first at the international picture. Over the last year we saw both the greatest success and the greatest setback since the international effort to address climate change was launched a decade ago. The success was that after years of wrangling nations finally agreed on a set of rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol, which sets the first binding international limits on greenhouse gas emissions. European nations are well on track to ratifying the Protocol. Vigorous debates are underway in Japan, Canada and other industrialized countries that face some serious challenges in meeting their targets, but the prognosis is for the treaty to enter into force either this year or next.

The setback, of course, was President Bush's outright rejection of Kyoto. I do not intend to spend any time here debating the merits of the Protocol. It's true, the Protocol is at best a modest first step on a long journey. But from my perspective, the basic architecture of the treaty is sound. In fact, it's an architecture largely designed in the United States. It uses emissions trading, a concept born and bred here in America, to ensure that emissions are cut as cost-effectively as possible. I happen to believe that the emissions target for the U.S. negotiated by the previous Administration was unrealistic. It couldn't be met. But there were ways that could have been fixed short of a unilateral withdrawal.

And what has President Bush offered as his alternative? The President has offered a promise - a promise that the United States will do really no better than it's doing right now. When you do the math, the President's goal of an 18 percent reduction in greenhouse gas intensity by 2012 amounts to a 12 percent increase in actual emissions. It essentially continues the same trends we've seen over the last two decades. In other words, the target is nothing more than business as usual. On the positive side, the President has recommended that companies that make emission reductions should not be penalized in the event there is a future regulatory regime that requires reductions. A first step, perhaps, but a very modest one.

Fortunately, that's not the end of the story. There are people in this town who think climate change is a serious issue that warrants serious action. (If there were not, I think I would be a very lonely person.) In fact, some of those who are supporting serious action happen to be members of Congress. It may come as a surprise to you, but there is growing bipartisan interest in Congress in doing something about climate change. In fact, nearly twice as many climate change bills were introduced in the past year as in the previous four years combined. There is, of course, a serious debate over whether or not carbon should be covered in new multi-pollutant legislation for power plants. But there are literally dozens of other bills that would do everything from raising fuel economy standards to boosting research and development to encouraging farmers to adopt practices that suck carbon out of the atmosphere, or use some of their land for wind farms. Several bills would establish a national system for tracking and reporting greenhouse gas emissions - an important first step, which, if coupled with provisions that legally recognize the private sector's accomplishments in reducing emissions, would at least begin to put us on a constructive path for dealing with this issue. And finally, Senators Lieberman and McCain plan to introduce legislation later this year to establish a comprehensive nationwide emissions trading system. That's a bold idea - one that frankly I can't see being enacted for some time, probably years. But for the first time, serious debate about how the United States should meet its responsibilities on climate change is now underway.

What we really need, of course, is action, not debate. And I'm pleased to be able to tell you that real action is indeed taking place. To find it, though, you have to look beyond the Beltway. You have to look in two places - first, in the boardrooms and factories of major corporations that are taking it upon themselves to tackle their greenhouse gas emissions; and second, you have to look to the states and local communities that instead of waiting for leadership from Washington are taking up this challenge on their own. None of these efforts can in the end substitute for a credible, comprehensive national effort. Ultimately that is the direction we need to go. But addressing climate change requires a multiplicity of strategies at all levels. And the states and corporations that are taking the lead right now are the laboratories and proving grounds that will help us identify the smartest, most cost-effective strategies that can best serve the nation as a whole. That's not all. In the process, they are discovering that addressing climate change delivers a host of other benefits as well.

Let me begin by telling you about some of the efforts underway in the private sector. The Pew Center's Business Environmental Leadership Council now includes 37 major companies that accept the need for action on this issue and are taking concrete steps to protect the climate. These are primarily Fortune 500 companies such as Weyerhaeuser, Intel, Boeing, Dupont, Shell and Alcoa. Together they employ more than 2 million people and generate annual revenues of nearly $900 billion.

The Pew Center recently released a report that takes a close look at six companies that are members of the Council and that have adopted voluntary greenhouse gas targets. It also looks more broadly at a total of 31 companies with emission reduction targets. The report assesses the reasons why these companies took on targets, and what the results have been. The companies cited a number of reasons for taking on a target. They believe that the science of climate change is compelling, and that over the long term, their climate-friendly investments will pay off. They also believe that by taking the initiative, they can help the government create climate change policies that work well for business. It is one thing to advocate policies such as reasonable targets and timetables and flexibility for businesses to use various means to implement clearly defined goals. It is another thing to actually demonstrate via corporate action that these measures work.

But each of the companies cited one other important motivation for taking on a target - to improve their competitive position in the marketplace. And that, in fact, has been the result. Each company is on track to meeting or exceeding its greenhouse gas goal. Together, they've delivered reductions equal to the annual emissions of 3 million cars. And all the companies are finding that their efforts are helping to reduce production costs and enhance product sales today.

I think one of the most important lessons to be gleaned from this analysis is the variety of approaches employed by these companies. For example, a number of companies have greenhouse gas emission targets that relate directly to their industrial processes: Alcoa plans to reduce its direct process emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2010; and Dupont is on track to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by a remarkable 65% by 2010.

Others have determined that their greatest contribution comes from the use of their products: Ford Motor Company will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from its European fleet by 25% by 2005; and IBM will have 90-100% of its computers Energy Star-compliant each year.

Some have chosen to use relative measures for their targets: Toyota North America will reduce its energy use per unit of production by 15% below 2000 levels by 2005; United Technologies will reduce its energy consumption per unit of sales by 25% below 1997 levels by 2007; and Baxter International will reduce its energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production by 30% below 1996 levels by 2005.

Still others have chosen to increase their purchases of renewable energy, thereby creating greater demand for clean energy. For example, Dupont will get 10% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010; and Interface is aiming for 10% by 2005.

BP and Shell have set up internal emissions trading systems among their business units, and have much practical advice to offer based on their experiences. And many companies, including American Electric Power, PG&E and others have invested significantly in carbon sequestration projects to offset their emissions. So as you can see, companies are experimenting, innovating and coming up with an array of strategies best suited to their individual circumstances.

Let me turn now to the equally impressive efforts taking shape at the state level. Over the past year, the Pew Center has worked with the National Association of State Energy Officials to gather information on state programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier this month, we officially unveiled the results: a searchable database on our website describing 21 programs that have delivered real emissions reductions. We'll be adding more programs in the weeks and months ahead. What's different about this database-and the reason I recommend it to your attention-is that it provides detailed information about how these programs started, what kinds of barriers states encountered, and how they dealt with them. It also quantifies the emissions reductions resulting from each of the programs. We posted the database two weeks ago and it's been accessed more than 1,000 times already.

Let's look at some of the examples it provides. We all know about Nixon going to China. But what about George W. Bush as a champion of renewable power? It's true. Legislation signed by then-Governor Bush to restructure the Texas electricity industry requires that all electricity providers generate about 3 percent of their power using renewable sources. The Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard was expected to bring more megawatts of renewable power on line in 2001 than in the prior 100 years. The result should be a reduction of approximately 3.3 million tons of CO2 per year, as well as reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

Oregon, meanwhile, was the first state in the nation to enact mandatory controls on carbon dioxide. The state requires that all new power plants meet a tough new emissions standard, and allows utilities to comply by paying a fee to the nonprofit Climate Trust, which in turn invests in projects that reduce or sequester CO2 emissions.

Other states are reducing emissions - while also reducing the burden on taxpayers and consumers - by investing directly in energy efficiency. New Hampshire, for instance, is saving $4 million a year through energy-saving retrofits on state-owned buildings. And Colorado has provided free energy efficiency upgrades to more than 70,000 low-income households, trimming their energy bills an average of 20 to 25 percent.

In the transportation sector, Washington State is leveraging nearly $8 in private funding for every dollar from the state for a program that gives commuters alternatives to the single-occupancy auto. The payoff is enormous: The program is generating roadway capacity at just a third the cost of building and operating new roadways.

Farmers are also pitching in. A program in Georgia that gives growers access to special "no-till" equipment has not only cut emissions and saved energy, but also conserved more than 2 million tons of soil. And finally, on the local level, high school students in Pattonville, Missouri, teamed up with state officials to fuel their school's boilers with methane captured from a neighboring landfill.

So what do all these examples from companies and from the states show us? First, that despite the lack of leadership here in Washington, there are significant efforts underway across America to address climate change, and the momentum is growing. These efforts are delivering real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions-and, better yet, they are doing it cost-effectively.

A second important lesson is that these efforts pay multiple dividends. In the case of the companies, they deliver operational efficiencies, reduced energy costs, and increased market share - all things that contribute to a healthier bottom line. In the case of the states, they deliver cleaner air, smarter growth, new energy sources, and real savings for taxpayers. The fact of the matter is that many of these initiatives were launched for reasons having nothing to do with climate change. The emissions reductions they are producing are simply side benefits - but they are real, and they are making a difference.

A third important lesson is the sheer diversity of approaches being taken. Climate change is an enormous challenge. It has to be tackled on many fronts. If ever there were an issue that defied one-size-fits-all solutions, this is it. The efforts being initiated right now in the boardroom and in your state capitols demonstrate that we have the drive and the ingenuity to come up with strategies of all different shapes and sizes. We must be careful not to squash that drive and ingenuity. Yes, we ultimately need a comprehensive national program to meet this challenge. But it must be one that provides the necessary incentives - and the flexibility - to encourage and allow a broad array of strategies.

In closing, I'd like to commend all of you from states that are already stepping up to the challenge of climate change and seizing the very real opportunities it presents. I'd like to encourage the rest of you to go back home to your bosses and tell them why it's in the interest of their constituents to do the same. Many times in the past, when we couldn't count on Washington to take the lead, the states have stepped into the breach. Climate change is another opportunity for you and your states to demonstrate that real leadership and real innovation are not top-down but bottom-up. If you lead, Washington will follow. And only then will the United States be able to become a real gold medal contender in the global effort to meet this global challenge. Thank you very much. I will be very happy to answer any questions. 

Download Transcript (in Word format)

Syndicate content