Remarks of Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center On Global Climate Change
City Club of Portland
December 14, 2001
Greetings and thank you very much. It is wonderful to be here in Portland, and I want to thank the people at the City Club for inviting me to be a part of your Friday Forum. I noticed on the club's schedule that next week's Friday Forum presenters will be the Oregon Repertory singers. I sincerely hope that none of you got the dates mixed up. I always try to be somewhat entertaining in my speeches, but singing a few holiday favorites definitely crosses the line.
Seriously, I'm glad to have the chance to be here today to talk to you about one of the most profound challenges of the 21st century. That, of course, is the challenge of global climate change. I'd like to tell you where we stand right now in the effort to deal with climate change, both here in the United States and internationally. And I'd like to tell you where we are headed - the kind of world we will leave our children and grandchildren if we stick to business as usual. But most importantly, I'd like to tell you where we need to be headed - the path that instead will allow us to pass to future generations a safer, healthier, more prosperous planet. It is not a simple path. For what is needed, I believe, is a second industrial revolution - one that takes us beyond oil and beyond coal to cleaner, more secure ways to power our global economy. Government must have a hand, a strong hand, in launching this revolution. But it can succeed only if our corporate leaders rise to the challenge as well. For while government can set the goals, only the marketplace can spur the innovation and mobilize the resources needed to achieve them. Fortunately, a growing number of forward-thinking companies already are leading the way.
First, though, I'd like to tell you why the state of Oregon holds such a special place in my heart. Some of you, I'm sure, remember back in the 70' s when Oregon became the first state in the nation to require a deposit on bottles and cans. At the time, I was a young staffer in EPA's office of solid waste. And I thought: Hey, they've got a great idea out there in Oregon. We should let other people know about it. So I put together a nifty little pamphlet describing Oregon's groundbreaking program and EPA started distributing it. Well, not everyone agreed that bottle bills were such a grand idea. The beverage industry was, shall I say, unhappy. And they let my bosses know it. I'm told, in fact, that the chairman of Pepsi raised the matter directly with the president. Soon thereafter EPA decided to "loan" me to an obscure office in Congress where I couldn't cause any more trouble. And when I was finally allowed to return, I was assigned a new area of responsibility: sewage sludge.
I'm pleased to say I was eventually able to rise above sewage sludge. I'm also pleased to note that, all these years later, Oregon is still leading the way on the environment. In fact, I know of no state that is doing more to meet the challenge of global warming. Oregon was the first state to enact mandatory controls on carbon dioxide - requiring that all new power plants meet a tough new emissions standard. The city of Portland and Multnomah County were the first local governments in the United States to adopt a plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And through your commitment to light rail and other smart growth strategies, you are demonstrating that protecting the climate goes hand in hand with preserving Oregon's enviable quality of life. These efforts really do reflect the spirit behind the Oregon state motto, "She flies with her own wings." May you soar higher and higher.
But are others joining you in flight? Climate change is by definition a global challenge. And the best efforts of any one city, state or nation will come to naught unless, ultimately, we all act together. We're by no means there yet - not even close. But it might surprise you to learn that we are in fact making headway. The reason this might surprise you is that the one thing most people heard about climate change over the past year was that President Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol. His decision indeed was a setback. But let's look at what's happened since.
First, let's look at the international picture. For those of you new to this topic, the Kyoto Protocol is an agreement negotiated in 1997 that does two things: it sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries; and it allows them to meet those targets through market-based strategies like emissions trading. Don't worry. I'm not going to get too far into this. But it's worth taking a minute to understand why these market-based strategies are so important. Basically, they put the market to work to cut emissions as cost-effectively as possible. In other words, they deliver the greatest environmental benefit at the lowest possible cost. And they create market incentives that drive companies to keep coming up with better and cheaper ways to cut emissions. This is how we've tackled acid rain faster and cheaper than anyone ever imagined. Emissions trading is a concept born here in America, and it was the United States that insisted it be part of the Kyoto Protocol.
While Kyoto established a broad framework, the nitty-gritty rules still had to be negotiated before countries could ratify it. A year ago, those negotiations were at a standstill. Then President Bush rejected the Protocol. Suddenly, the rest of the world was rallying to its defense. In negotiations last July in Bonn, and then last month in Marrakech, nations made the tough compromises and worked out the rules. They're not perfect, but they do establish a workable international system for beginning to tackle this problem. The agreements in Bonn and Marrakech have been rightly declared a triumph of multilateralism. They represent a triumph as well for the principle of harnessing the global market to protect our global environment. It's true, Kyoto's targets take us only a decade into the future, and provide only a small fraction of the emissions reductions we must ultimately achieve. But the bottom line is that we have to start somewhere, and much of the world has now established that starting point. The priority now is to ensure the Protocol's swift ratification and entry into force so we can, at long last, begin to deliver on Kyoto's promise and achieve real progress.
What, then, of the United States? With just 4 percent of the world's population, we generate 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Each year, our emissions grow higher. We've rejected Kyoto, yet we have no real strategy of our own. I'm afraid I have little expectation that the Bush administration is prepared to put forward the kind of proposals needed to launch a serious effort, at least not at the moment. Nor, for that matter, was the previous administration. But just as President Bush's rejection of Kyoto helped rally international support for the Protocol, it has stimulated a very interesting and encouraging bipartisan response on Capitol Hill. Suddenly, both Democrats and Republicans seem eager to demonstrate their commitment to tackling climate change.
For instance, Senator Robert Byrd, a leading Democrat from coal-producing West Virginia, and Senator Ted Stevens, a leading Republican from oil-producing Alaska, are teaming up on a bill that would devote billions to researching and developing climate-friendly technology. It also would establish a climate change office in the White House and give the President one year to develop a comprehensive strategy aimed at stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. A first step, but an important one.
Other bills would require companies to track and disclose their emissions of greenhouse gases, an essential step toward building a comprehensive emissions reduction strategy. This is an idea that the White House seems at least open to considering. In the Senate, there's a serious debate brewing over new pollution standards for power plants - in fact, the first real debate at the federal level over the kind of mandatory controls on carbon dioxide that Oregon already has in place. Finally, another bipartisan duo, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, have said they plan to introduce legislation establishing an emissions trading system covering major sources of greenhouse gases throughout the economy. It's hard to imagine a bill like that moving through Congress anytime soon. But the very idea that two such prominent lawmakers would be advocating such a far-reaching strategy was virtually unthinkable just a year ago.
To be certain, there are many in Congress and elsewhere who remain adamantly opposed to concrete action against climate change. Perhaps they assume, in the greatest tradition of laissez-faire economics, that a rising sea level lifts all boats. There are even those who continue to question whether global warming is real. President Bush expressed his own doubts about the science when he first took office. He asked the National Academy of Sciences to undertake a special review. The NAS came back and said, yes, there are some uncertainties in the science. There always will be, I'm sure. But the NAS went on to say that, despite those uncertainties, the evidence for global warming is strong and growing stronger.
Here's what the science tells us. First, the earth is indeed getting warmer. The 1990s were the hottest decade of the entire millennium, and 1997, '98, and '99 were three of the hottest years ever. Second, this warming trend is almost certain to continue. Projections of future warming suggest an average global increase of two to ten degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the evidence strongly suggests that human activities, in particular the burning of fossil fuels, are largely to blame.
What will the impacts of this warming be? How will all this affect our children and grandchildren? Some people like to see the bright side of global warming. Lower heating bills in winter, for instance, and longer growing seasons in the Midwest. But there's good reason to believe that any potential benefits will be far outweighed by the costs.
Rising sea levels will flood coastal areas - a very real worry along portions of the U.S. coastline but a much greater worry for low-lying countries like the Netherlands and Bangladesh. Higher temperatures mean an increase in extreme weather-more flooding, more drought, and more severe storms. Historic patterns of rain and snowfall will be disrupted, putting water supplies at risk. Here in the Pacific Northwest, for instance, warmer winters will mean less snow pack in the mountains and an earlier springtime melt. Water shortages are likely to grow worse. Many of our most threatened species and ecosystems will face even greater risk. Declines in river flow, for instance, could destroy any chance of saving this region's precious salmon runs. And hotter, drier summers will stress the forests and pose an ever greater threat of wildfire.
One of the tremendous inequities of climate change is that the people facing the greatest risks are those least able to bear them. Wealthy nations like the United States can find ways to lessen the impact. We can build sea walls to protect our coasts. Our farmers can switch to other crops better suited to a warmer climate. We can strengthen our public health system to guard against diseases like malaria and dengue fever. But poorer nations struggling to feed and house their people cannot so easily adapt. And, scientists predict, they will be the ones hardest hit. For them, prolonged drought doesn't mean parched lawns and water rationing. It means starvation. Rising sea levels won't just be an inconvenience for those with beachfront property. They'll mean mass migrations and increased competition for scarce land. Lest you think this is all conjecture, it's worth noting that the people of Tuvalu, a small island nation in the Pacific, recently decided to abandon their homeland before it's swallowed by rising seas. All 11,000 residents will be relocating to New Zealand beginning next year.
So this is the kind of world that awaits us if we continue on our present course. What is the alternative? What will it take to keep our planet from overheating? Well, quite obviously, it requires dramatically reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that trap heat in our atmosphere. What is the primary source of these gases? The combustion of fossil fuels. So our goal, over time, must be to end our reliance on coal and oil and to develop new sources of energy that can power our growing economy without endangering our climate. Yes, it is a tall order. As I said earlier, it will take nothing short of a second industrial revolution.
Let me be clear: This revolution cannot take place overnight. It will, in fact, take decades. But there are important steps we should take right now to begin the transition. First, we need to be more energy efficient, so we use less energy to achieve the same results. The United States has made significant improvements in energy efficiency over the last decade. But countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Brazil are all far less energy intensive than we are, and we have clearly have much further to go. Some of this could be as simple as turning off the lights, buying a compact fluorescent next time you need a new light bulb, or carefully checking the energy efficiency ratings the next time you buy a new washer or dryer. We also should be insisting on more energy-efficient cars. The technology exists. The new Toyota Prius, a hybrid car that uses both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, can go more than 50 miles on a gallon of gas. It's proven so popular you have to wait months to get one. If everyone in America drove a hybrid, we would save about 1.6 billion gallons of oil a year - far more than we import from the Middle East.
Improving efficiency is not enough, though. To address climate change, we will also have to emit much less carbon, and this means switching to less carbon intensive fuels. Some fuel switching can be done now, but we need a serious effort to begin laying the groundwork for the fuels of the future. We've been through energy transitions before. In the 18th century, we still relied largely on wood. In the 19th century, the steam engine took over. In the 20th century, we turned to oil. Now we must develop new fuels to meet the needs of the 21st century.
I can't tell you what the fuel of choice should be a hundred years from now. That will depend on the ingenuity of our scientists and engineers; investment decisions made in boardrooms; the unpredictable course of technological development; and the whims of the marketplace. Solar, wind and geothermal power all hold tremendous promise. But one technology that is generating real interest right now is the hydrogen fuel cell.
Fuel cells are what NASA puts on board rockets to generate power in space. They can run on different kinds of fuels. But whatever the fuel source, the only byproduct is heat and water - pure water. In other words, no smog-forming pollutants and no carbon dioxide. Fuel cells could be used to power cars, and many automakers are now engaged in efforts to make fuel cell cars a reality. They could be used to power businesses or homes. Instead of buying electricity from a coal-burning utility, a fuel cell in your basement no bigger than a central air conditioner could generate all the clean power you need. The use of hydrogen to power fuel cells is appealing because there are so many different ways to produce it. Hydrogen can be extracted from coal, oil or natural gas - or, preferably, produced from renewable energy sources. And it can take different forms. Some energy experts envision the day when, instead of filling your car at the gas pump, you'll pick up "fuel in a box" from the convenience store or a vending machine. You could go about 250 miles on a six-pack.
That's just one possibility, and there are many, many more. The point is that if we are to realize them - if we are to discover and pursue the most promising options - we must get started. This second industrial revolution requires technological and economic transformation on an unprecedented scale. And we must begin making investments now to ensure its success.
There are those who say we can't afford to address climate change, particularly when our economy is slowing. I believe they are wrong, for a host of reasons. I could tell you how the economic models they rely on exaggerate the costs of cutting emissions and fail to take into account the full range of benefits. But instead, let me tell you about the concrete experiences of the companies we work with at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Thirty-seven major companies are now members of our Business Environmental Leadership Council. These are primarily Fortune 500 companies - names you'd recognize, like Weyerhauser, Intel, Boeing, DuPont, Shell and Alcoa. Together these companies employ more than 2 million people and generate revenues of nearly $900 billion. And through their investments in emissions-cutting and climate-friendly technologies, they are demonstrating that what is good for the climate can be good, too, for the bottom line.
Many of these companies have adopted voluntary targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. We recently released a report that took a close look at six of them. It looked at the reasons why they took on targets, and what the results have been. The companies said one of the motivations for taking on a target was to improve their competitive positioning in the marketplace. And that, in fact, has been the result. Each of the companies is on track to meeting or exceeding its greenhouse gas goal. Together, they've delivered reductions equal to the annual emissions of three million cars. And all the companies are finding that their efforts are helping to reduce production costs and enhance product sales today.
So, yes, I am confident that with smart strategies that tap the power of the marketplace instead of squelching it, that do not expect more than can be delivered, and that take into account capital stock turnover cycles, we can afford to address climate change. In fact, we can strengthen the long-term health of our economy. Whatever the economic indicators for the latest quarter, over the long haul, increased efficiencies can only improve the bottom line. There are real economic opportunities that come with taking action on climate change. It would be a mistake not to seize them.
Before closing, I'd like to say a word about the new concerns now dominating our national agenda. I refer, of course, to the horrible, haunting events of September 11. The security of our nation is now, and will for some time remain, the overriding concern in Washington, and with good reason. As a result, a host of other vital issues - climate change among them - will for now take a lower profile. But I believe those of us working on climate change can still make an important contribution. We can help show how, with the right strategies, we can both protect our nation and advance the fight against global warming. This is most obvious in the case of "energy security." We all know that continuing to rely so heavily on imported oil is a costly mistake. To some the answer is drilling in the Arctic refuge. But whatever your views on the Arctic, it is clear that no amount of domestic drilling will significantly reduce our reliance on foreign oil. If we are serious about energy security - whether or not we're serious about addressing climate change - we must move beyond oil.
So, where are we in the effort against climate change? Internationally, after a decade of difficult negotiations, we are for the first time on the verge of enacting binding emissions limits for all industrialized countries but one. In the United States, despite our refusal to join the rest of the world in the Kyoto Protocol, there is a growing bipartisan recognition that we cannot continue to blithely ignore our responsibilities as the world's largest greenhouse gas polluter. In a growing number of boardrooms, corporate leaders are seeing climate change not only as a challenge but as an opportunity. And in communities like Portland, ordinary citizens are acting locally to meet what is truly a global challenge. We have a long, long way to go. But we have begun. And that is good. Thank you very much.
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