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Global Climate Change DigestArchives of the
Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d89apr19

Policy Options for Stabilizing Global Climate--Draft Report to Congress, approx. 800 pp., Feb. 1989. Off. Policy, Planning & Eval., U.S. EPA. (See NEWS, this Global Climate Change Digest issue--Apr. 1989.) Full draft report available from Gov. Printing Off. (stock no. 055-000-00282-7), Washington DC 20401 (202-783-3238); $35. Limited quantities of a 91-page draft executive summary are available from Off. Policy, Planning & Eval. (PM 220), U.S. EPA, Washington DC 20460.

This evaluation, still under review, examines a broad range of policy options for their effectiveness in reducing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. It represents a first attempt to relate underlying forces such as population growth, economic growth and technological change to greenhouse gas emissions, but is not an attempt to forecast future conditions. Through extensive literature review and input from governmental, nongovernmental and academic experts, EPA developed an integrated analytical framework to organize the data and assumptions required to estimate future emissions of radiatively and chemically active gases, concentrations of greenhouse gases, and changes in global temperatures. The wide scope of the Congressionally mandated study makes it subject to several major limitations: results are very sensitive to rates of economic growth and technological change, which are hard to predict; detailed economic and cost analyses were not attempted; limitations on capital investment were not explicitly considered; and economic feedbacks were not fully represented. Following is a summary of four major findings of the analysis:

  1. There is a growing consensus in the scientific community that significant global warming due to anthropogenic greenhouse emissions is probable over the next century, and rapid climatic change is possible. Uncertainties are large concerning the ultimate magnitude and timing of warming and its implications for Earth's climate system, environment and economics. In climatic terms, several degrees is an enormous warming; regional alterations in temperature and precipitation would be at least as important.
  2. Measures taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions would decrease the magnitude and speed of global warming, regardless of uncertainties about climatic response. Four scenarios were adopted as internally consistent pictures of how the world may evolve. The Rapidly Changing World and Slowly Changing World reflect alternate rates of economic growth and technological change; greenhouse gases will show large increases in either case, with fossil fuel playing a relatively larger role in the former, and agricultural activities and deforestation in the latter. Each case was considered with or without policies to stabilize greenhouse warming, and estimates of future warming were made. Stabilization of global warming requires very rapid introduction of existing and emerging technologies and very significant investment in research and development. Delaying action until uncertainties are reduced could seriously reduce the effectiveness of such policy responses. Early application of the existing and emerging technologies considered could reduce expected global warming by 2025 by one-fourth, and reduce the rate of climatic change during the next century by at least 60%.
  3. Any overall solution requires cooperation of many countries, both highly and less developed, and reductions in many sources. The most effective short-term options are further reductions of chlorofluorocarbons, energy-efficient technologies, and reversing deforestation. Long-term benefits will result from starting immediately to develop technologies for producing goods and services that generate less greenhouse emissions. Neither energy efficiency alone nor use of non-fossil fuels alone is sufficient; both are necessary.
  4. A wide range of policy options is available which also promote economic development and environmental and social goals. In industrialized countries, such policies could also reduce acid rain, urban ozone and dependence on imported energy. In developing countries capital requirements for power generation would be reduced, and reversing deforestation would have long-term economic and environmental benefits. Potential improvements in energy efficiency used in the Rapidly Changing World scenario include an average global automobile fuel efficiency of 50 mpg in 2025, and reduction in residential and commercial energy use per unit floor space of 50% for electricity and 75% for fuel. Contributions from non-fossil energy sources assumed in that scenario for year 2050 include 30% from biomass, 15% from solar, and 13% from nuclear. Government action will be necessary to limit greenhouse gas buildup, because risks of climate change are not reflected in market prices of energy from fossil fuels, of products made from CFCs or of forest and agricultural products. Emission fees set by international agreement may be necessary on products according to their relative contribution to emissions, and could raise funds for other stabilization programs. Regulatory programs would also be necessary when pricing strategies are ineffective or produce undesirable impacts. In the United States, policies could be incorporated into many existing programs; new programs could include emissions offsets (tree-planting), performance standards, or marketable permits. Accelerated investment in a range of options is necessary because the best approaches cannot be anticipated. Judicious use of U.S. bilateral aid programs and U.S. influence on loans extended by multilateral development banks can promote desirable changes in energy and environmental policy in developing countries.

Item #d89apr20

Climate Change Priorities: Report of the Committee on Climate Funding Priorities, approx. 50 pp., Mar. 6, 1989. Request from Climate Institute, 316 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, S. 403, Washington DC 20003 (202-547-0111).

Reacting to budget pressures, the U.S. and many other industrialized countries have cut back meteorological services and threatened the funding of such critical needs as continuous global monitoring of carbon dioxide levels, risking a loss of benchmark data. The U.S. air pollution control system has been starved to fund hazardous waste programs. Recommendations made in this report for the U.S. would cause a modest increase ($170 million) in the U.S. federal budget. A few of the many recommendations are: $14 million to accelerate CFC phaseout; $25 million for interagency studies of impacts of sea level rise; $14 million for national greenhouse gas monitoring; $21 million to support activities of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); stable, long-term funding for research projects such as the World Ocean Experiment; $20 million for climate work by third world scholars; insure that multilateral lending agencies and development assistance agencies consider climate change.

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