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The authors wish to thank many people who helped with the research underlying this report but not to sug. gest that they bear any responsibility for its contents. Richard Goettle, Richard Richels, Hugh Pitcher, Jae Edmonds, Robert Shackleton, Mike Shelby, and John Weyant were extremely helpful with data and technical suggestions. We thank John Reilly, Tom Walton, Alan Miller, and an anonymous external reviewer for useful criticisms and comments on an earlier draft of the report. Similarly, we thank WRI colleagues Paul Faeth, Jim Mackenzie, Walt Reid, Jonathan Lash, and Liz Cook for their comments. Valuable assistance at various stages from Marca Hagenstad, Theresa Bradley, Maggie Powell, Hyacinth Billings, Carollyne Hutter, Beth Behrendt, and Beth Harvey is greatly appreciated.
house gas emissions are likely to be modest and, if the environmental benefits are factored in, are likely to be beneficial. Repetto and Austin identify which assumptions are crucial. Their report will help readers form their own judgment about the likely impact of climate protection on the economy.
to resolve the climate problem without undermining economic prosperity. We are committed to working with the private and public sectors in the United States and abroad to achieve this goal.
We would like to thank the MacArthur Foundation, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for providing generous financial support for the work underlying this report.
Building on the findings of earlier reports, including The Right Climate for Carbon Taxes: Creating Economic Incentives to Protect the Atmosphere; Green Fees: How a Tax Shift Can Work for the Economy and the Environment; and Breathing Easier: Taking Action on Climate Change, Air Pollution and Energy Insecurity, WRI continues to explore constructive ways
The latest international scientific assessment concludes that human activity is affecting the global climate (IPCC, 1996a). Population growth, rapid industrialization, increasing fossil fuel use, and continuing deforestation imply that without drastic action carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will double their preindustrial levels by about the year 2060 and eventually cause average global temperature to rise by 1C-3.5C (IPCC, 1996a). The consequences of warming on this scale are hard to predict. Although some effects, such as rising sea levels and changing agricultural patterns, can be clearly foreseen, other effects, some potentially catastrophic, can only be guessed at. Nations have committed themselves to a precautionary approach designed to limit the accumulation of greenhouse gases.
In 1995, at the first Conference of Parties to the Convention (COP-1) in Berlin, signatories acknowledged that even if emissions were stabilized at 1990 levels, concentrations would continue to rise rapidly because CO2, once released, remains in the atmosphere for decades. The Berlin Mandate calls for strengthened commitments from developed countries to reduce their emissions after 2000. Negotiations since COP-1 have led to various proposals, the most stringent calling for industrialized countries to reduce emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2005 (AOSIS, 1995). The United States Government has stated that it is prepared to accept legally binding commitments in future protocols in the hope that this will prompt other countries to adopt a similar stance. Agreement on future commitments will be embodied in a formal protocol to be signed at the third Conference of the Parties in Kyoto in December 1997.
Policies to prevent climate change focus mainly on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the most important greenhouse gas. As a first step toward the ultimate goal of stabilizing concentrations, the industrialized nations that signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change voluntarily undertook to return their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2000. However, many countries, including the United States, will fail to meet this target.
If the United States and other nations do agree on binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, they will need to adopt measures to reduce carbon emissions with the least adverse economic impacts. One of the most effective and efficient mechanisms is a carbon tax-a tax levied on all fossil fuels in proportion to their carbon
One of the most effective and efficient mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions is a carbon tax-a tax levied on all fossil fuels in proportion to their carbon contents.