« PreviousContinue »
We are proud of our Climate Challenge program and our accomplishments in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. We know that our partnership with DOE is working, and we encourage the Administration to pursue other government-business partnerships. We also support initiatives to increase research and development funds and to provide tax incentives and credits for consumers and industries that develop and use electric technologies.
Clean and efficient electric technologies can achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions in both developed and developing nations.
The nation's economic growth is closely linked to electricity. The growing dependence on electricity is best illustrated by the continued close relationship between electricity usage and the general level of economic activity, as indicated by GDP.
*Source: DOESEIA: Annual Energy Review, 1997
As electricity use has grown in the U.S., the economy has become less carbon intensive. A
economy, increased energy efficiency and reduced carbon intensity. Developing nations, which now produce more than 50 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, could improve their energy efficiency and their economic competitiveness by using the same energy-efficient technologies currently used by the U.S. and other developed nations.
Let's move forward with positive programs that guarantee benefits and a stronger, cleaner world for everyone.
Given the Kyoto Protocol's potential to harm the U.S. economy and its failure both to include developing nations and to reduce global concentrations of greenhouse gases, we believe the treaty contradicts U.S. policy goals. As an alternative, we believe sound global climate policy should: Encourage and promote flexible, cost-effective, comprehensive (that is, all countries, greenhouse gases, sources and carbon sinks) and voluntary actions.
Use the Utility Climate Challenge as a model for other government business partnerships to yield significant environmental benefits without the economic and political disruptions that would accompany the imposition of binding targets and timetables.
Make every effort to maximize the use of energy-efficient electric technologies and free market mechanisms.
Provide mechanisms for economic flexibility (such as through Clean Development Mechanism projects for credit, international emissions trading, extended compliance periods, and credit for early projects, such as under the Utility Climate Challenge).
Edison Electric Institute (EEI) is the association of shareholder-owned electric companies, international affiliates, and industry associates worldwide. The U.S. electric utility industry is a progressive, responsible voice on global climate change in the U.S. and around the world. For more information on our industry's environmental initiatives, please contact EEl or your local electric company.
701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
TESTIMONY OF DR. JANET YELLEN
JUNE 4, 1998
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The President has said that we can work to avert the grave dangers of climate change, while at the same time maintaining the strength of our economy. I agree and am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before the Committee to elaborate on the Administration's views on these issues.
The international agreement that was reached in Kyoto this past December is a crucial step forward in addressing global climate change. But it is only one step in a journey. Since the international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is still in some respects a work-inprogress, it is not yet possible to provide a full authoritative analysis of it. Many of the specifics in several crucial areas are not completely resolved in the diplomatic arena, forcing analysts to make a variety of assumptions about the ultimate form of the international regime. In my testimony today, I will attempt to identify key elements of the agreement and the Administration's policy, such as international emissions trading, meaningful developing country participation, inclusion of land-use activities that absorb carbon (“sinks”) and six categories of gases, as well as domestic initiatives, that together can ensure that reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions are consistent with continued strong economic growth. I will explain the reasoning underlying our conclusion that, under these conditions, economic impacts are likely to be modest.
The Administration is strongly committed to ensuring that these key elements are reflected in our domestic and international climate change policies. We are firmly committed to meaningful developing country participation, the use of sinks to offset emissions requirements, and emissions trading both domestically and internationally. And as you know, the President's FY 1999 budget includes a $6.3 billion package of tax cuts and R&D investments over the next 5 years; this package makes good sense in terms of energy policy and will jumpstart our efforts. A final component of the President's climate change policy is his support for electricity restructuring in a manner that will offer approximately $20 billion in cost savings to electricity consumers, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
I. Basic Economic Rationale of the Kyoto Treaty
To begin our analysis, it may be worth stepping back and examining the larger question of the basic rationale, from an economist's perspective, for the Kyoto Protocol.
The earth's surface appears to be warming from the accumulation of greenhouse gases from myriad sources worldwide. None of these emitters presently pays the cost to others of warming's adverse effects -- a classic externality in the language of economists. As a result of these distorted incentives, disruption of the Earth's climate is likely to proceed at an excessive pace and if left uncontrolled may pose substantial costs in terms of harm to commerce and the environment alike. The fundamental economic logic of the Kyoto Protocol is thus that without such an international agreement, individual nations will not have the proper incentives to address the threats from global climate change.
II. Costs of Climate Change
In evaluating efforts to mitigate global warming, the first step is to consider the costs of inaction. These costs --and they are significant-- provide the primary motivation for actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) jointly established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, concluded in 1995 that “the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate.” Current concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and the other so-called greenhouse gases have reached levels well above those of preindustrial times. Of these, carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important: net cumulative CO2 emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation account for about two-thirds of potential warming from changes in greenhouse gas concentrations related to human activity.
If growth in global emissions continues unabated, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 will likely double relative to its preindustrial level by midway through the next century and continue to rise thereafter. As a result of the increased concentration of CO2, the IPCC estimates that global temperatures will increase by between 2 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 100 years, with a best guess of about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit. While scientists believe that human activities are leading to a gradual warming of the average temperature of the earth, the change in temperature in a given region at a given time may differ substantially from this average. Indeed, models predict warming will be greater in high latitudes than in the tropics, and greater over land than ocean.
Potential consequences associated with this shift in climate include a rise in sea levels, greater frequency of severe weather events, shifts in agricultural growing conditions from changing weather patterns, threats to human health from increased range and incidence of diseases, changes in availability of freshwater supplies, and damage to ecosystems and biodiversity.
Economic and Monetary Damages
The derivation of quantitative or monetary estimates of the damages from such a change in the climate is extremely difficult given the capacity of today's models. Estimates of the economic damages from climate change fall into the following broad areas: agriculture, sealevel rise, air conditioning and heating, water supply, human life and health, air pollution, and other costs (hurricanes, relocation costs, human amenity, construction, leisure activities, urban infrastructure, and ecological damages such as forest loss and species loss). Although the quantification of these effects is quite demanding, researchers have developed estimates that prompt substantial concern. The IPCC reports that a doubling of carbon dioxide levels would lead to approximately 10,000 estimated additional deaths per year for the current U.S. population from higher summer temperatures, even after netting out the effects of warmer winters and assuming acclimatization. Other researchers have predicted sea level increases of about 20 inches by 2100, with greater increases in subsequent years.
Despite the difficulties, respected researchers have developed estimates of the monetary damages expected from an average worldwide temperature increase. For example, William Cline, then of the Institute for International Economics, estimated that a temperature change of 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit would impose annual damages of about 1.1 percent of GDP per year on the U.S. economy. That amounts to $89 billion in today's terms. (Cline's original estimate is quoted in 1990 dollars. The figure given above translates this number into 1997 terms by scaling it to current GDP.) William Nordhaus of Yale University has likewise computed estimates of the dollar loss attributable to a doubling of greenhouse gas concentrations. Although he uses methods that differ from Cline's in several respects, Nordhuas estimates that a slightly larger temperature change of 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit would impose losses equal to about 1 percent of GDP. A third independent estimate reported by Nordhaus is close to Cline's. It must be noted, however, that this similarity among aggregated estimates masks the true uncertainty associated with forecasts of the damages from given increases in global warming the estimates are all fundamentally based on extrapolations from current and past experience, and may not fully incorporate effects that will unfortunately become apparent only with future experience.
One key difficulty in interpreting and monetizing these estimates of damages is uncertainty over the extent that they should be discounted because they occur in the distant future. Since the benefits of stemming future climate change accrue over not only decades but centuries, small changes in the discount rate can produce substantial changes in the results. But the precise discount rate that should be used to evaluate questions as important as the future climate of the planet remains a subject of intense debate. It is safe to say that there is, as yet, no professional consensus on the issue. Indeed there can be no technical answer to the ethical question how we should value the welfare of future generations.