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As the PCAST panel emphasized, innovation in clean energy technologies would bring many other benefits besides the possibility of cost-effective greenhouse-gas reductions. It would also: reduce consumer costs for energy supplies and services; increase the productivity of U.S. manufacturing; improve U.S. competitiveness in the world market for energy technologies; reduce costly and dangerous over-dependence on imported oil; improve air and water quality; improve the safety and proliferation-resistance of nuclear-energy operations around the world; and enhance the prospects for environmentally sustainable and politically stabilizing economic development in many of the world's potential trouble spots.
PCAST recommended that Federal funding for applied energy technology R&D in the areas of fossil fuels, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, renewable energy sources, and energy end-use efficiency, be increased from a total of about $1.3 billion per year in FY 1998 to $1.8 billion in FY 1999 and $2.4 billion by FY 2003. (In constant-dollar terms, the figure in 2003 would be about the same as annual spending for these purposes at the beginning of the 1990s, during the Bush Administration.) The largest shares of the proposed increases would go to R&D in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, but nuclear fusion and fission would also receive increases. The composition of R&D on advanced fossil-fuel technologies would change in favor of longer-term opportunities, including fuel cells and carbon-sequestration technologies, but the overall spending in the fossil-fuel area would remain approximately constant in real terms.
The twenty-one members of the PCAST panel came from the private sector, academia, and public-interest organizations and included members with expertise in the full range of energy options — coal, oil, gas, nuclear, renewables, end-use efficiency. There were also members of wide and senior experience in non-energy fields, who did not start out with any presumption that more Federal energy R&D would be desirable. Notwithstanding this diversity within the panel (including a range of views on the pace and seriousness of climate disruption by greenhouse gases from fossil-fuel combustion), all of the panel's recommendations were unanimous.
We agree with PCAST that our energy challenges and opportunities are significant. We have made little progress in reducing our dependence on foreign oil in the 25 years since the first OPEC oil embargo. Record-low oil prices are shutting down our small independent wells and increasing our dependence on foreign sources. The United States currently imports roughly half of its oil, about 45% from OPEC countries including the Persian Gulf.
Improving energy efficiency not only reduces our dependence on oil, but saves us real money. Since that first oil shock, energy R&D and deployment of advanced energy efficiency and supply technologies, along with other structural changes in our economy, have reduced the energy intensity of U.S. economic activity by nearly one-third, saving U.S. consumers some $150-$200 billion per year. But low oil prices have slowed or stopped further reductions in our national energy intensity.
The Climate Change Technology Initiative
The President's FY 2000 Climate Change Technology Initiative budget is a direct response to the recommendations of the PCAST report. The President's FY2000 budget proposes $1.4 billion for the R&D and deployment of clean and efficient energy supply and end use technologies. This is a $347 million increase over FY1999 investments.
The CCTI programs build on PCAST's recommendations for increased investment in a broad, balanced energy R&D portfolio that can serve the long-term goal of diversifying our energy base, moving us away from our dependence on fossil fuels, and finding more environmentally benign ways to use our fossil fuel resources. At the same time, these programs will improve the production and delivery of reliable, cost-effective supplies of energy and help meet the energy needs identified by PCAST. While CCTI will help stimulate the development and deployment of energy technologies which can help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short-term, that has never been CCTT's primary goal, and it would be inappropriate to judge it solely on that basis. These investments will help provide America with a diverse, strong, and affordable energy future.
The Need to Act
The science of climate change is extremely complex and continuing to evolve. It is fair to say, however, that the last several decades have seen a remarkable increase in our understanding of how the Earth's climate system functions, how the climate has changed in the past, and how it is likely to change in the future. Most importantly, we have identified a number of independent lines of evidence that human activities are affecting the climate system and that a continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions is likely to result in more climate change during the next century than we have observed during the last century. The Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is the most comprehensive and rigorous overall assessment of climate change science and impacts, puts it this way: "The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate.”
Significant uncertainties remain in the science of climate change, particularly with regard to the precise regional distribution of changes in precipitation and temperature and the simultaneous effects of multiple impacts on ecosystems. Yet we know enough about climate change and its causes and consequences to take reasonable actions to mitigate and adapt to change, and thus minimize its effects on the environments and human health and well being.
The U.S. Global Change Research Program
Our current understanding of climate change is the result of the significant progress that has occurred over the last several decades in climate change science. U.S. climate change research is largely supported through the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). The Administration is committed to continued strong support for the scientific research needed to
improve our understanding of the mechanisms of the Earth's climate system, the likely future course of climate change, and the potential impacts of such change on the environment and human society.
The USGCRP, a program initiated by President Reagan and elevated to a Presidential Initiative under President Bush in 1989, was codified by the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The program has been strongly backed by every Administration and Congress since its inception. The FY 2000 Budget Request demonstrates President Clinton's ongoing commitment to the program, with an overall request for the USGCRP of approximately $1.8 billion dollars. Believing that policy should be based on sound science the Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to carry on this bipartisan tradition of support for global change research.
The results obtained through the sustained USGCRP research effort over the past decade have been very helpful in U.S. government climate change policy deliberations. As we look ahead to the next decade of global change research, it is apparent that much of the USGCRP research effort will address questions of regional ecological impacts and rates of change, both of which are relevant to the decisions the United States and other countries must make about long term emissions trajectories beyond 2010, and the decisions that public and private sector decision makers must make about natural resource management and adaptation to climate change and climate variability.
During much of the first decade of its existence, the USGCRP focused on observing and documenting change in the Earth's physical systems and understanding why these changes are occurring. It is now appropriately shifting from a nearly exclusive focus on physical systems to a much broader effort to understand how global change will affect the Earth's biological systems and the human societies that are dependent upon them. We need to move from the global to the regional level assessment of change and its potential consequences. Our current level of understanding tells us that climate change and its effects will vary by region, but we still do not have a good ability to project what will happen in any given location. We also need to find out more about the interactions of natural and human-induced climate change and variability, and other human-induced stresses on the environment, such as pollution and resource extraction, many of which are regional in scale. Additionally, we need to achieve an integrated understanding not only of the nature and extent of physical and biological effects of climate change, but of their ramifications for our social and economic systems.
Even if we reduce future emissions of greenhouse gases, some further change is inevitable in Earth's climate as a consequence of emissions that have already occurred. The National Assessment effort now underway in the USGCRP is examining the degree to which the U.S. is vulnerable to climate change, how such change could impact the various regions of the U.S., and how we can best adapt and prepare for the future. The assessment is looking at both the next few decades and the next century. A series of regional and sectoral analyses are underway, as is the production of a national synthesis report that is expected to be completed by the end of 1999.
This type of assessment of the potential consequences of global changes is called for by the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990.
During the last year, the USGCRP has been refining its research priorities as it engages in the process of developing a new, long-term research strategy for the next decade. A recent National Research Council (NRC) report, Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade, which was commissioned by the USGCRP, has influenced the definition of the nearterm research challenges that are described in the FY2000 Our Changing Planet, the annual report and implementation plan of the USGCRP, and is also serving as important input for the long-term strategy. I anticipate that this new long-term strategy will be completed and forwarded to the NRC for comment during the course of this year. I look forward to discussing this activity with you in more detail in the future.
An important structural change in the USGCRP this year is the organization and management of the program as a series of closely-linked program elements that are directly responsive to the scientific challenges described in the Pathways report:
• Understanding the Earth's Climate System, with a focus on improving our understanding of the climate system as a whole, rather than focusing on its individual components, and thus improving our ability to predict climate change and variability. • Biology and Biogeochemistry of Ecosystems, with a focus on improving
understanding of the relationship between a changing biosphere and a changing climate and the impacts of global change on managed and natural ecosystems. • Composition and Chemistry of the Atmosphere, with a focus on improving our understanding of the global-scale impacts of natural and human processes on the chemical composition of the atmosphere and determining the effect of such changes on air quality and human health.
• Paleoenvironment and Paleoclimate, with a focus on providing a quantitative understanding of the envelope of natural environmental variability, on time scales from centuries to millennia, within which the effects of human activities on the planet's biosphere, geosphere, and atmosphere can be assessed.
• Human Dimensions of Global Change, with a focus on explaining how humans intervene in the Earth system, and are themselves affected by the interactions between natural and social processes.
The Global Water Cycle, with a focus on improving our understanding of the movement of water through the land, atmosphere, and ocean, and on how global change may increase or decrease regional water availability.
Carbon Cycle Science
Finally, Carbon Cycle Science is receiving heightened emphasis within the USGCRP. The need to understand how carbon cycles throughout the Earth's atmosphere, land, and water is critically important to the ability to predict and manage future climate change. This was among the strongest recommendations of the Pathways report, and in response, the USGCRP is establishing
a Carbon Cycle Science Initiative, with significant new investments proposed in the FY 2000 budget. This effort will provide critical scientific information on the fate of carbon dioxide in the environment, the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide on continental and regional scales, and how sinks might change naturally over time or be enhanced by agricultural or forestry practices. A new level of interagency coordination is being put in place to pursue this important objective. The Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Interior, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Smithsonian Institution will all play important roles in this effort, guided by a science plan that has been drafted with extensive participation by many of the leading scientists in this field.
The Carbon Cycle Science Initiative will employ a wide variety of research activities in a comprehensive examination of the carbon cycle as an integrated system, with an initial focus on North America. Comparison of North America to other significant regions will also be important for understanding the relative importance of our region in the global context. Atmospheric and oceanographic sampling field campaigns over the continent and adjacent ocean basins will be combined with atmospheric transport models to develop more robust estimates of the continental and subcontinental-scale magnitude and location of the North American carbon sink. Local-scale experiments conducted in various regions will begin to identify the mechanisms involved in the operation of carbon sinks on land, the quantities of carbon assimilated by ecosystems, and how quantities might change or be enhanced in the future.
The initiative will also include evaluation of information from past and current land-use changes, both from remotely-sensed and historical records, to assess how human activity has affected carbon storage on land. Potential management strategies for maximizing carbon storage will be studied, including evaluation of the variability, sustainability, lifetime, and related uncertainties of different managed sequestration approaches. Finally, enhanced long-term monitoring of the atmosphere, ocean, forests, agricultural lands, and rangelands, using improved inventory techniques and new remote sensing, will be used to determine long-term changes in carbon stocks. Integration of new observations and understanding of carbon cycle processes in regional and global carbon system models will enable us to more accurately project future atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Two additional NRC reports have recently been issued that focus on the cross-cutting modeling and observation tools that support USGCRP research efforts across all these program areas. Both of these reports were commissioned by the USGCRP to provide guidance on how to improve its programs in these areas. Although they are critical of some aspects U.S. national efforts, it is important to note that the act of requesting these analyses was itself part of the USGCRP taking steps to improve its research efforts. The program has taken some major steps in the FY2000 budget proposal towards solving the problems identified, and the program will build on these initial actions in the new long-term strategy.