JAY GULLEDGE, Ph.D., SENIOR FELLOW
PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
July 27, 2006
At the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing: Questions Surrounding the ‘Hockey Stick’ Temperature Studies: Implications for Climate Change Assessments
Examining the "Hockey Stick" Controversy
View slides related to this testimony (pdf).
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I am Jay Gulledge, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow for Science and Impacts at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. I am also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville, which houses my academic research program on carbon cycling.
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. In our eight years of existence, we have published almost seventy reports by experts in climate science, economics, policy and solutions, all of which have been peer-reviewed and reviewed as well by the companies with which we work.
Forty-one major companies sit on the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council, spanning a range of sectors, including oil and gas (BP, Shell), transportation (Boeing, Toyota), utilities (PG&E, Duke Energy, Entergy), high technology (IBM, Intel, HP), diversified manufacturing (GE, United Technologies), and chemicals (DuPont, Rohm and Haas). Collectively, the 41 companies represent two trillion dollars in market capitalization and three million employees. The members of the Council work with the Pew Center to educate the public on the risks, challenges and solutions to climate change.
If you take nothing else from my testimony, please take these three points:
1. The scientific evidence of significant human influence on climate is strong and would in no way be weakened if there were no Mann hockey stick.
2. The scientific debate over the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) has been gradually evolving for at least 20 years. The results of the Mann hockey stick simply reflect the gradual development of thought on the issue over time.
3. The impact of the McIntyre and McKitrick critique on the original Mann paper, after being scrutinized by the National Academy of Science, the Wegman panel and a number of meticulous individual research groups, is essentially nil with regard to the conclusions of the Mann paper and the 2001 IPCC assessment.
The science of climate change is an extraordinary example of a theory-driven, data-rich scientific paradigm, the likes of which, arguably, has not occurred since the development of quantum mechanics in the first half of the twentieth century. The product of this strong scientific framework is a body of strong, multifaceted evidence that man-made greenhouse gases are causing contemporary global warming, and that this warming trend is inducing large-scale changes in global climate. The primary evidence is based on physical principles and observational and experimental analysis of contemporary climate dynamics, as opposed to analyses of past climates, which are the subject of this hearing. We can now say with confidence that the evidence of human influence on climate is strong, as described by Dr. Cicerone.
Although paleoclimatology – the study of ancient climates – is an important part of the climate science framework, reconstructions of temperature over the past millennium play a secondary, expendable role in the larger body of evidence, as stated in the recent NAS report titled, Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years: “Surface temperature reconstructions are consistent with other evidence of global climate change and can be considered as additional supporting evidence” (National Research Council 2006, p. 23; hereafter referred to as the NAS report). Dispensing with such reconstructions entirely or proving them fundamentally flawed would have little, if any, impact on our understanding of contemporary climate change. This statement does not imply that millennial climate reconstructions are unimportant, but their main influence will be in the future, when their potential to reveal how climate varied across the earth’s surface from year-to-year in the past (i.e. an annual record of spatially explicit climate dynamics) is fully realized. At that point, such reconstructions will be used in a manner parallel to thermometer records today. This capability would contribute significantly to resolving the current genuine debate in climate science, which is not about whether humans are changing the climate—a point over which there is no scientific controversy—but is about how much human influences will change the climate in the future as a result of greenhouse gas accumulation and other forcings we apply to the climate system. In other words, the goal of spatially explicit paleoclimate reconstructions is to help climatologists determine how physical forcings, such as solar radiation, volcanic eruptions, land-use changes, and changes in atmospheric greenhouse gases, have affected the planet in the past, so that we can improve estimates of how they will do so in the future.
The early MBH reconstructions (Mann et al. 1998; Mann et al. 1999; hereafter referred to as MBH98 or MBH99 or, collectively, MBH) were the first to offer spatially explicit climate reconstructions and therefore represented a breakthrough in climate change science that continues to develop and promises to further our understanding of climate physics in the future. The Wegman report’s conclusion that paleoclimatology “does not provide insight and understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change” (p. 52), fails to appreciate that the purpose of Dr. Mann’s research is to improve our knowledge of physical mechanisms of climate change by examining how they operated in the past.
Turning our attention to the methodological issues this hearing seeks to investigate, in my opinion, the Wegman report failed to accomplish its primary objective, which was “to reproduce the results of [McIntyre & McKitrick] in order to determine whether their criticisms are valid and have merit” (p. 7). Although the panel reproduced MM's work—verbatim—it only partially assessed the validity, and did not at all assess the merits, of the criticisms directed toward the MBH reconstructions. For instance, MM (McIntyre and McKitrick 2003; McIntyre and McKitrick 2005; heafter referred to collectively as MM) allege that the so-called MBH “hockey stick” result is biased by methodological errors that undermine the conclusion that the late 20th century was uniquely warm relative to the past 1,000 years. This critique only has merit if, after correcting for the errors pointed out by MM, the resulting reconstruction yields results significantly different from the original result that can no longer support the claim of unusual late 20th century warmth. However, the Wegman Report takes no steps to make such a determination.
Fortunately, a different group, one well qualified both statistically and climatologically to tackle this question of merit, had already performed the task several months before the Wegman Report was released. The study by Wahl & Ammann (In press; hereafter referred to as WA06), was peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in the journal Climatic Change early last spring, and has been publicly available in accepted form since last March (http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/ccr/ammann/millennium/refs/ WahlAmmann_ClimChange2006.html). This study, titled, Robustness of the Mann, Bradley, Hughes Reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere Surface Temperatures: Examination of Criticisms Based on the Nature and Processing of Proxy Climate Evidence, carefully reproduced the MBH98 reconstruction and then used their faithful reproduction to test MM’s suggested corrections. They tested each of the criticisms raised by MM in all of their published papers, including both the peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed papers. Given that this report specifically examined MM’s criticisms, including the decentering issue that was the main focus of the Wegman report, it is unfortunate that the Wegman report dismissed it in a footnote (p. 48) as “not to the point.”
WA06 have performed a meticulous and thorough evaluation of MBH98, and the answers that this committee seeks about the MBH reconstructions are to be found within this report. After examining each of MM’s three methodological criticisms, WA06 accepted two of them as valid, and have used them to correct the MBH98 reconstruction. I will now show you what effect these corrections have on the MBH98 reconstruction, and then reconsider the uniqueness of the late 20th-century warming trend in the light of these corrections.
The original MBH98 “hockey stick” is shown as a gray line (Fig. 1). The WA06 reproduction of MBH98 is shown in red (Fig. 1). Except for a couple of minor simplifications, WA06 remained faithful to the original MBH method and retained all of the original MBH data, including the original instrumental temperature series from 1992. They wrote their own computer code to perform the calculations, using the R programming language, as recommended by the MM and the Wegman report, rather than the original Fortran language used by Dr. Mann. As you can see, the two reconstructions are materially the same. This result demonstrates that MBH98 can be reproduced based on information available in the original MBH papers and supplemental information and data available on the Internet.
With this successful reproduction in hand, WA06 were able to test the effects of each of MM’s criticisms on the outcome of the MBH98 reconstruction. After carefully considering the validity of MM’s three criticisms of MBH’s reconstruction methodology, WA06 agreed that 1) decentering the proxy data prior to Principle Component analysis and 2) including the poorly replicated North American Gaspé tree-ring series from 1400-1449 both affected the MBH results. After correcting for these effects, WA06 obtained the results shown in blue (Fig. 2, left frame). The result is a slightly warmer (0.1 °C) early 15th century, with no other time period affected. MM’s third methodological criticism surrounding the inclusion of the bristlecone/foxtail pine series was rejected for several reasons. The right frame in Fig. 2 illustrates that excluding these series has little effect on the MBH98 reconstruction, except to force it to begin in 1450 instead of 1400, because of lack of a data. Since the exclusion had little effect, and losing these data series would hinder reconstructions of earlier climate, WA06 rejected this criticism.
The additional 15th-century warmth revealed by making the valid MM corrections still does not approach the warmth of the late 20th century, so MM’s critique cannot yet be said to have merit. However, the corrected result creates the impression of an upward temperature trend backward in time before 1400, begging the question of what would happen to the Middle Ages in the 1,000-year MBH99 reconstruction if it were also corrected? Answering that question is requisite for determining the merit of MM’s critique of MBH. The original 1,000-year MBH99 reconstruction is shown in blue and the corrected version is shown in red (Fig. 3; Ammann & Wahl, submitted). Carrying the correction back to the full millennium reveals that the largest effects remain in the early 15th century, and both earlier and later periods were less affected. Therefore, there is very little difference between the corrected MBH98 and MBH99 reconstructions and the originals, and the original observation that the late 20th century is uniquely warm in the context of the past 1,000 years is not affected. Hence, the valid methodological caveats that MM pointed out do not undermine the main conclusions of the original MBH papers or the conclusion of the 2001 IPCC assessment.
The scientific debate over the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) has been on the same trajectory for at least 20 years, with early indications that the MWP was not a globally coherent event becoming more solid over time. The MBH99 reconstruction represented an evolutionary step—not a revolutionary change—in this established trajectory. The 1990 IPCC figure that Mr. McIntyre, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and Dr. Wegman have used in their own assessment of past climate is a cartoon, as stated by Dr. Wegman in his testimony last week. I have confirmed this with a number of individuals who were involved with the 1990 IPCC report or with versions of the schematic that pre-dated the 1990 IPCC report. The schematic is not a plot of data and is inappropriate as a comparison to MBH. The text of the 1990 IPCC report clearly states that the figure is a "schematic diagram" and that “it is still not clear whether all the fluctuations indicated were truly global” (p. 202). Furthermore, only three sources of information were cited and those sources conflicted on whether the Northern Hemisphere was warm or cold: “The late tenth to early thirteenth centuries… appear to have been exceptionally warm in parts of western Europe, Iceland and Greenland… China was, however, cold at this time, but South Japan was warm…” Clearly, this report certainly did not paint a picture of any consensus regarding a Medieval Warm Period as a hemisphere-wide phenomenon and characterizing it as such reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of climate science.
The 1992 and 1995 IPCC reports continued this same trajectory of thought. Four years before MBH99, citing 6 papers—still a very limited number, but twice as many as were cited in 1990—the 1995 report stated:
There are, for this last millennium, two periods which have received special attention, the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. These have been interpreted, at times, as period of global warmth and coolness, respectively. Recent studies have re-evaluated the interval commonly known as the Medieval Warm Period to assess the magnitude and geographical extent of any prolonged warm interval between the 9th and 14th centuries… The available evidence is limited (geographically) and is equivocal. …a clearer picture may emerge as more and better calibrated proxy records are produced. However, at this point, it is not yet possible to say whether, at a hemispheric scale, temperatures declined from the 11-12th to the 16-17th century. Nor, therefore, is it possible to conclude that the global temperatures in the Medieval Warm Period were comparable to the warm decades of the late 20th century” (p. 174).
Remember that this was written by a team of climatologists as a consensus statement. The consensus at this time, as in 1990 and 1995, was that there was no strong evidence of a hemisphere-wide MWP.
Continuing the same trajectory, the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report examined evidence from 10 cited sources for the MWP. The consensus at this point seemed to be turning to the conclusion that there actually was a generally warm Northern Hemisphere during the Middle Ages, but that it was not a strong, coherent pattern of warming:
It is likely that temperatures were relatively warm in the Northern Hemisphere as a whole during the earlier centuries of the millennium, but it is much less likely that a globally-synchronous, well defined interval of “Medieval warmth” existed, comparable to the near global warmth of the late 20th century… Marked warmth seems to have been confined to Europe and regions neighboring the North Atlantic.
Since the MBH reconstructions were hemisphere-wide, and the MWP probably was not, it should not surprise us that the reconstructions lack a strong MWP (MBH99 does show slightly warmer temperatures in the 9th to 14th centuries than in the 15th to 19th centuries).
All available evidence indicates that the situation during the Middle Ages was fundamentally different that what is happening with climate today, which is a well-documented, globally coherent warming trend that is happening North, South, East, and West; at low latitudes and high latitudes; over land and over—and into—the sea. There are new data, published earlier this year, indicating that the atmosphere above Antarctica has warmed dramatically in recent decades (Turner et al. 2006). There is no large region on Earth where large-scale 20th century warming has not been detected, which simply cannot be said of the MWP.
Wahl and Ammann (2006) have demonstrated that the results of MBH are robust “down in the weeds”:
Our examination does suggest that a slight modification to the original Mann et al. reconstruction is justifiable for the first half of the 15th century (~ +0.05°), which leaves entirely unaltered the primary conclusion of Mann et al. (as well as many other reconstructions) that both the 20th century upward trend and high late-20th century hemispheric surface temperatures are anomalous over at least the last 600 years.
The NAS has affirmed the MBH results are also robust in the bigger picture, as well:
The basic conclusion of MBH99 was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on icecaps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years. Not all individual proxy records indicate that the recent warmth is unprecedented, although a larger fraction of geographically diverse sites experienced exceptional warmth during the late 20th century than during any other extended period from A.D. 900 onward. (p. 3)
Examination of the IPCC reports through time, as well as the primary scientific literature, reveals why the MBH results are so robust—MBH simply assimilated all the available evidence into a quantitative reconstruction—evidence that had already been evaluated qualitatively as lacking a coherent MWP.
This committee is seeking to know the significance of the criticisms leveled at the MBH reconstruction for climate change assessments. The significance is that these criticisms have resulted in the most thoroughly vetted single climate study in the history of climate change research. Dr. Tom Karl summarized the impact most succinctly in his testimony to this committee last week when he said that he would stand by the IPCC’s original assessment: “If you ask me to give qualifications about the findings in the 2001 report with the same caveat in terms of defining likelihood, I personally would not change anything.” Hence, the impact of the MM critique, after being scrutinized by the NAS, the Wegman panel, and a number of meticulous individual research groups, is essentially nil with regard to the conclusions of MBH and the 2001 IPCC assessment.
Also relevant to this committee's questions about climate change assessments is the revelation that climate scientists do know their business, and that a lack of knowledge of geophysics is a genuine handicap to those who would seek to provide what they deem "independent review.” If the assessment of climate science presented in Mr. McIntyre's presentation to the NAS committee, the Wegman Report, and the WSJ is an example of what can be expected from those who have not conducted climate research, then the investigation launched by this committee has demonstrated clearly that “independent review” by non-climate scientists is an exceedingly ineffective way to make climate change assessments.
Mann, M E, R S Bradley and M K Hughes (1998). "Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries." Nature 392(6678): 779-787.
Mann, M E, R S Bradley and M K Hughes (1999). "Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties, and limitations." Geophysical Research Letters 26(6): 759-762.
McIntyre, S and R McKitrick (2003). "Corrections to the Mann et al. (1998) proxy data base and northern hemisphere average temperature series." Energy & Environment 14(6): 751-771.
McIntyre, S and R McKitrick (2005). "Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance." Geophysical Research Letters 32(3).
National Research Council, C O S T R F T L, 000 Years. (2006). "Surface temperature reconstructions for the last 2,000 years." from http://www.nap.edu/catalog/ 11676.html.
Turner, J, T a Lachlan-Cope, S Colwell, et al. (2006). "Significant warming of the Antarctic winter troposphere." Science 311: 1914-1917.
Wahl, E and C Ammann (In press). "Robustness of the Mann, Bradley, Hughes reconstruction of northern hemisphere surface temperatures: Examination of criticisms based on the nature and processing of proxy climate evidence." Climatic Change (accepted).
AN AGENDA FOR CLIMATE ACTION
SPEECH BY EILEEN CLAUSSEN
PRESIDENT, PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
YALE SCHOOL OF FORESTRY AND ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT
MARCH 30, 2006
Thank you very much. It is great to be here at Yale. I want to open my remarks today with some polling numbers. And I know what some of you may be thinking. You’re thinking this is a typical Washington thing to do: talk about polls. And you’re thinking about how polls really don’t get at the real issues. And you may be right, particularly in this era of television and internet insta-polls.
I was watching BBC Television shortly after the death of Slobodan Milosevic and the announcer asked viewers to call in with their opinions on this question: “How will Milosevic’s death affect the future of peace in the Balkans?” And I thought that’s really a fairly sophisticated question. Sort of the kind of essay question you might have to respond to here at Yale. And fairly typical, I imagine, of BBC’s expectations of its audience.
In contrast, if you turn on CNN or FOX or one of the other American cable networks, the questions tend to be of the quick yes or no variety. Here is an actual CNN online poll I found on the Internet: “Would you consider having microchips implanted in your body? Yes or no.” I can only imagine how someone might use these results.
But seriously, I think we can all learn something from looking at the polling on an issue such as climate change, especially when it reveals a clear divergence between public opinion and what is happening in Washington to address this issue.
Just a couple of weeks ago, a national survey showed that Americans of all political beliefs are not happy with the U.S. government’s leadership (or lack thereof) on the issues of global warming and alternative energy. More than three out of four – including two out of three conservatives – said the federal government is not doing enough on either of these issues. And nearly nine out of ten agreed with the following statement—and I quote: “U.S. leaders should take steps to reduce carbon pollution now and speed up the conversion to renewable energy and other alternatives.”
Nine out of ten people. That’s higher than the proportion of dentists who recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum. Seriously, it is an overwhelming majority of Americans. And they all want to see something done to address the climate issue and to put America on a path to a low-carbon future.
Of course, President Bush and Vice President Cheney say they don’t pay attention to polls – and this is one time when I believe them. Because if they were to pay attention to polls, they would be doing something serious to solve the climate problem. In ever-increasing numbers, Americans recognize that we are facing a potential crisis here, and they are looking to their elected leaders in Washington to shape solutions.
I am here today to talk about what those solutions might entail—and I want to do that by focusing on a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States that the Pew Center released in February. But I want to start with a brief look at the science of climate change, as well as what is happening now at both the state level and nationally.
Then I want to reserve the rest of my remarks to talk about the Pew Center’s Agenda – because what is happening right now in this country is clearly not enough.
The Science of Climate Change
So first the science. The polling data I talked about shows a pronounced shift in Americans’ views on the climate issue and what to do about it. And the main reason for this shift is not that people are beginning to notice that it’s getting warmer or that the pond over at the town park just isn’t freezing as much in the winter as it used to.
No, what’s happening is that people are beginning to pay attention to the science on this issue. And they are coming to understand that there is no longer any doubt about it: climate change is a very real and very serious problem.
Scientists now know for certain that the globe has been warming for the past century. They also know that human activities, mainly the burning of coal and oil, but also agriculture and deforestation, have dramatically increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere
In just the past year, the science linking observed climate change directly to human activities has become increasingly solid. And the impacts of climate change, distributed across the globe, are occurring in patterns that can only be explained by human activities and not by natural variations in regional climate. During the first half of the 20th century, natural factors may have been as important as anthropogenic factors. Unfortunately, the more dramatic warming that has occurred since then has been dominated by the human influence. The science is now clear on this point.
But what is really changing how people view this issue is that the impacts we are seeing now—today—are happening much sooner than anyone might have anticipated even a decade ago. These changes were predicted, but even the scientists who made the predictions are surprised at the rate at which they are now occurring.
What do we know about the impacts of climate change?
We know that ice cover around the world is changing at an unprecedented rate. Just last month, new satellite-based measurements of ice flow in Greenland were published in the Journal Science. And what they showed is that the second largest land-based ice sheet in the world is losing ice twice as fast as scientists had estimated before these new measurements were available. This ice sheet, if completely melted, could raise global sea level by almost 20 feet. That would permanently flood not just New Orleans, but virtually all of America’s major coastal cities.
We also know that we are experiencing a worldwide loss of mountain glaciers, a trend that is accelerating. By mid-century, most mountain glaciers may be gone.
We know that hurricanes are becoming more intense, not just in the Atlantic, which gave us Katrina and Rita, but in all oceans where hurricanes occur.
We know that ecosystems around the world are showing signs of responding to climate change. One study found that 130 species - both plants and animals - have responded to earlier spring warming over the last 30 years. These organisms have changed their timing of flowering, migration and other spring activities. More startling than this, however, climate change is also driving some species to extinction. For instance, in the past 20 years dozens of species of mountain frogs in Central America have disappeared because of a disease that formerly did not occur where they live. Early this year, a paper in the journal Nature revealed that the disease-causing organism, a fungus, has spread to higher elevations as a result of climate warming. This paper not only provides an example of climate change driving species extinct, but also strong scientific evidence that climate change is promoting the spread of diseases to new areas. In the authors' own words, "With climate change promoting infectious disease and eroding biodiversity, the urgency of reducing greenhouse-gas concentrations is now undeniable."
And these are, if I may say this, just the tip of the melting iceberg.
So the bottom line is this: The earth is warming; the impacts—once only predictions—are now upon us and are likely to worsen; and human activity is largely to blame.
U.S. Action on Climate Change
So we have all this science, and we have Americans responding to it by saying that our government needs to do more. How has our government responded? Well, at the state level at least, the response has been encouraging. For example:
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have enacted renewable energy mandates requiring utilities to generate a share of their power from renewable sources.
- Twenty-eight state governments have adopted climate action plans; 15 have programs or policies in place to reduce, sequester or register greenhouse gases; and nine states have statewide targets for reducing their emissions.
Connecticut, I am pleased to say, has done all of these things. And more. As many of you know, Connecticut, along with six other northeastern states has signed onto a regional initiative called RGGI that is aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the Northeast. This is the first “cap and trade” program to control these emissions in the United States. It couples a mandatory cap on emissions from the electricity sector with a market-based trading program that will allow companies to achieve their reductions at the lowest possible cost.
So Connecticut is really out in front on this issue—and all of you should be proud to live in a state with leaders who understand the need for climate action.
Among the other states that are taking this issue seriously, I have to mention California.
Like Connecticut, California has established greenhouse gas emissions targets, and they are very ambitious. And that state also has taken steps to begin regulating carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks. (a policy that Connecticut will follow if it survives the automakers’ legal challenge)
And then there is New Mexico, a major coal-producing state. NM has established its own targets, and has also announced a partnership with neighboring Arizona to jointly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change in the Southwest.
These are just a few examples of the kinds of things states are doing. Now, you might think one state’s actions cannot possibly affect a global problem like climate change. But consider this: California’s emissions top those of Brazil. Texas comes in ahead of Canada, the UK and Mexico. And Illinois produces more CO2 than the Netherlands. States are a significant part of the climate problem, and many of them, including Connecticut, are showing they can be a significant part of the solution as well.
So what about our national government? To what extent have our leaders in Washington embraced the need for action? Well, I have some good news and some bad news.
First the good news: During the U.S. Senate’s debate on energy legislation last year, senators approved a bipartisan measure calling for a national, mandatory, market-based program to slow, stop and, ultimately, reverse the growth in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation was sponsored by senators Domenici and Bingaman, the chair and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee. And although it was a nonbinding measure, it marked the first time the Senate has gone on record to support mandatory action on this issue. That is an important achievement – and now Senators Bingaman and Domenici are seeking input on how to create a mandatory climate program that gets real results.
Still in play is the cap and trade legislation proposed by Senators John McCain and Connecticut’s own Joseph Lieberman. And now Senator Dianne Feinstein has joined the issue as well, offering her own version of a cap and trade climate policy. And we are helping others in Congress develop other proposals. So clearly, we’ve seen an up-tick in Congressional interest in this issue. Granted, these proposals may not become law right away, probably not before 2008, but I believe it is only a matter of time before limits on greenhouse gas emissions are in place.
So that’s the good news: people on Capitol Hill, especially in the Senate, are looking at this issue and thinking hard about how to address it.
The bad news is that the White House and leadership of the House of Representatives are strongly opposed to addressing climate change in any significant way. As a result, I do not believe anything substantive is likely to come out of Congress on this issue for some time. I would like to be proved wrong, but it is hard for me to see any leadership on this issue coming from the White House during the remainder of its term.
Despite the President’s famous statement in his State of the Union Address that America is addicted to oil, Washington does not seem truly ready to fight the addiction. The Administration’s budget proposals don’t come anywhere close to providing the shot in the arm we need to accelerate clean energy research in this country. (Again, this is despite the American public’s clear interest in alternative energy solutions.) More importantly, even if the technology programs were properly funded, they simply are not enough.
And this is the problem with what has been happening on this issue to date, whether at the state or the federal level. In addition to being late to start, what we are talking about and doing is simply not enough. As I said, I applaud what many of the states are doing, and I am pleased to see members of Congress beginning to understand the need for action. But we need to remember what this is about.
James Hansen, the NASA scientist who is one of the world’s leading experts on climate change, says we have just 10 years to begin reducing greenhouse gases before global warming reaches what he calls a tipping point; the tipping point, as the phrase implies, is the point from which we may not be able to avert a catastrophe. To forestall a climate crisis, we must stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. And what does that mean? According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it means limiting the concentrations to about 550 parts per million –roughly double the pre-industrial level of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
To get to that level, we need to reduce global CO2 emissions by 55 to 85 percent below what is currently projected. Fifty-five to 85 percent. And we need to do this at the same time that energy demand around the world is growing at an unprecedented rate. We need to act now to come up with ways to limit emissions growth without endangering economic growth. And make no mistake: The United States, which is responsible for one-fourth of global emissions, needs to play a leadership role.
And that is going to require a fundamental shift. We need to move from an economy based on traditional burning of fossil fuels to one based on more energy efficiency; increased use of low-carbon energy sources; and the capture and storage of carbon from fossil fuels. This is not something that one piece of legislation, or even one strategy or one approach, will accomplish. We need a comprehensive approach.
An Agenda for Climate Action
In February, the Pew Center released the first comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Our Agenda outlines an ambitious yet practical approach to addressing this issue. It is based on seven years of Pew Center analysis and work with leading businesses and policymakers.
The number-one lesson we have learned from this work: There is no single technology fix, no single policy and no single sector that can solve this problem on its own. For example, addressing emissions from the utility sector is key, but doing only that leaves out about 60 percent of emissions. In the same way, if we adopt policies to limit emissions from transportation and do nothing else, we’re hitting just 30 percent of the problem—which is significant, of course, but it is not enough.
The Pew Center’s Agenda outlines 15 specific recommendations in six overarching areas where the United States must take action. These six areas are: 1) science and technology; 2) market-based programs; 3) sectoral emissions; 4) energy production and use; 5) adaptation; and 6) international engagement.
I want to provide you with a better sense of what our Agenda is about by highlighting some of the recommendations in each of these six areas.
In the area of science and technology research, we call for increased and stable funding to spur technological innovation. Because it is important to spend this money wisely, we suggest the use of a “reverse auction.” Unlike a traditional auction, where buyers bid against each other to purchase an item, a reverse auction allows providers of goods or services—in this case, new, climate-friendly technologies—to compete for a pot of money by offering emissions reductions.
Since 1998, California has used reverse auctions to promote development of renewable energy. The program collects money through a charge on electric power, and solicits bids for renewable projects, with the money going to the bidder that can provide the renewable energy at the cheapest rate. Thus far, there have been 81 successful bids to produce renewable energy through this competitive and cost-effective system.
Second, we believe it is critically important to enact a mandatory cap and trade program that applies to large stationary sources – power-plants and major manufacturing facilities. Our work over the years has shown that market mechanisms such as emissions trading allow companies to reduce emissions in the cheapest, most efficient manner possible.
What a cap and trade system does in essence is send a signal to the market. It tells the market that there is a value in reducing emissions. And it tells inventors and investors that there is profit in creating and deploying climate-friendly technologies. It creates an essential pull for new technologies to enter the market. The push for those technologies, in turn, comes from the funding of innovation, through mechanisms like the reverse auction. And we need both the push and the pull to achieve real and cost-effective results. A cap and trade system coupled with a reverse auction is a great example of a comprehensive approach.
But the fact is that a cap-and-trade system by itself, and particularly at the level that would be politically practical, is not enough. In fact, many of the current proposals for cap-and-trade programs, tend to leave out the transportation sector, which is of course a major source of emissions.
And this is why the Pew Center’s Agenda also calls for sectoral approaches such as transforming the much-maligned Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (or CAFE) program. CAFE, as you know, sets average fuel efficiency levels for carmakers across their fleets. But the standards have not changed significantly in over 20 years. And, because SUVs and light trucks now make up as much as half of the new-vehicle product mix, the average fuel economy of all the cars and light trucks sold in America—import and domestic— is no better today than it was in the early 1980s. Although NHTSA is currently considering changing the way it classifies different kinds of light trucks, it is unclear what that will translate into as far as actual emission reductions. But I am fairly sure it won’t be enough.
We recommend strengthening and converting the United States’ current fuel economy standards to a set of tradable standards based on greenhouse gas emissions. If you are looking to protect the climate, focusing on emissions rather than fuel efficiency seems more logical. By creating a market for emissions reductions through trading, and at the same time supporting the development of low-emission vehicles and fuels (the push and pull approach)—you can reduce the cost of getting the job done.
Of course, it is not only in the transportation sector where additional action is needed.
Our plan proposes tighter standards for appliance and equipment efficiency, as well as incentives for the manufacture of more climate-friendly products. Similarly, for the building sector, we call for stricter building codes to decrease energy use. We even touch on the role of the agriculture and forestry sectors in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere through climate-friendly practices. Again, all sectors of the economy have a role to play in this, and it is going to take all sectors to achieve the results we need.
But all sectors are not equal when it comes to having a hand in the climate problem and its potential solutions. One sector stands head and shoulders above the rest, and that is, you guessed it, energy. Eighty-percent of US greenhouse gas emissions come from the combustion of fossil fuels. The ways in which we generate, distribute and use energy have a profound impact on our emissions of greenhouse gases—and that is why the Pew Center’s Agenda reserves a special set of recommendations for this all-important sector. Our recommendations cover all of the major energy sources.
Let’s start with coal. And we need to be realists here. Coal is responsible for 50 percent of our nation’s electricity. It is cheap and it is plentiful and I believe (along with many others) that it will continue to play a role in meeting U.S. and global energy needs for years to come. Let’s look for a moment at our current and projected energy mix and needs. If we assume coal will continue to contribute roughly half of U.S. electricity requirements; and you look at the projected growth of energy demand in this country - by 2025 the U.S. will need to grow our coal capacity by 60% - that would mean emissions from U.S. coal burning alone in 2025 would equal 15% of our current global emissions. Globally, the numbers are even more dramatic. China is even more dependent on coal for electricity than the US. It contributes to 75% of their electricity needs, and despite efforts to ramp up generation in gas, renewables and nuclear, the overall share of coal in the mix is unlikely to change significantly. Think about this: China is building new coal power plants at a rate of one plant per week.
So we need to get serious—and I mean very serious—about reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants. First, we need to build the very best, most efficient coal burning power plants possible to reduce emissions per kWh of electricity. And then we have to prove that the carbon dioxide that still is emitted from these plants can be captured and stored (sequestered) in geological formations where it can be kept from entering the atmosphere for centuries or millennia.
We recommend an aggressive program of research, development and demonstration for these technologies. A few random demonstration projects done at a leisurely pace clearly are not enough. We need to build the most efficient plants and we need a concerted public-private effort to demonstrate that capture and sequestration can work, and then we have to insist that it be done.
But dealing with coal alone is not enough. Because capture and storage technologies are not quite ready, we need to work on expanding the role that renewables play in our energy future. We should also concentrate on expanding natural gas supplies and using natural gas more efficiently. And we will need to solve the problems associated with nuclear power. For each energy source, we propose specific measures in areas from R&D to incentives to regulation that can help expand the suite of carbon-friendly technologies that are necessary to put us on a low-carbon path.
It is of course important to understand that none of the things I have talked about can fully prevent all of the potential effects of climate change. In fact, as I mentioned at the start of my remarks, many impacts are already being seen. This is why, at the same time that we are working to reduce emissions in order to minimize the effects of climate change, we also need to develop a national strategy to adapt to those effects. Climate change is happening, and it is going to affect everything from agriculture to public safety and public health. Without a strategy, as well as a system for identifying the early warning signs of climate problems confronting our country, we are going to be caught unprepared.
Finally, the Pew Center’s Agenda, while primarily focused on domestic actions, also calls for greater U.S. participation in international negotiations on this issue. It is obvious now that there is no chance the United States will sign on to the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto, of course, is the 1997 agreement that sets country-by-country targets for reducing emissions for industrialized countries. However you feel about Kyoto, the fact remains that climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution. It also needs a longer-term solution; Kyoto includes targets only through 2012.
We need to engage every country that is a major source of these emissions, not just the United States but China and India as well. And we need to come up with ways to make the process fair and equitable for all involved.
Finding common ground on global approaches to the climate problem has been the focus of a special Pew Center initiative we launched a couple of years ago and released in Montreal in December. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it here, but we organized a dialogue-with business and political leaders from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Australia, China, India, Mexico, Brazil, and other countries. And a key take-away from the group is that we need a more flexible framework than Kyoto, something that allows different countries to take on different types of commitments, all under the umbrella of a common global framework.
Working with us on global approaches are Senators Lugar and Biden, the majority and minority leaders in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And I cannot speak highly enough of what these Senators have done. They sent senior staff to participate in our dialogue. They co-sponsored a resolution urging US leadership in the international negotiating process, and are committed to getting a majority of Senators to support it this year. And they expect to hold hearings this year on energy security and climate change.
So those are the recommendations in the Pew Center’s Agenda. Once again, they cover the areas of: 1) science and technology; 2) market-based programs; 3) sectoral emissions; 4) energy production and use; 5) adaptation; and 6) international engagement.
The Role of Business
What I want to emphasize about this agenda is that this isn’t pie-in-the-sky thinking. All of the steps we are recommending are eminently doable. We just need the political will to do them.
And, if we do these things thoughtfully, this transition can actually become a platform for new economic growth, new jobs, new manufacturing and service industries, and new roles for sectors such as agriculture and forestry in our nation’s efforts to protect the climate.
America’s business leaders appear to understand this. They know that a mandatory program to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. is inevitable, and they know it is in their best interests to see that the program is designed intelligently and fairly.
That’s why so many of them stood with us at the event in February where we unveiled our Agenda. And why so many companies responded to Senator Bingaman and Domenici’s call for proposals and suggestions to fashion legislation setting mandatory caps on U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases. And that is why last June, five Fortune 500 companies provided testimony on climate to the Science Committee of the House of Representatives. ;
There are two unifying themes in these examples of corporate and investor leadership. First, most corporate leaders know that greenhouse gas regulation is inevitable. Second, they know that properly designed mandatory climate policies are consistent with sound business planning and good corporate governance. As more companies and investors come to this realization, pressure will mount for other companies to take a more responsible stance on the climate issue. And as corporate leadership aligns with activity at the state and international level, pressure will grow for serious policy change at the federal level.
Why? Because these companies want to ensure that the burden of responding to the climate problem is evenly shared across all sectors of the economy. And they also want another thing: they want certainty. Businesses, particularly electric utilities that have to make significant up-front investments in power plants, are saying they need to be able to plan for the future-and they cannot plan effectively without knowing what kind of policies this country is going to adopt to control emissions.
I opened my remarks with some polling data that shows Americans clearly understand the need for action on this issue. And I have concluded with examples of how business leaders, too, are concerned and how they’re beginning to take action. And, when you consider what many of the states are doing to address this issue, you realize that the one place where climate change still hasn’t achieved priority status is in Washington. Yes, we have seen a fair amount of discussion of this issue. And, yes, there are policymakers who take it seriously and who want to shape solutions.
But we need solutions now. We don’t have time to wait. Climate change policy in this country is at a crossroads, and the American public, together with visionary business and state leaders, are pointing us in the direction we need to go.
The sooner we get started by reversing our current course and adopting a serious and comprehensive approach to addressing this problem, the better off and the safer we will be. And the sooner we’ll begin transforming our economy for the realities and the opportunities that lie ahead.
And so, I will leave you today with another bit of polling described by Jay Leno. "According to a survey in this week’s Time magazine, 85% of Americans think global warming is happening. The other 15%" according to Leno, "work for the White House." Thank you very much. I welcome your questions.
Agenda for Climate Action
Prepared by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Download report (pdf)
Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Over the past seven years, the Pew Center has published more than 60 reports on the science, economics, solutions, and policy options related to global climate change. Over that time, the scientific consensus on this issue has only strengthened, but there is, as yet, no consensus on the appropriate portfolio of policies that are required to address global climate change successfully. This Agenda for Climate Action is C2ES’s attempt to fill that gap. It takes a comprehensive look at a suite of climate, energy, and technology policies that could provide meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions throughout the economy.
This report finds six areas in which the U.S. must take action: (I) science and technology research, (II) market-based emissions management, (III) emissions reductions in key sectors, (IV) energy production and use, (V) adaptation, and (VI) international engagement. In the areas of science and technology research, we call for increased stable funding for both, along with innovative approaches to distribute funds efficiently. We propose a mandatory GHG reporting system, which can form the basis for tracking voluntary reductions, accompanied by a large-source, economy-wide cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases. This combination of technology investment and market development will provide for the most cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gases, as well as create a market for GHG-reducing technologies.
While these broader efforts are critical, sector-specific actions are also needed. To address emissions from the transportation sector, we propose converting the struggling Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program into a more ambitious but tradable GHG standard, along with increased support for low-emission vehicles and fuels. For the industrial sector, we encourage greater outreach and incentives for improvements in process efficiency and the manufacture of low-GHG products. In the agriculture sector, biological sequestration programs in Farm Bill legislation must receive proper funding and prioritization. Because energy is at the heart of this issue, we tackle this sector separately, making recommendations for each major energy source. To enable continued use of coal in a climate-friendly manner, we promote aggressive research and development on carbon separation and capture technologies, development of a regulatory framework for geologic sequestration, and advanced generation coal plants. Natural gas is an important transition fuel, and we support the expansion of natural gas transportation infrastructure and production. We propose extending incentives for renewable fuels and electricity generation, an increased focus on biomass, and federal-level support for renewable credit-trading programs. We also support continued use of nuclear power generation, pending resolution of issues such as safety and waste storage. There are vast opportunities for improving efficiency on an economy-wide basis, so we promote improved efficiency in electricity production (through distributed generation, combined heat and power technologies), in electricity transmission (through test beds for an advanced grid), and during energy use (through building codes, product standards, and manufacturing process improvements).
Because none of these efforts will fully prevent all potential effects of climate change (indeed, many impacts are already being observed), we propose the development of a national adaptation strategy and the funding of early warning systems. Last but not least, while the Agenda focuses on domestic actions, it argues for greater participation by the U.S. in international negotiations to engage all major emitters in a global solution.
Despite the specificity of many of the steps included here, there is still much room for ongoing refinement and elaboration of these recommendations. While we have consulted with many stakeholders in the development of this report, we look forward to building upon the suggestions described here through further outreach and consultation.
This report follows the publication of International Climate Efforts Beyond 2012: Report of the Climate Dialogue at Pocantico, an examination of options for advancing the international climate effort post-2012. Taken together, these two documents offer a promising path forward for the U.S. and the world in tackling global climate change.
Climate change is one of the most complex issues that the world will face in this century. Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have already reached levels unprecedented for hundreds of thousands of years, causing changes not only in global temperature, but also in observable impacts throughout the world, and these changes are happening more quickly than expected. The broad consensus of established scientific experts both internationally and domestically is that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities. In addition, the rate and severity of these changes will increase without significant steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations will require a fundamental shift in our energy system, but this transition will have other benefits as well, including improved competitiveness, security, air quality, public health, and job creation. This transition will not be easy, but it is crucial to begin now.
This Agenda is the Pew Center's attempt to develop and articulate a responsible course of action for addressing climate change. It identifies fifteen actions that should be started now, including U.S. domestic reductions and engagement in the international negotiation process. It includes both broad and specific policies, combining recommendations on technology development, scientific research, energy supply, economy-wide markets, and adaptation with critical steps that can be taken in key sectors. While reductions across sectors and sources of emissions are key, these steps are not likely to happen simultaneously, nor without costs. However, these recommendations have been designed to be both cost-effective and comprehensive.
Invest in science and technology research.
1. Ensure a robust research program though the Climate Change Science Program.
2. Offer long-term, stable funds—in the form of a reverse auction—to GHG-related technology research and development.
Establish mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions and harness market mechanisms for economy-wide reductions.
3. Create a mandatory GHG reporting system as a basis for an economy-wide emissions trading program.
4. Implement a large-source, economy-wide cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases.
Stimulate innovation across key economic sectors.
5. Transportation: Convert the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program into strengthened, tradable corporate average emissions standards. Support biofuels, hydrogen, and other low-GHG fuel alternatives.
6. Manufacturing: Provide outreach and incentives to manufacturers for improvements in industrial efficiency and low-GHG technologies, and support the production of low-GHG products.
7. Agriculture: Raise the priority and funding levels for Farm Bill programs and other federal initiatives on carbon sequestration.
Drive the energy system toward greater efficiency, lower-carbon fuels and carbon capture technologies.
8. Coal and Carbon Sequestration: Provide funding for tests of geologic carbon sequestration and for research, development and demonstration (RD&D) projects on separation and capture technologies, in combination with advanced generation coal plants. Establish an appropriate regulatory framework for carbon storage.
9. Natural Gas: Expand natural gas transportation infrastructure and production.
10. Renewables: Significantly “ramp up” renewables for electricity and fuels, including an extension and expansion of the production tax credit, a uniform system for tracking renewable energy credits, and increased emphasis on biomass.
11. Nuclear Power: Provide opportunities for nuclear power to play a continuing role in a future low-carbon electricity sector.
12. Efficient Energy Production and Distribution: Support the development and use of combined heat and power installations, distributed generation technologies, and test beds for an upgraded electricity grid.
13. Efficient Energy Usage: Reduce energy consumption through policies that spur efficiency, including appliance and equipment standards, building R&D and codes, and consumer education.
Begin now to adapt to the inevitable consequences of climate change.
14. Develop a national adaptation strategy through the Climate Change Science Program and Climate Change Technology Program, and fund development of early-warning systems for related threats.
Engage in negotiations to strengthen the international climate effort.
15. Review options for a new or modified agreement to ensure fair and timely action by all major emitting countries, and participate in negotiations to establish binding climate commitments consistent with domestic interests.
These fifteen recommendations are not the only means of achieving a lower-carbon future, but taken together, they would chart a climate-friendly path for the U.S.. Putting the Agenda into practice will take political will and policy action. All recommendations require government leadership, private sector commitment and time. Nonetheless, the details of specific recommendations in this Agenda are less critical than the compelling need to get started. Further delay will only make the challenge before us more daunting and costly.
Agenda for Climate Action
February 8, 2006
National Press Club, Washington, DC
Remarks made by business representatives at the release:
Group Climate Change Adviser
Shell International Limited (pdf)
Director for Federal, Governmental and Regulatory Relations
PG&E Corporation (pdf)
Western Hemisphere Health, Safety, Security, and Environment Director
Vice President of Federal Affairs and Environmental Safety
Vice President, Environmental Health and Safety
Holcim (US) Inc. (pdf)
Vice President, Government Relations
Whirlpool Corporation (pdf)
Supporting statements: Agenda for Climate Action
The Pew Agenda is an example of the kind of big picture, integrated thinking that is needed to tackle the climate issue. We're pleased that the Agenda makes the point that climate solutions should be market based while covering all parts of the economy and resolving regulatory uncertainty. These are all vital as the utility industry prepares to build the next generation of power plants needed by our growing economy.
James E. Rogers, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer
The changes needed in our energy infrastructure to meet future demand and respond to climate change will not happen by chance - a clear, long term framework will give business the necessary incentive and confidence to invest further.
John D. Hofmeister, President and US Country Chair
Shell Oil Company
Holcim is pleased with the leadership that the Pew Center has taken with regard to greenhouse gas reduction policies and the depth of research that comprises the foundation of this report. Importantly, the Pew Center recognizes the necessity of market-based solutions and that various sector needs must be taken into consideration if we are to have consensus in what must be done to contain and ultimately reduce the generation of greenhouse gases.
Patrick Dolberg, President & Chief Executive Officer
Holcim (US) Inc.
Through its association with the Pew Center, Alcan has identified another avenue through which to actively address climate change and its effects on the long-term sustainability of the Company. This report sends a clear message, calling on all stakeholders to broaden their investment in tackling the economic, social, and environmental issues that climate change presents.”
Daniel Gagnier, Senior Vice President, Corporate and External Affairs
Intel supports Pew's efforts to advance the national discussion on climate change by proposing options that merit careful consideration. Intel agrees that climate change is a serious issue, and has been actively working to mitigate its own climate impact through aggressive programs to reduce energy consumption and emissions of global warming compounds.
Dane Parker, General Manager of Environmental Health and Safety
February 8, 2006
Contact: Katie Mandes, (703) 516-0606
PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE RELEASES FIRST COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO CLIMATE CHANGE
All Sectors Must Share in Solution
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Pew Center on Global Climate Change released the first comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The Agenda for Climate Action identifies both broad and specific policies, combining recommendations on economy-wide mandatory emissions cuts, technology development, scientific research, energy supply, and adaptation with critical steps that can be taken in key sectors. The report is the culmination of a two-year effort that articulates a pragmatic course of action across all areas of the economy.
The report calls for a combination of technology and policy and urges action in six key areas: (1) science and technology, (2) market-based programs, (3) sectoral emissions, (4) energy production and use, (5) adaptation, and (6) international engagement. Within these six areas, the Agenda outlines fifteen specific recommendations that should be started now, including U.S. domestic reductions and engagement in the international negotiation process. All the recommendations are capable of implementation in the near-term.
The report concludes that there is no single technology fix, no single policy instrument, and no single sector that can solve this problem on its own. Rather, a combination of technology investment and market development will provide for the most cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gases, and will create a thriving market for GHG-reducing technologies. To address climate change without placing the burden on any one group, the report urges actions throughout the economy.
“Some believe the answer to addressing climate change lies in technology incentives. Others say limiting emissions is the only answer. We need both,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center.
Emissions in the United States continue to rise at an alarming rate. U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have grown by more than 18% since 1990, and the Department of Energy now projects that they will increase by another 37% by 2030.
Joining the Pew Center at the announcement were representatives from the energy and manufacturing sectors. Speaking at the release were: David Hone, Group Climate Change Adviser, Shell International Limited; Melissa Lavinson, Director, Federal Environmental Affairs and Corporate Responsibility, PG&E Corporation; Bill Gerwing, Western Hemisphere Health, Safety, Security, and Environment Director, BP; John Stowell, Vice President, Environmental Strategy, Federal Affairs and Sustainability, Cinergy Corp., Ruksana Mirza, Vice President, Environmental Affairs, Holcim (US) Inc.; and Tom Catania, Vice President, Government Relations, Whirlpool Corporation.
While actions are needed across all sectors, some steps will have a more significant, far-reaching impact on emissions than others and must be undertaken as soon as possible.
- A program to cap emissions from large sources and allow for emissions trading will send a signal to curb releases of greenhouse gases while promoting a market for new technologies.
- Transportation is responsible for roughly one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions, and this report addresses this sector through tradable emissions standards for vehicles.
- Because energy is at the core of the climate change problem, the report makes several recommendations in this area: calling for increased efficiency in buildings and products, as well as in electricity generation and distribution. Incentives and a nationwide platform to track and trade renewable energy credits are recommended to support increased renewable power. In recognition of the key role that coal plays in U.S. energy supply, the report calls for the capture and sequestration of carbon that results from burning coal. Nuclear power currently provides a substantial amount of non-emitting electricity, and is therefore important to keep in the generation mix. The report recommends support for advanced generation of nuclear power, while noting that issues such as safety and waste disposal must also be addressed.
- While most of the recommendations focus on mitigation efforts, the report acknowledges that some impacts are inevitable and are already being seen. As a result, it proposes development of a national adaptation strategy to plan for a climate-changing world.
- Finally, despite the importance of efforts by individual countries on this issue, climate change cannot be addressed without engagement of the broader international community. The report recommends that the U.S. participate in international negotiations aimed at curbing global greenhouse gas emissions by all major emitting countries.
Other recommendations include: long-term stable research funding, incentives for low-carbon fuels and consumer products, funding for biological sequestration, expanding the natural gas supply and distribution network, and a mandatory greenhouse gas reporting program that can provide a stepping stone to economy-wide emissions trading.
The full text of this and other Pew Center reports is available at http://www.c2es.org.
The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States’ largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
These facts and figures are divided into three sections:
- U.S. Emissions
- International Emissions
- Land-Ocean Surface Temperatures
and other information on our Basics page
- Main Greenhouse Gases
These sections explain the scientific evidence for human impacts on the climate system, specifically global warming.
Each section below contains several figures. Click on the section's heading or image to view all.
|Land-Ocean Surface Temperatures|
and other information on our Basics page
For Immediate Release: January 19, 2005
Contact: Katie Mandes
CLIMATE SOLUTIONS AND FORESTS
New report examines the economic and climate impacts of storing carbon in trees
Washington, DC — Cost-effective climate change policies should include storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) in U.S. forests, according to a new report from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
“Climate change is the major global environmental challenge of our time and in order to deal with it in the most cost-effective way, we need to consider the full range of solutions – and that includes carbon storage in forests,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “If we ignore the potential for forest-based sequestration, any projection of the costs and feasibility of addressing climate change is going to be overly pessimistic and wrong.”
Most analyses of the climate issue have tended to focus on the implications of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from key industrial and transportation sources. Less attention is paid to the potential for storing (or “sequestering”) carbon in forests and other ecosystems. Both emissions reduction and carbon sequestration are important strategies for addressing climate change.
The Pew Center report, The Cost of U.S. Forest-based Carbon Sequestration, investigates the potential for incorporating land-use changes into climate policy. Authored by economists Robert Stavins of Harvard University and Kenneth Richards of Indiana University, the Pew Center report looks at the true “opportunity costs” of using land for sequestration, in contrast with other productive uses. The report also examines the many factors that drive the economics of storing carbon in forests over long periods of time.
Among the authors’ key conclusions: The estimated cost of sequestering up to 500 million tons of carbon per year—an amount that would offset up to one-third of current annual U.S. carbon emissions—ranges from $30 to $90 per ton. On a per-ton basis, this is comparable to the cost estimated for other options for addressing climate change, including fuel switching and energy efficiency.
A sequestration program on the scale envisioned by the authors would involve large expanses of land and significant up-front investment. As a result, implementation would require careful attention to program design and a phased approach over a number of years. Nevertheless, the report offers new evidence that sequestration can and should play an important role in the United States’ response to climate change.
“This report shows that large-scale forest-based sequestration can be a cost-effective tool which should be considered seriously by policymakers,” said the Pew Center's Claussen.
The full text of this and other Pew Center reports is available at http://www.c2es.org.
The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States’ largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
CLIMATE CHANGE: BEYOND A SIDEWAYS APPROACH
SPEECH BY EILEEN CLAUSSEN
PRESIDENT, PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
DONALD BREN SCHOOL OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
AND MANAGEMENT- UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA
JANUARY 14, 2005
Thank you. I am delighted to be here – and I have to say it was awfully nice of the weather to clear up for my arrival.
Of course, I am not here to talk about the weather. I am here to talk about the climate. And the difference, as we all know, is that climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get. And California has certainly gotten more than it expected or deserved these last few weeks.
I am sure some of you saw the movie, The Day After Tomorrow, and it is hard not to think about it given the recent weather you’ve been having. This is the film that dramatized the effects of climate change by releasing tornadoes in downtown Los Angeles and flooding all of Manhattan. People called it left-wing propaganda, but I remember watching the movie and wondering why only Blue states were getting hit.
And then of course we have the new Michael Crichton book that you have probably heard about. The book, which is climbing the bestseller lists as we speak, tells a fictional tale of how climate change itself is a fiction created by overzealous environmentalists so that they can enact draconian regulations on big business.
The book is called “State of Fear,” and my only fear is that people will take seriously its absolutely wrongheaded portrayal of the problem of climate change.
I hope all of you will join me in reminding people that Mr. Crichton’s specialty is fiction – even if he does include all sorts of graphs and charts in the current book to make it seem like a scientific tract. This is the man who wrote such fantastical books as Jurassic Park, and it seems to me he has been hanging out with too many dinosaurs – people who are mired in the past and who simply cannot and will not accept the broad scientific consensus that we have a significant problem on our hands, and that there are practical and economically sound ways to tackle it.
The point is– whether we are talking about the movie or the book: They are both fiction.
In contrast to the book’s sensationalistic tone and style, your school’s emphasis on rigorous, interdisciplinary approaches to environmental problem-solving is something that is desperately needed in today’s world. With so many complex and urgent environmental issues on the agenda at the local, national and international levels, your work here is essential. And I applaud your interest in these issues and your commitment to solutions.
At the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, we are committed to solutions, too. And today, I would like to talk for a little bit about some of the potential solutions to the problem of climate change. More specifically, I want to talk about the nexus of technology and public policy – in other words, what policies do we need in order to unleash the global technological revolution that is necessary to protect the climate?
I understand there is a hit movie in theaters right now that was filmed in the wine country around here. The movie is called Sideways – and, unfortunately, this is a title that could just as easily apply to current U.S. policy on climate change. But in saying we are moving sideways, even that may be giving us too much credit. Perhaps Backwards would be more appropriate.
Clearly, we can do better. And today I want to talk about how. More specifically, I want to talk about a plan that the Pew Center is developing for U.S. action on the climate issue. We call it our Agenda – and it is something we have been working on in concert with business and government leaders and others to lay out a responsible and practical policy course for the United States for the years to come.
But, before I talk about that, I want to talk briefly about what is at stake here. And I want to paint a clearer picture of the problem we are trying to solve, the problem we must solve—that is, of course, global climate change.
Just last month, the World Meteorological Organization reported that 2004 was the fourth hottest year on record – and that the last four years were among the top five. Of even greater concern was the news we learned in November about the arctic region. This is the canary in the coal mine of climate change, the place where researchers have always said that the effects of this global problem will hit early and hard.
And in November, we learned just how hard. The report of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment showed that the Arctic region is indeed undergoing dramatic and alarming changes. The reason: It’s warming much more rapidly than previously known, at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the globe.
And it’s important to remember that this isn’t a random, out-of-left-field report. It is the result of an unprecedented, four-year scientific study of the region conducted by an international team of 300 scientists. And its conclusions should be a wake-up call for all nations.
According to the report, at least half the summer sea ice in the Arctic is projected to melt by the end of this century, along with a significant portion of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The Arctic region is projected to warm by an additional 7 to 13 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. These changes will have major global impacts, contributing to sea-level rise and even intensifying global warming as the disappearance of Arctic ice masses means that more incoming solar radiation will be absorbed at the Earth’s surface instead of being reflected back.
This is scary stuff. And, the fact is, we don’t have to travel to the Arctic to see that climate change is already being observed, even if the impacts in that region may be more pronounced and are occurring at a faster rate. Also in November, the Pew Center released a report showing some of the closer-to-home effects of climate change – effects right here in the United States. Right now.
For example, we are seeing a long-term trend toward an earlier spring, with earlier flowering and reproduction of plant and bird species. Butterflies here on the U.S. west coast are moving north and to higher altitudes in search of tolerable climate conditions, with some populations disappearing altogether from the southern end of their ranges. And this is only the beginning. In addition to their potential to lead to future declines in the diversity of U.S. wildlife, these ecological changes are indicators that global warming is already upon us and that adverse effects to other systems, and ultimately our economy, are just around the corner.
With warming for the next century projected to be two to ten times greater than the last, we’re heading toward a fundamental and potentially irreversible disruption of our ecology and natural systems, both in this country and around the world.
So what can we do? Well, at this point, we have to accept that some climate change already is built into the system – indeed, it is already happening, as I have said. But we do have the power to limit the scope and severity of climate change. And what we need to do is stabilize greenhouse gases in our atmosphere at a level that will keep this problem from becoming a global crisis.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stabilization means shooting for the magic number of 550 parts per million – that would be roughly double the pre-industrial level of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
But to get to that level, we need to reduce global CO2 emissions by 55 to 85 percent below what is currently projected under a “business-as-usual” scenario. Fifty-five to 85 percent. Making this challenge even more daunting, energy demand around the world is growing at a breakneck pace. We need to act now to come up with ways to keep global economies growing while curbing the growth in greenhouse gas emissions around the world. And make no mistake: The United States, which is responsible for one-fourth of global emissions, needs to take the lead.
Over the past year, as I have said, the Pew Center has been working to develop a comprehensive plan for U.S. action on this issue. This Agenda is our attempt to develop and articulate a responsible course for addressing climate change.
It is built on six years of Pew Center analysis and experience with leading businesses, and through dialogue with international leaders and experts. And what we recommend in the Agenda is that the U.S. develop an Integrated National Climate Change Strategy. That means a strategy that combines technology development with wide-ranging policies on issues from mitigation and science to adaptation.
This last point, about adaptation, is a crucial part of what we have to do, because even if we push forward with an ambitious strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we’re already locked in to future changes in the global climate. There is no way around it. And these future changes will pose many challenges to ecosystems and natural resources, as well as human health and national economies. We need to plan now for these changes so that our society and others are able to adapt.
But adapting, of course, is not enough. We also need to take serious action to limit the extent of climate change by reducing our emissions. More than anything else, that will require a global technology revolution – and we need policies to make that revolution happen.
While it’s true that technology normally advances over time on its own, it does not always advance in the right direction. Also, we plainly do not have time to wait. The challenge before us requires a much more deliberate, enunciated effort to develop policies that will help push and pull climate-friendly technologies to the market. We need a guiding vision on the order of putting a person on the moon or developing a cure for cancer. And we need to look at the full range of policy approaches that will get us where we need to be – from market incentives and public-private partnerships to a range of R&D efforts focusing on everything from basic research to deployment.
Perhaps the best way to look at the technology and policy challenge we face is on a sector-by-sector basis. From manufacturing and electricity to buildings, agriculture, forestry and transportation, all sectors of the economy have important parts to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Let me talk briefly about just two: transportation and electricity.
The transportation sector is responsible for more than a third of our greenhouse gas emissions, and a quarter of U.S. energy consumption. To reduce these emissions, the Pew Center's Agenda identifies a range of specific policies-all aimed at speeding the development and deployment of new technologies. And what we need to do is focus on both short-term technologies such as hybrid gas-electric vehicles, as well as longer-term technologies such as hydrogen.
Looking first at the short term, we can do a lot more on the issue of hybrids. This is, in fact, a classic case of how smart policy can make a difference. Yes, hybrid vehicles are selling. But, despite their popularity, there is no way they will represent more than a small fraction of U.S. vehicle sales without government stepping in and creating a bigger market. What can government do? Well, we can do a lot more to step up consumer incentives for buying these low greenhouse gas emitting vehicles - and it is not just hybrids I am talking about but clean-diesel vehicles as well.
We can also remove incentives in the law for purchasing inefficient vehicles such as SUVs - it is frankly hard to believe these incentives exist, given the energy and climate challenges we face. And, last but not least, government can and should take steps to boost public-sector procurement of climate-friendly vehicles. The goal is to create and expand the market - and government can help do that with its own purchases.
Among the longer-term transportation technologies we need to be looking at are hydrogen, biofuels, and all-electric cars and trucks. But every one of these technologies faces substantial barriers that the private sector is unlikely to be able to resolve on its own. We need to ramp up funding for research, design and deployment. Just as important, we need demonstration programs. Everybody talks about a hydrogen economy, but you need a hydrogen infrastructure to make it work. And the government needs to work with industry to come up with demonstrations that will show what's feasible and practical - and how to do it right. For example, it is absolutely essential that we find environmentally friendly ways of producing hydrogen - because if we merely use fossil fuels to do it, the climate problem does not improve; it actually gets worse.
I have talked a lot about cars, but we need to look at other forms of transportation, too. Air, rail, marine transportation, road freight - all of these are a part of the problem, and all of them must be a part of the solution. In the Pew Center Agenda, we talk about the need for government to work with the International Civil Aviation Organization to adopt policies aimed at boosting the fuel efficiency of aircraft. The bottom line is that there are countless ways to reduce emissions from this vital and growing sector. Our challenge is to adopt policies that will ensure that those reductions happen sooner rather than later - when the damage may already be done.
People in California know what needs to happen. Your state is on the verge of establishing tough but achievable standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars. You would be the first state to do this – and, if it happens, you’ll be charting a productive path forward for the rest of the country. Because the fact is we need national standards like those proposed for California. And, in the Pew Center Agenda, we recommend converting the United States' current fuel economy standards to a set of tradable standards based on greenhouse gas emissions. If you are looking to protect the climate, focusing on emissions is the way to go.
Another sector where we can and must achieve significant progress is electricity, which is responsible for almost 40 percent of U.S. emissions. And here I want to start by talking about coal. In 2003, coal provided 51 percent of U.S. electricity. Worldwide, it is the most abundant and widely distributed fossil fuel. Given current rates of production and use, we have 200 years of reserve supply. Whether you like it or not, coal is going to remain a major part of the energy mix for decades to come.
And so our challenge is twofold: we need to come up with better, cleaner ways to burn coal; and we also need to do everything in our power to figure out how to capture and store the carbon that is produced when we do burn it. There are technologies being developed that hold promise on both of these counts. But, once again, these technologies will go nowhere fast if we don’t light a fire under them, so to speak, with government R&D and other policies. We need tests to find out the practicality of geologic storage of carbon. We need demonstrations so we can understand the ins and outs of CO2 injection underground. We also need to build demonstration plants so we can learn more about coal gasification, which holds the promise of allowing us to burn coal with dramatically reduced carbon emissions.
All of these are smart and necessary investments – not just for climate reasons but also because they can place the United States in a leadership position around the world so we can then export these technologies to other countries with significant coal resources, such as India and China.
So that’s the story with coal. But what about other energy technologies? What about combined heat and power? This is when you capture and use the waste heat generated along with electricity. Want to know the overall efficiency of the U.S. electricity system – what we put in vs. what we get out? It’s 30 to 33 percent of input energy; that level has remained constant since the 1970s. This is inexcusable when you consider that combined heat and power systems can boost efficiency to upwards of 80 percent. Right now, these systems account for just 8 percent of U.S. energy supply, compared to 40 percent in Europe. What policy steps can we take to promote combined heat and power? Well, we can start by regulating utilities based on total energy output. A lot of these are just common-sense solutions.
Another promising energy technology is distributed generation, or DG. This is when you generate electricity close to the point of use. With distributed generation, you can reduce CO2 emissions in a number of ways. In fact, a major benefit of this technology is that you avoid so-called transmission and distribution losses; when electricity is moved over long distances, 7 to 8 percent of it is lost along the way. With distributed generation, you can also use waste heat for combined heat and power in ways that you cannot in a large, centralized power station. So it can be more efficient in that way too. But we need policies to make distributed generation more feasible -- for example, by allowing people to sell excess power back to the grid at a fair price.
Now, what about renewables? If you are talking about climate-friendly sources of energy, you have to talk about renewables – wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and more. In the past, these technologies have cost significantly more than fossil fuels for the same energy output. But over time we have adopted policies at the national, state and local levels that promote renewables – tax breaks, consumer incentives, portfolio standards that require utilities to generate a set share of their power from these sources. California’s aggressive deployment policies in the 1980s helped bring the cost of wind power down to where it is today – close to the cost of fossil fuel generation in some markets. Yet, the lack of policy leadership in the U.S. meant that we lost our leadership position in the wind field to Europe.
So it is policy that has made these technologies more competitive, but policy needs to do more. We need to do things like extending the wind production tax credit, creating renewable portfolio standards at the state, regional and/or national level, and investing more in research and development. Given the energy security challenges we face in this country, not to mention the climate challenges, developing and deploying renewables should be at the top of our national agenda.
Burning coal in clean ways. Safely storing carbon. Investing in combined heat and power and distributed generation. And making renewables an integral part of our national energy mix. These are critical energy challenges for the future – and they are not the only ones. At the Pew Center, we have always been careful to remain “technologically neutral” – we will throw out the welcome mat for any and all technologies that can be part of the climate solution. And, in our Agenda, we address the need for policies to encourage the development and deployment of everything from advanced nuclear power to new energy-efficiency technologies. This problem is too big for any one solution.
We need to look at an array of technologies, and at an array of policies as well. We need strong R&D policies, government standards and codes, public infrastructure investments, public education programs, public-private partnerships and more. And we also need to look at broader, technology-neutral policies as well – policies that can encourage action across all sectors of the economy. Here I am talking specifically about the policy known as “cap and trade.”
Cap-and-trade is the approach taken in the Climate Stewardship Act introduced last year by Senators Joseph Lieberman and John McCain. Their bill attracted the support of 43 U.S. senators and prompted the first serious debate in Congress about exactly what we need to be doing to respond to the problem of climate change.
The reason cap-and-trade works is that it enables companies to reduce emissions as cheaply as possible. We all know the example of how trading has worked to achieve cost-effective reductions in emissions of the pollutants that cause acid rain. In fact, it was because of the United States’ successful use of trading to reduce sulfur emissions that our country insisted that trading be a central element of the Kyoto Protocol. And now, inspired by Kyoto, the European Union is on the verge of launching the broadest emissions trading system ever established.
What’s more, right here in the United States, nine Northeastern governors, led by New York Governor George Pataki, are developing a multi-state regional “cap-and-trade” initiative aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. This effort is proceeding well, and we expect them to complete their work by this spring, with agreement on a model rule.
Now, it will probably be some time before we establish a national, economy-wide cap-and-trade system in the United States—the political support for it is not there. But what might be possible is a series of interlinked trading systems – the east coast with Europe and perhaps with Canada and the west coast as well. Such a “bottom-up” system could be robust enough both to achieve some environmental benefit and to keep costs down. And it would be a valuable learning experience for both sides on this issue, hopefully one that would show that taking action to protect the climate is both practical and affordable.
Of course, cap-and-trade is not the only broad policy that we need to think about. We also need a climate-conscious energy policy for the United States. In Great Britain, the government has developed an energy blueprint for the next 50 years that makes climate change a key driver of that country’s energy policy, along with price and security of supply. The United States would be wise to follow suit.
I have tried in these remarks to talk about what we need to do here at home in order to approach the climate issue in a serious way. We need a robust, climate-friendly energy policy. Incentives and requirements for clean technologies. A cap-and-trade program to reduce emissions at the lowest cost. But it is important to remember that we need to engage on this issue at the international level too. Climate change is a global problem. Even if we were to get dead serious about reducing our emissions tomorrow, we won’t get where we need to be unless all countries become a part of the solution.
In December, as many of you know, delegates from the United States joined representatives of other nations at a climate meeting in Buenos Aires. The ostensible purpose of the meeting was to tie up any loose ends that remained before the Kyoto Protocol goes into force in February. The Protocol, of course, is the international agreement that commits all of its signatory countries to specific targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions before 2012. The Buenos Aires meeting also, it was assumed, would begin to lay the groundwork for the next steps in the international climate effort – in other words, what happens after 2012?
The only problem with the latter assumption is that the United States, which is not even a party to the Protocol, was opposed to any discussion of the future. In a truly Orwellian quote, the lead U.S. negotiator at the meeting was heard to say, “We need to absorb and analyze lessons learned before committing to new actions.” End quote. New actions? I didn’t know that we had committed to any old actions. And it is hard to learn any lessons when you’re doing next to nothing.
We might as well have had Michael Crichton as the head of our negotiating team. At least he would have made it more interesting.
In any case, the events in Buenos Aires underscore how far the U.S. has strayed since 1992, when President George H.W. Bush signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is the treaty where the nations of the world acknowledged that climate change was a problem and pledged to act – voluntarily, I might add – to reduce their emissions. Even during the Clinton administration, despite signing the Kyoto Protocol, we clearly were not willing to own up to our global responsibility on this issue.
Climate change requires that we act at both the international and the national levels, and my goal today has been to give you some ideas and examples of the kinds of things we need to do. Now, at this point I could wrap up by remarks by comparing what we need to do with what is actually happening. And, I would start by talking about the relatively low level of investment in this issue on the part of the federal government. I would then have to mention the Administration’s goal of growing our emissions. And I would come back again to our reluctance to enter the debate on how we might move forward on this issue globally. But I don’t want to leave you depressed, particularly given the fact that you have had such frightening weather these last few weeks.
Instead, I will leave you with a look on the bright side of this issue. Because, despite everything else, we have seen a few signs of progress in the past year. One of these, of course, is the fact that the Kyoto Protocol is ready to enter into force in February – no matter what you want to say about it, this is an historic achievement. And, in a related development that I already mentioned, we have seen the launch of the EU trading system for carbon dioxide – it is another historic achievement and, hopefully, the first of many such trading systems around the world.
Next, I want to pay tribute to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has spent a good part of the past year touting climate change as one of two key issues he intends to work on as president of both the EU and G-8 group of industrialized nations.
Yet another thing to celebrate is the work of many U.S. states to get a handle on this issue, even despite the lack of action in Washington. I mentioned the work of the Northeastern governors on cap-and-trade. And I also talked about what’s happening here in California with regard to motor vehicle emissions. And there are many more stories from the states about people stepping up to their responsibility to act. U.S. states are a large source of greenhouse gas emissions – California’s exceed those of Brazil. And, while national policies are essential, we also need the states to do their part.
Last but not least, I want to celebrate what is happening in many corners of the business community to address this problem. Many of the companies we work with at the Pew Center are adopting voluntary targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. And, not only that, they are taking action to meet their targets by investing in new technologies, increasing efficiency, and developing energy-saving products, clean fuels, biomass energy, and more.
In closing, let me say that the forecast for the future needn’t be gloomy. A lot is happening to address the climate change problem. But we need to do a lot more. And I encourage all of you to do what’s needed to make sure your state remains a leader in addressing this issue in the years ahead. We need to show that solutions are within our grasp, that smart, forward-thinking policies can drive the development and deployment of new, low-carbon technologies, and that progress is possible.
Climate change is the most important global environmental challenge we will face in the years ahead. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s fiction. You know better. And it is going to be people like you who come up with the solutions we need.
Thank you very much.
CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS: A SCIENCE AND POLICY AGENDA
SPEECH BY EILEEN CLAUSSEN
PRESIDENT, PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
COUNCIL OF SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY PRESIDENTS
DECEMBER 6, 2004
It is a pleasure to be here, and I welcome the opportunity to address such a distinguished group of science leaders. I know that a lot of you are here from out of town, and I have to say that I appreciate what you have done to raise this city’s collective IQ, if only for a couple of days.
I also want to say that I applaud the theme of your meeting, Setting the Agenda for 21st Century Science. If I accomplish nothing else in my remarks, I hope I can leave you with a stronger sense that one of the most important items on the science agenda for this century is climate change and how we respond.
Science holds the key not just to advancing our understanding of this complex problem but also to advancing our ability to reduce the very real risks it poses to the world. Science also will be critical as we try to figure out how best to adapt to climate change in the years and decades ahead. This is one of the most important issues of our time. And each of you, together with your organizations and the scientists and engineers you represent, can and must play a leading role in shaping solutions.
Today, I want to talk with you about what those solutions might entail – and about how you and your organizations can help make them happen. But first, considering that we are here in the nation’s capital, I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about how Washington has responded to climate change so far.
In providing this report card on our elected leaders’ efforts on this issue, I am reminded of the teacher who told the parents of a failing student that they could at least rest assured of one thing. “With grades like these, he couldn’t possibly be cheating.”
Now I know you heard yesterday from a representative of the Bush administration about its approach to the issue of climate change. And I am certain that you heard a lot about our government’s hard work in areas from advancing climate science to promoting technology development and working with industry on an array of programs and initiatives. But the fact of the matter is that the Bush administration’s climate policies represent little more than a “business-as-usual” approach.
With their limited R&D investments, their reliance on voluntary measures, and their lack of planning for how this nation and others can adapt to climate change, the policies advanced by the White House are simply inadequate. They reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and potential severity of the problem.
The science tells us in no uncertain terms that we need to be doing all we can to, number one, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions today, and, number two, spur the investments needed to achieve even greater reductions in the years and decades ahead. We also need to get real about the fact that climate change is happening now—and that its impacts will accelerate in the years ahead. We need a proactive approach to adapt to climate change so we can limit the damage, economic and otherwise, that this problem will cause.
The Administration, of course, makes much of the ongoing effort to address the “uncertainties” in today’s climate models – specifically concerning the rate and magnitude of global warming. I cannot tell you how often my staff and I, in our meetings with members of Congress and other opinion leaders, hear the refrain that the science on this issue just isn’t there yet – and that the uncertainties in the science suggest that action is not necessary or desirable at this time.
Our response is that, yes, uncertainties certainly exist about future trends. But the certainties and near certainties are equally important. Today, the scientific community agrees on three key points: 1) the earth is warming; 2) the primary cause of this warming is fossil fuel consumption; and 3) if we don’t act now to reduce emissions, this problem will only get worse.
Despite this concensus among scientists, our nation’s climate change policies have changed very little in the last several years. The first President Bush, when presented with evidence that climate change was a problem, pursued a strategy of scientific research and voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The evidence is much stronger and much more conclusive today, and yet our basic strategy has not changed.
The White House’s new Climate Change Science Program, for example, has a budget comparable, in inflation-adjusted dollars, to its predecessor during the 1990s, the Global Climate Research Program. There are the more substantive R&D initiatives embraced by this administration – I am talking here about the Hydrogen Fuels Initiative and FutureGen, the much-touted public/private initiative to develop clean coal technologies. But these initiatives, while of value, represent only modest investments in technologies that are decades away from being deployed.
The real proof of our nation’s climate policies, of course, should be in the results, and the bottom line is that the United States is not even close to doing what’s needed to reduce our emissions and put on us a path toward meeting the long term objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to which the United States is a party.
In order to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at roughly double pre-industrial levels (that is the equivalent of 550 parts per million), developed countries such as the United States must undertake a concerted effort to deploy existing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, and aggressively promote more advanced technologies as old energy capital is retired. Allowing our near-term emissions to grow will only make this task more daunting and expensive. But this is precisely the path we are on, and this is because we continue to rely on a voluntary approach to mitigation.
The current Administration’s plan to reduce the “greenhouse gas intensity” of the U.S. economy actually will result in an increase in absolute emissions. These emissions will grow by roughly 14 percent above 2000 levels and 30 percent above 1990 levels by 2010. Needless to say, this is not the direction in which we want to be headed.
Clearly, we can do better. We must do better. I have often said that climate change calls on us to create the conditions for an energy technology revolution. But a revolution needs two things: an impetus, or spark; and a vision, a vision of the change we want and need to see.
The impetus for the revolution I am talking about, I believe, will have to come from political will. We have seen some important gains on this front in the last couple of years, as various members of Congress, together with state and local officials, have developed and proposed policies that reflect a real understanding of what’s at stake. But an energy technology revolution will not happen without broader support from our political leaders. It will not happen unless and until industry receives clear and consistent policy signals from government that climate change is a priority – and that reducing emissions and developing low-carbon technologies is not a choice but a condition for doing business in America. This is going to take a level of political will that we have not yet seen, but that I hope, with your help, we can generate in the months and years ahead.
What about the vision of where we need to go? At the Pew Center, we recently developed something we are calling the “10-50 Solution” to climate change. By 10-50, we mean we should be looking ahead and thinking about where we want to be on this issue in 50 years. However, at the same time that we are establishing a long-term goal, and making the necessary investments that will allow us to meet it, we also need to identify the strategies and policies we can start pursuing in the next 10 years and in each decade that follows.
The bottom line is that we need a sense of urgency as well as a recognition of the long-term nature of both the climate change problem and its ultimate technological solution. The United Kingdom for example has set 2 goals, a near term goal of a 12.5-percent greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2012 and a longer term one for a 60-percent reduction within 50 years. The United States needs to adopt something similar, setting targets that will, in turn, drive the development of the policies and technologies we will need in order to reach our goals.
After hearing all the hemming and hawing around this issue in Washington, you wouldn’t know that near-term reductions in our emissions are readily available – principally through investments in energy efficiency. Over the decades to come, more advanced technologies such as carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, and possibly advanced nuclear energy can be tapped to provide for the steeper reductions that are ultimately needed. These technologies will require policies to both push and pull them to the markets, and over time these technologies also must be made available to the developing world. But we must start now. Because of the long-lived nature of greenhouse gases, there will always be a substantial lag between the reductions we achieve and the effect of those reductions on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.
As we consider how to reach our long-term climate objectives, I believe we need to consider three approaches at once.
The first approach is based on the notion of targets and trading. Government cannot mandate a revolution. But it can create the conditions for one. By establishing clear and definitive goals, or targets, and then summoning the powers of the marketplace to meet them.
From its inception, the Pew Center has supported cost-effective, market-based approaches to climate change – chiefly, through an economy-wide cap-and-trade system. This is a policy that sets targets for greenhouse gas emissions and then allows companies the flexibility to trade emission credits in order to achieve their targets in the most economic manner.
This is the approach taken in the Climate Stewardship Act introduced last year by Senators Joseph Lieberman and John McCain. Their bill garnered the support of 44 U.S. senators and prompted the first serious debate in Congress about exactly what we need to be doing to respond to the problem of climate change.
Cap-and-trade works because it enables companies to reduce emissions as cheaply as possible. We all know the example of how trading has worked to achieve cost-effective reductions in emissions of the pollutants that cause acid rain. In fact, it was because of the United States’ successful use of trading to reduce sulfur emissions that our country insisted that trading be a central element of the Kyoto Protocol. And now, inspired by Kyoto, the European Union is on the verge of launching the broadest emissions trading system ever established.
What’s more, right here in the United States, nine Northeastern governors, led by New York Governor George Pataki, are developing a multi-state regional “cap-and-trade” initiative aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. This effort is proceeding well, and we expect them to complete their work, as planned, by April of next year, with agreement on a model rule.
Of course, it will likely be some time before we establish a national, economy-wide cap-and-trade system in the United States—the politics (or the spark) isn’t there yet. But what might be possible is a series of interlinked trading systems – the east coast with Europe and perhaps with Canada and the west coast as well. Such a “bottom-up” system could be robust enough both to achieve some environmental benefit and keep costs down. And it would be a valuable learning experience for both sides on this issue, hopefully one that would show that taking action on this issue is both practical and affordable.
The second pathway to the future that I want to focus on is the need for sectoral solutions to climate change. Simply put, any effort to address climate change must include greenhouse gas reductions from all sectors. The two biggest sectoral sources of these emissions are transportation and electric power. Transportation alone accounts for more than a quarter of U.S. energy consumption, and more than a third of our greenhouse gas emissions. And the electricity sector is responsible for almost 40 percent of emissions.
If we want to achieve progress in reducing emissions, we have to achieve major reductions from these two sectors – and that means serious (short-term) efficiency improvements followed by major technological changes. But not surprisingly within these sectors there is real resistance to this kind of approach.
The advantage we have in addressing transportation emissions is that the auto industry is highly concentrated – and global as well. The 10 largest manufacturers account for 74 percent of the global market. The vast majority of cars are produced – and used – in a relatively small number of countries. Major fuel producers are also relatively small in number. What we really need here, and what should be achievable, is an effort to bring all the key players together and chart a path toward a zero emissions future in, say, 30-50 years.
This is not a proposal to dictate specific technologies – each major manufacturer seems to be going down a different technology path, and they should be allowed to do so – but I believe we will be most successful and efficient and if we adopt a set of globally consistent performance standards.
No, it wouldn’t be easy, and many will argue that it is simply too hard. But is it easier, or smarter, to tackle the problem nation by nation, or state by state? At the moment, there are different auto efficiency or CO2 emission standards or goals in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan. And now here in the US we have a proposal from California to establish greenhouse gas standards for vehicles – a proposal that, if it goes into effect, will doubtless be followed by other states. I wonder if the time isn’t close for the private sector to decide that a rational, long-term effort, in which they are “at the table” and can help set the milestones, might not be better than the alternative.
The power sector, for its part, is very different. Power supplies are much more distributed -- there are hundreds, if not thousands of players (far too many to put into a room, let alone around a table), and there are many different ways to generate power. So here we might focus on selected energy sources, the most important of which, both politically and in terms of emissions contribution, is coal. There is no denying that coal will figure heavily in our energy future. It is globally available and it is cheap. Virtually all of the new power plants being planned here in the United States will burn coal. China is projected to add as much as 300 gigawatts of generating capacity over the next 10 years, nearly all of it coal.
How then do we continue to provide power but minimize the impact on the climate? How do we shift investment away from traditional coal plants to newer technologies that will be compatible with the efforts underway to capture CO2 emissions and sequester them deep in the ground? Here, too, I think we need a combination: a global R&D effort, and a clear set of mandates to pull new and better technologies into the market. Many in the coal industry are beginning to see the need for a more proactive strategy, and if they can be assured a place in the future, they may be willing to give up the technologies of the past.
To put it simply, I think every sector that is a part of the problem has to be a part of the solution – including agriculture and forestry, as well as power and transportation.
The third pathway to the future that I want to talk about is one that integrates both climate and development.
We cannot expect developing countries to become full partners in the climate effort if it continues to be seen as a purely environmental issue, a constraint on economic growth and development. Frankly, this is true in developed countries as well. We need policies that speak both to climate and to core development priorities. The place to start, I would suggest, is with national energy policies. Each nation needs to accept that climate change must be one of the drivers of energy policy, as the UK has. Along with security of supply and price, we need energy policies that will not only power the global economy and raise living standards, but that will also help us in our efforts to stabilize the climate.
Similarly, for economies to grow, and for individuals to have the mobility they desire, we must find ways to make our transportation systems more sustainable and more climate friendly. Charting these paths forward will be crucial if we are to succeed in meeting our long-term climate objective.
And to meet that objective, we need your help.
As scientists and engineers, you make decisions about how this nation’s vast technical resources – including human resources – are mobilized. You decide what research problems to focus your attention on and what solutions look most promising. You are responsible for training and nurturing the next generation of scientists and engineers. How grant monies are used, how scholarship funding is allocated, even how course curriculums are designed – all of these questions play a role in setting the stage for the technology revolution we need to address the climate challenge. In a sense, our future is in your hands.
Some of you may be aware that the U.S. Department of Energy has issued a “Grand Challenge” to the scientific community to work on the critical issue of hydrogen storage. While the Pew Center prefers to be “technology neutral”, I would say that there are at least two other “grand challenges” that the scientific community needs to become more engaged in over the next 10 years. These are:
· First, the development of low-cost and reliable technologies and processes for carbon dioxide capture and geologic sequestration; and
· Second, the development of low-cost renewables and the infrastructure and storage technologies that will enable them to become widespread.
All three of these challenges – hydrogen storage, carbon capture and storage, and low-cost renewables – are currently at different points on the RD&D spectrum. But they can all benefit enormously from your brains and your help.
This is why I was so delighted to be invited to speak with this group today. We need your engagement on this issue. Obviously, some of you and your institutions have been working tirelessly on climate issues for a long time. But the level of human, institutional and monetary resources that are currently dedicated to these challenges does not fit the magnitude of the problem. Within your universities, your research institutions, your organizations and the broader group of NSF (or “grant-making”) funding committees, there needs to be significantly greater attention to the challenge of a low-carbon energy future – and research resources need to be allocated accordingly.
And it is not just the challenge of reducing the potential severity of climate change that we need to focus on – as I stated at the top of my remarks, we also need to figure out how to adapt to climate change. Unfortunately, because of the momentum of the climate system and, perhaps more importantly, our own economy and technology, we are beyond the point of preventing climate change.
For example, if we were to somehow cease all greenhouse gas emissions today, we would still be committed to additional global warming of about one degree Fahrenheit over the course of the 21st century. If we set a more realistic, but still ambitious, target of limiting atmospheric CO2 to a doubling of its pre-industrial concentration, we’d likely experience at least an additional three degrees of warming on average globally, with some regions, including the United States and the poles, expected to warm more.
This is not a doomsday scenario – quite the contrary, this is one of the most optimistic outcomes we can expect. But even with such valiant efforts to reduce our emissions, climate change will pose many challenges to our natural ecosystems and resources, economy, and human health. In fact, we’re already starting to see the effects. Therefore, we must find a way to adjust or adapt to these challenges – in other words, we need to prepare ourselves for that level of climate change that we can no longer prevent.
Here, too, scientists and engineers have important roles to play. To adapt to climate change, we must first understand how our environment will respond to the changes in temperature, precipitation, and sea level that are currently projected.
How will our water resources be affected? Which coastal communities lie in harm’s way? Which species are at greatest risk? Then, we must devise methods for preparing these systems for a changing climate – new water management strategies, new coastal development plans, new wildlife conservation efforts. And, we must do all of this against the backdrop of an ever-growing U.S. and global population, using more resources, more land, and further altering the global environment.
Although we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking we can engineer ourselves out of this problem, prudence dictates that we seek ways to improve our resilience to climate. The loss of life in Europe during the summer heat wave of 2003, or the death and destruction we witnessed in the Caribbean and the United States from this year’s hurricane season, are the harbingers of what we can expect in a world of continued warming.
I’m sure many of you currently collaborate with colleagues from all over the world. But how many of those colleagues are from developing countries? Building bridges with scientists in the developing world is invaluable for enhancing the capacity of other nations to assess and respond to the challenge of climate change.
I have talked about a number of priorities today. I have talked about the need for an energy technology revolution. I have talked about establishing a long-term goal of achieving a low-carbon economy. I have talked about three pathways for achieving that goal – through targets and trading, sectoral approaches, and integrating climate and development. And I have talked about adaptation.
This is complex stuff, Albert Einstein famously stated that people do not truly understand something unless they can explain it to their grandmother. Well, the unfortunate fact is that people don’t truly understand the problem of climate change. All of us need to do a better job explaining this issue in a way that resonates with people – grandmothers and grandchildren alike.
In a recent paper for the journal Global Environmental Change, scholars Maxwell and Jules Boykoff reported on their analysis of 14 years of climate change coverage in four major daily newspapers: The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. During the period they covered, 1988 to 2002, a clear consensus emerged among climate scientists that climate change was real—and that human activities were a principal cause. And yet, in the newspapers, the majority of articles (nearly 53 percent) gave roughly equal space to this consensus view and to the view of climate-change skeptics that any warming we have seen is the result of natural fluctuations.
This is the challenge we are up against. Science has produced a clear case for action on this issue, but people, including some important government leaders, are still are not getting the message. And I encourage all of you, in your communications with the media and the general public, to make every effort to convey to people what is truly at stake here. At the same time, I encourage you, as scientists, to help us debunk all the junk science that’s out there and help people focus on what we know to be true.
The junk science on this issue comes from all over, but there appears to be a cottage industry of industry-funded think tanks that trumpet every objection they can find to the consensus view that climate change is happening and will only get worse.
So I am asking for your help:
- If you or someone in your organization is talking to the media about this issue, please emphasize the clear and overwhelming consensus among scientists that this is a very real problem we need to begin addressing right now.
- If you see or hear policymakers stressing the uncertainties in the climate science, please also set them straight about the certainties and what they tell us about the need for real and serious action.
- The same goes for media reports on climate change that give equal weight to the scientific consensus on this issue and to the claims of the skeptics. It is important that scientists become engaged, with letters to the editor, op-ed articles, radio call-ins, whatever it takes.
It will take some time and persistence, but as the compelling, robust and irrefutable evidence of the human impact on the earth’s climate continues to accumulate, it will become impossible to ignore.
As scientists, you have the credibility to challenge this nation to step up to the problem of climate change in a manner that reflects the seriousness of this issue. And, together with your peers throughout the country, you have the capability to come up with the new ideas and the solutions that will create a safer world in the decades to come. This is your mission, and it is our mission at the Pew Center as well. And I hope we can work together so that future generations aren’t left wondering why we did so little – when we knew so much.
Thank you very much.