February 28, 2007
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Global Climate Change Digest
A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999
FROM VOLUME 12, NUMBER 5, MAY 1999
Acid Rain: Current and Projected Status of Coldwater Fish
Communities in the Southeastern US in the Context of Continued Acid
Deposition, Project Completion Report, A. J. Bulger, B. J. Cosby, and
J. R. Webb, Trout Unlimited, June 1998, 32 pp., available free at
Stream chemistry data from 304 Virginia brook trout streams, part of an
Appalachian-forest acid-sensitive ecosystem, were analyzed. Despite the
reductions in acid-causing air pollution brought about by the Clean Air
Act, these streams continue to be affected by acid deposition. Only 18% of
preindustrial, forested watersheds in Virginia were acidic. Currently,
about 50% are acidic, and approximately 6% are chronically acidic and
unable to support fish. This analysis indicates that 1991 levels of acid
deposition will need to be reduced 70% to keep the remaining 50% of
Virginias brook trout streams nonacidic. Lesser reductions will
cause a large number of those streams to become chronically acidic by the
Soil Calcium Depletion Linked to Acid Rain and Forest Growth in
the Eastern United States, G. B. Lawrence and T. G. Huntington, Water
Resources Investigations Report 98-4267, USGS, $4.00 plus $3.50 shipping
and handling, 12 pp.; also available at http://bqs.usgs.gov/acidrain.
Calcium levels in forest soils have decreased at locations in ten states
in the eastern United States, which is cause for concern because calcium
is necessary for neutralizing acid rain and is an essential nutrient for
tree growth. Decreases in available calcium have been linked to reduced
resistance to insect defoliation and low winter temperatures. Acid rain
releases aluminum from the underlying soil, and that aluminum is
transported upward by root uptake and water movement. That aluminum then
replaces calcium, and the trees have a harder time getting the needed
calcium. Measurements of soil calcium in the Northeast have been found to
be well below those taken 50 years before. Depletion of calcium in soils
is common in the Southeast as well. Timber harvesting can contribute to
the problem because the calcium removed with the trees would otherwise
have been recycled within the ecosystem. Depletion of calcium in forest
soils may also explain why, despite decreases in acid rain during the past
three decades, streamwater chemistry has shown continued decreases or only
minimal recovery in calcium concentrations and acid-neutralizing capacity
at many locations in the Northeast.
Implementing the Kyoto Protocol: The Role of Environmental
Agreements, Asbjørn Torvanger and Tora Skodvin, Report 1999:04,
CICERO, 59 pp., free, also available at
Voluntary agreements between an industry or a company and the government
to regulate various environmental impacts, such as the emissions of
greenhouse gases, is a popular policy tool in many OECD countries. The
suitability of such agreements was examined. The results of the survey and
analysis indicated that:
- These agreements are most attractive as a supplement to traditional
command and control or to market-based policy tools.
- Skillful design of such agreements can improve their efficiency
(e.g., by the introduction of subsidies in case of over-fulfillment of
the agreement by the company combined with a tax in case of
- Bilateral agreements can be used effectively to regulate pollution
from other countries.
- Regional agreements are rare but can have certain advantages and be
an important supplement to other policy tools.
- Such agreements can constitute a transitional stage from traditional
command and control to domestic emission trading and then to emission
trading and joint implementation.
National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program Biennial Report
to Congress: An Integrated Assessment, NAPAP, May 1999, various
paginations, free; also available on line at
The National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) coordinates
federal acid-rain research and monitoring. This report analyzes the recent
results from the controlling of sulfur dioxide emissions by the largest
fossil-fueled electric generating units. It uses quantitative and
qualitative indicators to assess the effectiveness of market-based
approaches to reduce emissions and acidic deposition and to keep
compliance costs down. It includes analyses of the ecological,
human-health, property-preservation, cultural-resource, and visibility
benefits of reduced atmospheric concentrations of acid deposition and its
precursors. The report also identifies the research, monitoring, modeling,
and data-access needs for the next comprehensive assessment, which is to
be prepared in 2000. The report finds that:
- The market-based approach has reduced compliance costs for utilities
below those of a command-and-control approach.
- All affected utilities have fulfilled or exceeded the compliance
requirements of Title IV.
- Allowance trading has been successful both in terms of the volume of
trades and in its effectiveness in keeping compliance costs down.
- In the first year of compliance, SO2 emissions for Phase I electric
utility units were 39% below the 1995 allowable level.
- Statistically significant reductions in the acidity of and sulfate
concentrations in precipitation were reported at sites in the Midwest,
Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast United States.
- It is too early to determine whether changes in aquatic ecosystems
have resulted from the 1995 emission reductions.
- Sulfur and nitrogen deposition have caused adverse impacts on
certain highly sensitive forest ecosystems in the United States.
- The gradual leaching of soil nutrients from sustained inputs of acid
deposition could eventually impede forest nutrition and growth in
- Dry deposition is now considered to be more damaging to stone
materials and cultural resources than is wet deposition.
- The linkage between reduced sulfate concentrations and improved
visibility is difficult to ascertain without long-term data.
- Some evidence suggests that quantifiable economic benefits could be
relatively large in the areas of human health and visibility, exceeding
the costs of complying with Title IV.
The report also identifies some known, adverse, environmental effects of
- The soils of high-elevation forests in Colorado, West Virginia,
Tennessee, and California are saturated or nearly saturated with
- In the Chesapeake Bay, excess nitrogen is causing algae blooms that
suffocate other life.
- High-elevation lakes and streams in California, Washington, and
Colorado are close to chronically high acidity.
- Many waters in the Adirondacks are becoming more acidic even though
sulfur deposits are declining; at current rates, about half of them will
be too acidic to sustain significant life by 2040.
Meeting Our Clean Air Needs With Emission-Free Generation: The
Need for Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Energy Institute, free, 52 pp.;
also available at http://www.nei.org/new/clean_air.html.
This report highlights the contribution of nuclear energy to U.S. air
quality. Along with describing the environmental benefits of avoided
greenhouse-gas emissions, it looks at the role of nuclear energy in
meeting air-quality standards by avoiding the emission of controlled
pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides (precursors of
ozone). As the electricity market becomes more competitive, the report
considers the ramifications of failing to maintain the emission-free
component of the U.S. generation portfolio (now 31%, with nuclear
supplying two-thirds of that total). The report evaluates the likelihood
of other nonemitting sources replacing a significant amount of nuclear or
hydroelectric capacity, and concludes that relicensing of existing nuclear
plants and policies for effective spent-fuel management are vital to
meeting our clean-air obligations, both international and domestic.
Agriculture & Global Climate Change: A Review of Impacts to
U.S. Agricultural Resources, R. M. Adams, B. H. Hurd, and John Reilly,
Pew Center for Climate Change, 34 pp., free; also available online at http://www.pewclimate.org/projects/env_argiculture.html.
This report analyzes the effects of climate change on U.S. food
production, including distributional impacts, and agricultural resources.
Those effects include increased crop yields in the northern United States
and Canada, but decreased yields in the southern United States. Increases
in precipitation may benefit water-short areas but aggravate problems in
regions with excess water, although higher CO2 levels decrease water use.
Increases in rainfall intensity pose a threat to agriculture because it
causes soil erosion, leaching of agricultural chemicals, and runoff of
livestock waste. Adaptive behavior on the part of farmers, such as hanging
planting and harvest dates, rotating crops, selecting varieties,
irrigating, fertilizing, and tilling can lessen losses from climate
change. Negative indirect effects include changes in pest and pathogen
incidence, soil degradation, increased ground-level ozone, and increased
demand for limited irrigation water. Agricultural practices also produce
methane, nitrous oxide, and CO2; these emissions could be partly offset by
the planting of trees and biofuel crops. Overall, expected climate changes
could lower global production but would have only a small effect on U.S.
agriculture. Greater amounts of warming (i.e., a 4°C rise in average
temperature) would decrease agricultural production in most areas of the
United States and substantially limit global production.
The Increasing Sustainability of Conventional Energy, R. L.
Bradley Jr., Policy Analysis No. 341, Cato Institute, $6.00, 50 pp., April
This publication looks to a future in which fossil fuels are virtually
unlimited resources and in which technology has made it possible to burn
all fuels in an environmentally acceptable manner. It estimates probable
reserves of fossil fuels to be two to eight times proven reserves and says
that an array of unconventional fossil-fuel resources (synthetic and
agricultural oils, gas hydrates, etc.) will be available as petroleum,
natural gas, and coal becoome scarcer. It says that fossil-fuel
availability has been increasing even as consumption has reached record
levels and points to EPA figures of declining emissions of CO, NOx, SO2,
VOCs, particulates, and lead between 1970 and 1997. It notes that early
climate models predicted that the global warming from a doubling of CO2
would be 4?C and that that figure was revised downward to 2?C in the IPCC
second assessment on the basis of more-sophisticated models; it takes that
reduction as indicative that further downward revisions may be
necessary. It credits emissions trading as an effective mechanism
for discovering the lowest-cost emission reductions but notes that
transaction costs could sabotage the programs economic gains.
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Index of Abbreviations