USGCRP Seminar - April 21

Paula Alley palley at
Wed Apr 16 11:43:33 EDT 1997

U.S. Global Change Research Program Second Monday Seminar Series

The Role of Energy Technologies in Determining the Long-Term Costs for
Stabilizing the Carbon Dioxide Concentration

How does one estimate long-term costs to the global economy of stabilizing
greenhouse gas emissions? What are the factors that determine how costly it
will be to mitigate emissions over the long-term? What role does the rate
of technology development play?

Public Invited

Monday, April 21, 1997, 3:15-4:45 PM
Rayburn House Office Bldg., Room B369, Washington, DC
Reception Following


The Honorable Mark Chupka, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of
Policy and International Affairs, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, DC


Dr. James A. Edmonds, Global Environmental Change Program, Pacific
Northwest National Laboratory, Washington, DC

Dr. Joseph Romm, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency
and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, DC


The Role of Technology Improvements in Stabilizing the Atmospheric Carbon
Dioxide Concentration

        The long-term objective of the Framework Convention on Climate
Change (FCCC) is the "Šstabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in
the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic
interference with the climate system." This objective is framed in terms of
the concentrations of greenhouse gases rather than their emissions.
Emissions and concentrations have a complex relationship.

        Setting a concentration goal has several important implications for
global emissions. For carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important greenhouse
gas being directly affected by human activities, the implications of
stabilization include:

1) The world must ultimately virtually phase out freely vented carbon
emissions, regardless of the concentration ceiling. That is, ultimately,
net global carbon emissions must approach zero. But, depending on the
concentration goal, "ultimately" has a long time scale, perhaps hundreds of
years; and

2) For many choices of the concentration goal, near-term global emissions
may continue to grow, with dates at which emissions must depart from
business-as-usual paths depending on the atmospheric concentration ceiling
chosen and the particular pathway. Based on some example cases with
particular assumptions, following the emissions path for a 450 ppmv ceiling
computed by Wigley, Richels and Edmonds (Nature, 1996), global emissions
would need to start departing from business-as-usual by the year 2007, peak
at about 2011, and begin their long-term decline thereafter. For a 550 ppmv
ceiling, global emissions would need to start to depart from
business-as-usual by the year 2013, but global emissions could continue to
rise until 2033 before starting to decline over an extended period.

        The path of global emissions can have important implications for
the costs of mitigation (i.e., of changing energy systems) for stabilizing
the atmospheric concentration, regardless of the ceiling chosen. [Note that
the environmental and socioeconomic benefits (or avoided costs) of climate
change are not yet being included in these calculations of the costs of
mitigation.] Recent research has shown that there is an order of magnitude
difference in mitigation costs between pathways which employ flexibility in
"where" and "when" emissions are mitigated and pathways which do not
consider such issues. According to these calculations, well-crafted
policies including "where" and "when" flexibility could make achieving the
goal of the FCCC relatively inexpensive (e.g., less than 1% of present
discounted global GDP for some choices of the ceiling and rates of energy
technology improvement). However, poorly crafted policies could be both
expensive and ineffective.

        The suite of technologies available for mitigation has a similarly
profound effect on the cost of achieving any concentration target. The
value of energy technologies can be estimated using economic models. If
only 1990 technologies are available, the cost of stabilizing the
atmospheric CO2 concentration is estimated to be an order of magnitude
greater than if the suite of technologies foreseen in the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenario IS92a (Leggett et al., 1992)
becomes available. Another order of magnitude reduction in cost could be
obtained if a suite of advanced energy technologies which, while not
currently available, were to become widely available by the year 2020, as
described in IPCC (1996b).

        Thus, the value of an increasing rate of energy technology
development and deployment is very high, reaching trillions of dollars, and
delaying technology development makes mitigation more costly.

The Prospects for Cleaner and More Efficient Energy Technologies

        The overarching goal of efforts to improve technologies and to mold
government policies is to ensure that "total benefits outweigh total
costs," to use the phrase from the recent Arrow, Jorgenson, Krugman,
Nordhaus, Solow et al. statement. Such a goal is potentially achievable
because many technologies provide multiple, so-called "no regrets"
benefits, such as increased productivity and a reduction in air pollutants.
Significant progress is possible because cleaner and more efficient
technologies are underutilized in all sectors of the economy. On the demand
side, energy efficiency offers the potential to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions at low or no cost in the key sectors of transportation, building,
and industry. Similar potential exists on the supply side through the wider
use of cleaner fossil fuel technologies, especially those utilizing natural
gas. A number of partnerships between the government and private sector are
working to remove the barriers to wider use of both supply and demand

        Beyond existing technologies, a number of very-low or no-carbon
technologies are in the pipeline, including stationary fuel cells, advanced
turbines, bioenergy, "clean" diesel engines, and next-generation
wind-power. With accelerated R&D and increasing use of these technologies
(i.e., their diffusion into the marketplace), these technologies nad
advances could have a significant impact in the medium term. In the longer
term, a number of technologies hold the promise of reducing
climate-mitigation costs, including next-generation fossil energy
technologies and a variety of renewable energy technologies, such as
photovoltaics and transportation fuel cells.


        Dr. James A. Edmonds is a Chief Scientist and the Technical Leader
of Economic Programs at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL),
Washington DC office. He has been associated with PNNL since 1986, during
which time he has developed and contributed to programs in the area of
global change and sustainable development. Dr. Edmonds is best known for
his research on the interactions between global climate and human
activities. He is the co-developer of the often cited Edmonds-Reilly-Barns
model of global energy and economy. Dr. Edmonds has written numerous papers
and books on the subject of global change, including Global Energy
Assessing the Future, with John Reilly (Oxford University Press). His book,
with Don Wuebbles, A Primer on Greenhouse Gases won the scientific book of
the year award at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

        Dr. Edmonds also served as a lead author on five chapters of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Second Assessment Report,
including three chapters for Working Group III and two for Working Group
II. He also served as a lead author on the IPCC First Assessment Report and
the 1992 and 1994 updates. Dr. Edmonds' current research focuses on
development of a Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM) system and on
related policy research. He heads the development of a Second Generation
Model as an international collaboration between PNNL and nine research
institutions located around the world, and he has also initiated a program
to assess the state of the social sciences with regard to their
contribution to knowledge relevant to climate change. Dr. Edmonds' Global
Climate Change Group received the Director's Award for Research Excellence
at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in 1995.

        Before joining PNNL, Dr. Edmonds headed the Washington DC office of
the Institute for Energy Analysis, Oak Ridge Associated Universities
(1978-86). Prior to that, he was an Assistant Professor of Economics and
Chairman of the Department of Economics and Business Administration at
Centre College of Kentucky (1974-78). He graduated with a M.A. (1972) and
Ph.D. (1974) from Duke University. His undergraduate degree is from
Kalamazoo College (1969).

        Dr. Joseph Romm is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. In this
capacity, Dr. Romm helps the Assistant Secretary, Christine Ervin, manage
the eight hundred million dollar portfolio of research, development, and
deployment of clean industrial, transportation, building, and utility
technologies. Prior to his service at the U.S. Department of Energy, Dr.
Romm worked in the field of alternative energies and energy efficiency with
Amory Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Institute.

                Dr. Romm holds a Ph.D. degree in physics from M.I.T. and
has written about pollution prevention and manufacturing for Forbes,
Technology Review, Foreign Affairs, Industrial Engineering, The New York
Times, and USA Today. He is the author of three books, most recently "Lean
and Clean Management: How to Increase Profits and Productivity by Reducing
Pollution" (Kodansha, 1994), a "how to" book for companies that want to
improve their energy and environmental performance. He is also the
co-author, with outgong Deputy Secretary of Energy Charles Curtis, of the
April 1996 Atlantic Monthly cover story, "Mideast Oil Forever."

The Next Seminar is scheduled for Monday, May 12, 1997

Planned Topic: To Be Announced

For more information please contact:

Anthony D. Socci, Ph.D., U.S. Global Change Research Program Offiice Code
YS-1, 300 E St., SW, Washington, DC 20546 Telephone: (202) 358-1532; Fax:
(202) 358-4103 E-Mail: TSOCCI at USGCRP.GOV.

Additional information on the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP)
and this Seminar Series is available on the USGCRP Home Page at: Normally these seminars are held on the second
Monday of each month.

Paula Alley, Admin Asstistant
Phone number:  (202)358-0421
FAX number:  (202) 358-4103
Office of the USGCRP, code YS-1, 300 E Street, SW. Washington, DC 20546
e-mail:  palley at
World Wide Web Address:
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