« PreviousContinue »
Daniel A. Lasbot, Ph.D.
Natural Resources Defense Council
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I am Daniel Lashof, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Previously I was an Environmental Scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency, where I was the lead author of the Report to Congress Policy Options for Stabilizing Global Climate. I hold a doctorate in Energy and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley, where I specialized in the global carbon cycle. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before this subcommittee at this important hearing today.
NRDC is a non-profit environmental protection organization, founded in 1970 and supported by 170,000 members. NRDC's Energy Program has more than ten years of experience in promoting energy efficiency and least-cost energy planning. In 1988 NRDC launched its Atmosphere Protection Initiative (API) to provide a coordinated response to the related threats to the integrity of the earth's atmosphere--global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, and urban smog. This effort involves more than a dozen NRDC scientists, resource specialists, and attorneys expert in climate, energy efficiency, nuclear energy, forestry, agriculture, international environment, air pollution control, and coastal protection.
Mr. Chairman, when I testified before the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, almost exactly a year ago, I said that "the Bush Administration's continuing refusal to accept targets and timetables for reducing carbon dioxide, the most important global warming gas, remains the largest obstacle to progress." Unfortunately, this statement is still true today. At the negotiations that ended last week, every other industrialized country was prepared to support a treaty that includes a commitment to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions. Key developing countries, such as Brazil, are also ready to make commitments to protect forests provided that industrialized nations curb their fossil fuel CO2 emissions and provide appropriate financial resources. In attempting to answer the questions posed by the Subcommittee in my statement today, I will first summarizing current scientific understanding of the global warming problem, second describe the costs and benefits of reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, third discuss the current climate change policy of the United States compared with other countries, and finally I will describe the current status of the negotiations.
Scientific Basis for a Climate Protection Treaty
The Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, in June 1988, warned that "humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war," and called on the world to cut CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion 20% by 2005. In the last two years the declaration of this ad hoc group of scientists, environmentalists, and policy makers has been strongly reinforced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Second World Climate Conference, and the Stockholm Environment Institute.
The IPCC, which was established in the Fall of 1988, completed its First Assessment Report in the summer of 1990, and released an update two weeks ago. The first working group, chaired by Dr. John Houghton, Chief Executive of the British Meteorological Office, has provided the most authoritative scientific assessment of global warming ever conducted. Preparation of the original report and its update involved most of the active scientists working in the field.
The 1992 IPCC update confirms earlier estimates that the Earth's temperature will rise 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius (3 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit) if carbon dioxide concentrations are doubled.
56-600 O - 92 - 7
In presenting this conclusions to the most recent round of climate negotiations the IPCC's Chairman, Dr. Bert Bolin, stressed that the IPCC had carefully considered and rejected the objections of some scientists to the 1990 Scientific Assessment.
The IPCC update also notes that stratospheric ozone depletion and sulfates from fossil fuel emissions have a cooling effect that may be masking a significant part of the greenhouse warming expected to date. Taking the sulfate and ozone-depletion effects into account improves the agreement between observations and model-predicted global warming during the last century. In the future, as sulfur dioxide emissions are reduced, an accelerated warming is expected.
The magnitude of the warming that is expected during the next century if current trends continue can be appreciated by recognizing that the difference between the depths of an ice age and current conditions is only 5°C in the global average temperature. The full consequences of compressing a warming of this magnitude into only 100 years is truly unimaginable, but recent work has illustrated some of the likely impacts. Food security would be undermined in much of the world by increasingly frequent and severe droughts; coastal areas would be inundated, creating millions of environmental refuges and literally submerging some entire cultures; disease vectors would spread into new areas; and natural ecosystems would be severely disrupted, if not devastated. This is merely the most likely case, not the worse case.
Faced with these risks, all nations have agreed in principle on the need for a climate treaty that would achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere "at a level which would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with climate." The implications of this objective were spelled out by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in its report on Targets and Indicators of Climatic Change. This report concludes that dangerous interference with climate can be avoided only if the rate of warming is kept to less than 0.2°F per decade, and the absolute warming is kept to less than 2-4°F compared with pre-industrial times. Warming greater than the lower limit of 2°F "may elicit rapid, unpredictable, and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage," while beyond 4°F "the risks of grave damage to ecosystems, and of non-linear responses, are expected to increase rapidly."
To prevent warming of more than 2°F the SEI study estimates that the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases would have to be limited to the equivalent of 330-400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 (this is called the CO2-equivalent concentration). The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is already over 350 ppm, and the CO2-equivalent concentration of all greenhouse gases exceeds 400 ppm, thus the world is most likely already committed to exceeding the 2°F limit
. To avoid exceeding even the upper limit SEI estimates that greenhouse gas concentrations would have to be limited to 400-560 ppm CO2-equivalent.
To be prudent in the face of uncertainty we must adopt a goal in the lower half of this range. The overall objective of the climate change treaty should be to limit the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases to 475 ppm CO2-equivalent. Based on feasible limits for the concentrations of greenhouse gases other than CO2 I calculate that this target requires holding CO2 concentrations to about 400 ppm. Immediate action to reduce CO2 emissions is essential if this limit is not to be exceeded.
Industrialized countries, with 25% of the world's population, are responsible for 75% of current global emissions of CO2 from the energy sector. Reducing energy-related CO2 emissions
from industrialized countries is the most important action needed to combat global warming, and is essential to achieve the global targets just discussed.
In particular, all industrialized countries should have a binding obligation to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions by at least 20% below 1990 levels by the year 2000. Deeper cuts in CO2 emissions from industrialized countries will be required after these dates in order to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Let me emphasize that stabilizing emissions of greenhouse gases at current levels will allow greenhouse gas concentrations to continue increasing at roughly current rates. The only was to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of CO2 is to cut emissions by 60% or more, according to the IPCC.
Developing countries, with 75% of the world's population, are responsible for 25% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. These emissions are expected to grow to meet legitimate development needs. In order to remain within the global CO2 target of 400 ppm the aggregate increase in CO2 emissions from developing countries would have to be limited to no more than 50% over 1990 levels by 2005. The incremental costs of achieving this target should be borne by the industrialized countries, in accordance with their responsibility for the preponderance of all past emissions that have elevated greenhouse gas concentrations to current levels.
Opportunities for U.S. Emission Reductions
The Natural Resources Defense Council, in conjunction with the Alliance to Save Energy, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently completed an exhaustive study of the potential for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a profit. In the study America's Energy Choices: Investing in a Strong Economy and a Clean Environment, we examined four potential energy futures for the United States. We start with a Reference scenario, adapted from Department of Energy projections reflecting current policies practices, and trends. Our alternative scenarios are all designed to deliver essentially the same level and quality of energy services as the References scenario, but to do so at lower cost and with less environmental damage. The alternative scenarios are:
a Market scenario, making use of cost-effective energy-efficiency and renewable energy technologies, assuming moderate market penetration rates, with no accounting for environmental or security costs beyond those embodied in current trends and policies
an Environmental scenario, employing additional energy-efficiency and renewable energy resources to the extent justified by the environmental and security costs of fossil fuels, and assuming more rapid market penetration rates
a Climate Stabilization scenario, designed to achieve carbon dioxide emissions targets consistent with an effective international program to limit global warming
Even our very modest Market scenario, which only includes actions that are profitable for the U.S. economy disregarding all environmental externalities, results in year 2000 CO2 emissions no higher than 1990 levels. Emissions gradually decline thereafter to about 30% below 1990 levels by 2030 (see Exhibit 1). Achieving these reductions does require a substantial additional investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy compared to the Reference case, totaling $1.2 trillion dollars net present value over 40 years. The return on this investment would be $3.1
trillion in lower energy costs, yielding a net benefit to the U.S. economy of $1.9 trillion over this period (see Exhibit 2).
Our Environmental scenario, which only includes measures that are free from the global warming point of view, results in CO2 emission reductions of about 10% by 2000 and 50% by 2030. Compared to the Market scenario, an additional iovestment of $0.9 trillion is needed to achieve this result, while energy savings increase by $1.1 trillion, yielding a total net benefit of $2.1 trillion.
Our Climate Stabilization scenario was designed to achieve the treaty commitments called for above. It includes measures that cost up to $25 per ton of CO2 reduction. U.S. CO2 emissions fall 20% below 1990 levels by 2000 and are reduced more than 70% by 2030. Compared to the Environmental scenario, an additional investment of $0.6 trillion dollars is needed to obtain these dramatic reductions, while energy savings increase by $0.8 trillion, yielding a total net benefit of $2.3 trillion. While some of the measures needed in the Climate Stabilization scenario may not in themselves be considered "cheap," they can be stimulated through revenue-neutral tax reform that would have net economic benefits.
Policy Commitments of the United States
The continuing refusal of the United States to commit to specific targets and timetables for stabilizing and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases remains the largest obstacle to producing an effective climate protection treaty for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development ("Earth Summit“) in June. The U.S. announcement last week of a commitment to $75 million in new financial assistance and to a list of policy measures intended to curb greenhouse gas emissions is a sign of flexibility in the postSununu White House. The climate talks will still fail, however, unless the Bush Administration agrees at least to a legally binding commitment to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions, as the European Community is demanding.
The U.S. commitment of new funding may be helpful in overcoming one obstacle to securing developing country participation in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the climate treaty. Developing countries have made it clear, however, that industrialized countries must take the lead in reducing their own emissions if developing countries are expected to undertake any substantive commitments.
NRDC believes that the U.S. funding commitment should be used to catalyze needed reforms to ensure that the World Bank is responsive to the priorities and concerns of citizens in developing countries. The Administration has proposed to channel $50 million of its newly committed funds through the Global Environment Facility, although it has previously expressed concerns about the Facility's lack of accountability. Any mechanism for providing funds pursuant to the climate convention must follow four essential guidelines:
Complete documentation on all projects must be made available to the public at every stage of the project cycle;
Formal procedures must be adopted for consultation with affected and interested groups and members of the public in recipient countries;
An equitable governance structure must be established representing all parties to the convention;
Non-governmental observers must be invited to attend meetings of the governing body.
NRDC has urged the Administration and Congress not to channel new funds through the Global Environment Facility until these reforms are made.
Regarding measures to limit emissions, the Administration has not yet revealed its conclusions as to the emission levels that will result from the measures that it has endorsed, but it has stated that this analysis will be made public before the final negotiating session at the end of April. The analysis that has been done to date should be released immediately so that Congress and the public can assess the implications of the Administration's policy. There is no time to lose. The United States must make a firm commitment at least to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions by the time OECD countries meet on April 13 to develop a uniform position for the final round of treaty talks.
The impact of the initiatives that have been outlined will depend considerably on how vigorously they are implemented. A general commitment to measures is no substitute for a firm commitment to targets and timetables. A voluntary goal is simply a commitment that one does not intend to meet. It is essential for the United States to undertake firm treaty obligations and implement whatever measures are needed to achieve compliance.
Policy Commitments of Other OECD Countries
Several industrialized countries, including Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Australia have made unilateral commitments to achieve significant greenhouse gas emission reductions consistent with the environmental requirements discussed earlier. Unfortunately, a requirement to achieve a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2000 is not under serious consideration in the current climate treaty negotiations. However, every wealthy industrialized country other than the United States is prepared to sign a treaty containing a commitment to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions or greenhouse gas emissions not controlled by the Montreal Protocol. Laborious negotiations among OECD countries over the last two weeks resulted in agreement on draft treaty language. Although the text contains a number of alternative formulations and brackets indicating reservations, it is my understanding that only the United States insisted on placing a reservation on the entire section that requires emission stabilization.
It is very disturbing that Bush Administration officials continue to cast doubts about the intentions of other industrialized countries to adopt measures needed to achieve the targets that they are seeking to be included in the climate treaty. At a press briefing in the United Nations on February 21, 1992, Howard Gruenspecht, Associate Deputy Under Secretary for Policy Analysis at the Department of Energy, suggested that CO2 stabilization commitments made by other industrialized countries are "grandiose statement(s) with not much to back it up”. This is in effect an accusations that other OECD countries are not negotiating in good faith. Such a charge damages international relations and can not be substantiated.
Implementation of policies to achieve emission stabilization commitments is at different stages in different countries, but I am not aware of any OECD country that does not have a serious policy development process underway. The most detailed plans put forward to date are