Order Code RL3052 2
Global Climate Change : A . Survey of Scientifi c
Research and Policy Report s
April 13, 2000
Wayne A. Morrissey
Science and Technology Information Analys t
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
This report is intended to guide the reader through U .S . global climate change
policy from the passage of the National Climate Program Act of 1978 (P .L. 95-367)
through the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where the U .N. Framework
Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) was opened for signatures . It offers a
summary of scientific research on global climate change and related U .S . policy an d
identifies what many consider to be important milestones in the international polic y
debate on global climate change . Major reports are listed that have underpinned suc h
debates and have advised international decision makers . Also, major internationa l
meetings at which the United States had diplomatic representation are included a s
well as a chronology that serves as historical background for CRS Issue Brief 89005 :
Global Climate Change, which discusses U .S . policy and activities since ratificatio n
of the FCCC, including negotiations and debate leading to the 1997 U .N. Kyoto
Protocol on Climate Change . This report will not be updated .
Global Climate Change :
A Survey of Scientific Research and Policy Report s
The scientific proposition of an "enhanced greenhouse effect," or warming o f
the Earth's atmosphere because of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) from industrial pollution ,
is now more than 100 years old . Since the late 1950s, U .S . Government scientist s
have participated in scientific workshops and international conferences on the natur e
of Earth's climate system and C O2 and other greenhouse gases' potential to increas e
global average temperatures . The scientific debate centers on whether measurabl e
changes in the global climate are human-induced and, if so, what might be the extent ,
nature and impacts of climate change .
Extensive involvement of the federal government in formulating a U .S . policy
on climate change and assuming a diplomatic role in international scientific debate s
on this issue began in earnest in 1978 with efforts to coordinate federal scientifi c
research activities in this area . Because of the global implications of climate change ,
concerns had also been addressed in international scientific conferences, develope d
as part of national policies, to exchange as views and information in internationa l
scientific organizations within and outside the United Nations system .
. members requested the World Meteorological Organizatio n
(WMO) and the U .N . Environment Program (UNEP) to conduct an assessment of th e
state of knowledge about global climate change . The U .N. Intergovernmental Pane l
on Climate Change (IPCC) was established that year, and it reported its findings i n
the Fall of 1991 . Subsequently, the IPCC has advised international negotiations o n
the 1992 U .N . Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), and the 199 7
Kyoto Protocol to the FCCC, which if it were to enter into force, would commi t
industrialized nations to legally binding greenhouse gas emissions reductions .
The Kyoto Protocol has received mixed reaction in the U .S. Government . Th e
Clinton Administration supports it, generally, and is attempting to make it acceptabl e
to Congress . However, many in Congress are concerned that endorsing the Protoco l
might lead to disruption of domestic economic growth, and produce few, if any ,
tangible environmental benefits . Still others in Congress question the scientifi c
validity of the "global warming" theory . The U .S. Senate has a statutory role t o
provide advice and consent to ratification of U .S. treaties . Hearings in both th e
House and the Senate have been held by several committee on the science an d
possible effects of global climate change, and potential economic impacts as the y
relate to the Kyoto Protocol .
Given the remaining uncertainties about the possible magnitude, timing, rate ,
and potential regional consequences of climate change, policy makers continue t o
assess what policy actions might be appropriate . This report reviews the scientifi c
research and policy which has framed current, and possible future, U .S . policy debate
on climate change .
Scientific Debate on Global Climate Change
and U .S . Policy
Major Reports by International Scientific Institutions
U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU)
The U .N . Commission on Environment and Development (UNCED)
The U.N . Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Major Reports by U .S . Science Institutions and Federal Agencies
U.S . National Research Council (NRC)
U.S . Department of Energy (DOE)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
National Science Foundation (NSF)
White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP)
U.S . Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
U.S . Department of State (DOS)
U.S . Executive Office of the President (EOP)
U.S . Department of Justice (DOJ)
U.S . Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (OTA)
Global Climate Change Science Outlook
CRS Products on Global Climate Change
Appendix I : A Chronology of U .S . Government Involvement in Global Climat e
Change Policy through 1998
Table 1 . Major Conferences on Global Climate Chang e
at Which the U .S. . Government has had Diplomatic Representation
Global Climate Change : A. Survey of Scientifi c
Research and Policy Report s
It is difficult to ascribe a singular event that might have encouraged the U .S .
Government to begin a major program to investigate global climate change ; rather,
it might be described as a long succession of events . The idea that carbon dioxid e
from industrial production could trap heat in Earth ' s atmosphere was proffered a
century ago, in 1898, by Swedish physicist Svante Arrhenius . Following the 19571958 International Geophysical Year , ' scientists within U .S. federal agencies partic ipated extensively in scientific workshops, international conferences, an d
international scientific research that explored the nature of Earth 's climate syste m
and the role of carbon dioxide (C O2 ) and other greenhouse gases believed to modify
it . In 1965 the President's Science Advisory Committee issued a report, Restoring
the Quality of Our Environment, that identified climate change and CO, buildup a s
deserving expanded monitoring and study .
Notable early research programs included the Global Atmospheric Researc h
Program (GARP) and the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) . Around 1977 ,
the prospect of global climate change had emerged from lecture halls and academi c
conferences and had begun to be presented in United Nations (U .N.) sponsored
international fora attended by U .S . scientists . Not long after, international expert s
involved in research on potential global warming from greenhouse gas emission s
would be asked by policymakers to contribute their scientific findings to an incipien t
international policy debate on the validity of concerns that global average
temperatures might increase because of human activities .
The National Climate Program Act (NCPA) of 1978 (P .L. 95-367, 15 US C
§2901 et seq .) marked a major milestone in establishing a federal interest in globa l
climate change policy . It signaled the beginning of a national policy, a diplomati c
role in international actions on potential global climate change, and enhance d
scientific research on these issues . It mandated coordination of domestic program s
in climate research, applications, and services through an independent Nationa l
Climate Program Office authorized under § 2908, of the Act . The NCPA also
coordinated U .S. government participation in climate research conducted unde r
' The International Geophysical Year ' s focus was organized to improve scientific knowledg e
about the Earth and its physical systems . Also, it celebrated the 100' h anniversary of the firs t
international Geophysical Survey undertaken to validate spatial measurements of the Earth .
The first major international studies on global climate change requested b y
world decision makers were performed by three United Nations organizations: th e
U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Meteorological Organizatio n
(WMO), and the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) . Their first study ,
which addressed potential global policy considerations, was released for publi c
review and adopted by the U .N . Secretary General at the First World Climat e
Conference (FWCC) in Geneva in 1979 . For about 10 years after FWCC ,
discussions continued the science of global climate change was further studied b y
WMO and UNEP, laying foundation for negotiations on a possible convention/treaty .
in November 1988, at the request of U .N. members involved in climate chang e
research, the U .N . Secretary General, acting on recommendations of WMO an d
UNEP for an assessment of the state of knowledge about climate change, created th e
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) . The IPCC's charge was to
establish an orderly process to ensure that research and impact assessment studie s
proceeded concurrently and that adequate scientific research would precede legal o r
regulatory activities . To aid in its participation in the IPCC assessment process, an d
to coordinate U .S . research activities, the United States established the U .S . Global
Change Research Program in 1989, pursuant to the Global Change Research Ac t
(P.L. 100-606, 15 USC §2921 et seq .) . In 1990, the IPCC completed the first of a
series of periodic international scientific and policy assessments of global climat e
change. These assessments aimed to " review scientific knowledge about natura l
and human-induced climate change and . . . provide governments with a soun d
consensus of scientific evidence on climate change and resulting impact on natura l
and human systems from which policy options can be developed .
In 1990, after analysis of the first IPCC assessment, the U .N . General Assembl y
established an International Negotiating Committee (INC) to begin a process leadin g
to a treaty on climate change . In 1992, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climat e
Change (FCCC) was adopted . The United States, along with 152 other nations ,
agreed to an ultimate objective of "stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse ga s
concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interferenc e
with the climate system ." The U .N. FCCC established a non-binding goal and polic y
framework for the industrialized countries to pursue various voluntary measures t o
limit their emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2000 . In October
1993, President Clinton outlined a voluntary Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP )
intended to work toward stabilizing U .S . emissions of greenhouse gases .
Prominent scientists were soon projecting that global greenhouse gas emission s
would continue to rise long after the fundamental, voluntary commitments under th e
U.N. FCCC might be satisfied . Since the FCCC's "entry into force" in March 1994 ,
debate has continued about the adequacy of scientific knowledge to be able predic t
future climate change and how to deal with its possible impacts if it were occurring .
Also, there has been debate about whether all U .N . FCCC parties - and not onl y
industrialized countries-should participate in activities aimed at protecting Earth' s
2 National Climate Program Office, January 15, 1988 .
climate? Congress has held numerous hearings to inquire about the robustness o f
scientific findings relating to climate change and on other reports by social scientist s
projecting potential impacts for the U .S . economy, human health, and in other areas .
Many studies have recommended possible policy responses, such as mitigation an d
adaptation strategies, to prevent or adapt to possible climate change . Members o f
Congress have also elevated concern about the issue internationally through direc t
communication with world leaders . Some have participated in internationa l
negotiations . Congress has passed resolutions and legislation that would help t o
coordinate scientific research on climate change, and has collected information fro m
U.N . scientific bodies, and other international governmental and non-governmenta l
organizations concerned with climate change .
While the U .N . FCCC focused on voluntary actions to be taken by the year 200 0
for long-term control of the total concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases ,
subsequent attention focused on regulating and reducing greenhouse gas emission s
after the year 2000 . As early as 1995, when U .N . FCCC parties were advised that i t
was unlikely that the voluntary goals of that treaty would be met, a Conference o f
Parties (COP) authorized under FCCC began to consider legally binding measure s
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and proposed to craft a protocol or some othe r
legal instrument that would be binding on the industrialized and developin g
The Berlin Mandate, which was adopted at the first meeting of COP (COP-1) ,
in 1995, proposed dealing with future climate change by strengthening existin g
commitments under FCCC . However, it also continued to exempt developin g
countries, who are parties, from any new binding commitments related to controls o n
greenhouse gas emissions . Shortly thereafter, the IPCC released its secon d
assessment on climate change (IPCC-2) in December 1995 . Despite debate on its
scientific findings, the United Nations endorsed IPCC-2 as the basis and scientifi c
guidelines for negotiations on further action to limit possible human alteration of th e
climate system . One of the main findings of IPCC-2 - and one that has attracte d
considerable debate --- was that "the balance of scientific evidence suggested a
discernible human impact on the climate system ." At the conclusion of COP-1, a tw o
year "Analysis and Assessment" phase was begun to consider the possible element s
of a regulatory instrument to limit greenhouse gas emissions .
Successive negotiations by the Conference of Parties helped to forge a
December 1997 accord, the U .N . Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, an internationa l
treaty which, if it enters into force, would implement the first legally bindin g
reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of stabilizing (if not reducing )
atmospheric concentrations of these pollutants at some point in the future . Differen t
countries would be bound by different levels of responsibility and compliance unde r
the Protocol, but combined efforts required of industrialized countries, alone, woul d
s For a more indepth discussion of this period of negotiations, see CRS Report 96-699 SPR ,
Global Climate Change : Adequacy of Commitments under the U. N. Framework Convention
and the Berlin Mandate .
be expected to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases by some 5% from 199 0
levels by the year 2012.
On November 12, 1998, the United States became the 60 '1 country to sign the
Kyoto Protocol despite protest from some in Congress . It has not yet been submitte d
to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification . Members of Congress have sinc e
introduced legislation, and Congress has included provisions in FY1999 and FY200 0
appropriations bills to prohibit activities that would implement the Kyoto Protoco l
without prior Senate advice and consent to ratification .'
Scientific Debate on Global Climate Chang e
and U.S . Policy
Many uncertainties continue to surround the theory of "global warming ." At th e
very core of the scientific debate has been over the extent to which human activitie s
influence climate change . Another uncertainty is whether the potential impacts o f
climate change might be harmful or beneficial for humans, managed agriculture, an d
natural ecosystems . Some question the validity and reliability of the scientific dat a
to date which have underpinned negotiations toward possible internationa l
cooperation on regulation of greenhouse gases suspected to be causing globally averaged warming . Others are convinced that actions must be taken as soon a s
possible to reduce potential effects of human-added gases released into th e
atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial era (c .a. 1850) .
A number of seminal scientific studies were performed by internationa l
scientific institutions prior to and since the U .S. began to formulate a national policy
on global climate change . Subsequently, the state of the knowledge about climat e
change has evolved and so have future projections of the potential impacts of climat e
change as demonstrated by a variety of computer models of Earth's climate .
Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (C O 2), the major greenhouse gas ,
have increased by about one-third over the past 100 years or so ; over this perio d
global temperature has averaged an increase of an estimated 0 .5 °C (0 .9 °F) . A
majority of state-of-the-art computerized general circulation models (GCMs), whic h
approximate the Earths climate, have projected a globally averaged warming in a
range of 3 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years, if greenhouse gases wer e
to continue to accumulate in the atmosphere at the current rate . Prominent climate
scientists have concluded that such a warming could shift temperature zones, rainfal l
patterns, and agricultural belts and, under certain scenarios cause sea level to rise an d
inundate low-lying coastal areas . Global warming, they believe, could hav e
far-reaching effects- some positive, some negative, depending on regional impact s
For more details, see CRS Report 98-2, Global Climate Change Treaty : The Kyoto
Protocol . Also see, CRS briefing book on Global Climate Change,
[http :llwww .congress .gov/brbklhtml/ebgectop .htrnl ]
See CRS Report 98-664 STM, Global Climate Change : Congressional Concern Abou t
"Back Door" Implementation of the 1997 U .N. Kyoto Protocol.
- on natural resources ; ecosystems ; food and fiber production ; energy supply, use ,
and distribution ; transportation; land use ; water supply and control ; and human
health. However, other scientists who are skeptical of the "global warming" theor y
debate the credibility of available data, claim it is insufficient for public decisio n
makers, and criticize the results of mathematics- and physics-based climate model s
which use these data ."'
Most scientists are confident that the increase in atmospheric concentrations o f
carbon dioxide (C0 2) since the industrial revolution are primarily from huma n
activities, and many of these scientists also conclude that this increase could b e
leading to higher global average temperatures . Other scientists, however, argue tha t
scientific proof of the link between greenhouse gases and warming is inconclusive ,
or even contradictory, and that many uncertainties remain about the nature and futur e
direction of Earths climate . In any event, concern is growing that increased CO 2
from human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, industrial production ,
deforestation, and certain land-use practices, along with increasing concentrations o f
other trace gases, including chlorofluorocarbons, (CFCs), methane (CH 4), nitrous
oxide (N2 0), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfu r
hexafluoride (SF), may be changing the chemical composition and the physica l
dynamics of Earths atmosphere, including how heat/energy is distributed among th e
land, ocean, atmosphere, and space .'
ht its 1995 assessment of global climate change, the U .N . Intergovernmenta l
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported a "discernible human impact on th e
climate system ." Some critics argue, however, that the signal has not emerge d
clearly from the background noise of natural climate variability that has transpire d
over long time periods . Lead authors of the IPCC scientific working group countere d
that uncertainties were adequately addressed in Chapter 8 ("Detection of Climat e
Changes and Attribution of Causes") in the Science Working Group Report, and i n
the contents of other IPCC working group reports .
Skeptics have testified in congressional hearings that, upon reviewing the lates t
scientific literature about global climate change, they believe that 1) carbon dioxid e
may be 15% less potent in its ability as a greenhouse gas to warm the climate tha n
previously thought, 2) methane has stabilized in the atmosphere and may be on th e
decline, calling into question the magnitude of its radiative contribution to climat e
change, and 3) global average temperatures have not risen at the rate or magnitud e
projected by GCMs . All of which, they claim, call into question the reliability of th e
computer climate models used to make projections of future warming and those tha t
served as the basis for Kyoto Protocol negotiations .'
Fora more in depth discussion, see "Policy Forum : Uncertainties in Projections of Human Caused Climate Warming," by J .D. Mahlman . Science, vol . 278, Nov . 21, 1997 : 1416 1417 .
' See CRS Issue brief 1B89005, Global Climate Change .
Testimony of Patrick Michaels, Professor of Environmental Sciences, University o f
Virginia and Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies at the Cato Institute to Hous e
Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Small Business, July 27,1 998 .
Skeptics have also challenged some scientists ' interpretations that recent
episodic weather events, which seem more extreme in nature, are indicative of long term climate change . The Clinton Administration has been criticized for suggestin g
the possibility that recent floods, forest fires, rather severe weather and certain othe r
weather anomalies could relate to a warming of the climate.
Natural variability of climate (or climate fluctuation) is large enough tha t
statistically even the record-setting warmth and severe weather events in the 1980 s
.cannot be attributed entirely to human activities . In some cases ,
connections between inter annual and inter decadal climate fluctuations such as El
Nino and La Nina and seasonal patterns of severe weather events are just beginnin g
to be recognized, largely because of an improved ability to observe the nature ,
frequency, and severity of atmospheric and oceanic phenomena . Thi s
notwithstanding, singular extreme weather events have focused public attention o n
possible outcomes of potential long-term climate change and the need for a bette r
understanding of regional climates . Consequently, it appears that many scientifi c
questions about the nature of climate change and its relationship to regional weathe r
patterns remain to be answered .
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations (NOAA) researchers hav e
reported that the 12 warmest years, in terms of global averages, since historica l
records have been kept (since about] 780) occurred during the past two decades, wit h
1990, 1998, and 1999 among the warmest . At least some of this warming, the y
concluded, is human-induced, because of the rate of change observed since post industrial times . On the other hand, satellite instruments-which measure radiativ e
properties of certain gases from which average temperatures of the atmosphere in a
deep column above the surface may be deduced - have not demonstrated an y
significant temperature rise at upper levels of the atmosphere over the past 20 years .
A recent report sheds some light on this debate . (See National Research Council ,
below .) Arguments such as this have cast some doubt as to whether histori c
temperature data - among other indicators of climate change, such as ice cor e
sampling and tree ring data, for example -- are a reliable way to estimate futur e
atmospheric temperature . Scientists have also debated whether recent emergence o f
tropical diseases in the mid-latitudes and apparent biological changes manifested i n
certain species of flora and fauna are signaling that Earths climate is warming o n
average . In efforts to address many of these unresolved issues, a third IPC C
assessment of global climate change is expected late in the year 2000, and will likel y
influence future negotiations on global climate change .
Major Reports by International Scientific Institution s
The following selection of reports identifies major studies from an internationa l
perspective that have contributed to U .S . policy debates on global climate change .
They are generally listed in chronological order and are attributed to the scientifi c
institution responsible for the work . These include some of the earliest studies o n
climate change as it became a science policy issue for the United States and i n
international affairs . These represent a progression of views during the ten-yea r
period between the first World Climate Conference in 1979 and the eventual
establishment of the U .S . Global Change Research Program in 1989, which define d
a U.S . scientific research framework for global climate change . Those listed are
selected based upon endorsement, involvement, or membership of U .S . governmen t
scientists in the WMO, UNEP, and ICSU . For additional studies by individuals ,
public interest groups, and others, see the CRS global climate change electroni c
briefing book web site . [http://www.congress .gov/brbk/html/ebeccl .html] .
U.N . World Meteorological Organization (WMO )
Three important reports were issued as a result of activities stemming from th e
1979 World Meteorological Organization (WMO) First World Climate Conferenc e
(FWCC), cosponsored by UNEP and ICSU, which resulted in the creation of a U .N.
World Climate Research Program . These organizations began to consider wha t
might be possible issues of concern for world decision makers, and reviewe d
administrative responsibilities of the WMO as far as its role in international researc h
on climate change . Many other reports by WMO have followed, focusing on mor e
specific aspects of global climate change research and its potential role in informin g
public decision makers . In addition, other important reports by WM O 's plenary bod y
and WCRP have been issued . The three reports are :
Proceedings of the World Climate Conference : A Conference of
Experts on Climate and Mankind : Geneva, Switzerland, February
12-23, 1979 . Secretariat of WMO, Geneva : 1979 . WMO-No .537 .
Report of the International Conference on the Assessment of th e
Role of Carbon Dioxide and of Other Greenhouse Gases in Climate
Variations and Associated Impacts : Villach, Austria, October 9-15 ,
1985 . World Climate Research Program, WMO/UNEP/ICSU ,
Geneva : 1986 . WMO-No . 661 .
World Climate Program Impact Studies : Developing Policies fa r
Responding to Climatic Change ; a Summary of the
Recommendations of the Workshops Held in Villach (28 September 2 October 1987) and Bellagio (9-11 November, 1987) Beijer
Institute . Stockholm : April 1988 .
Two other WMO publications are published on its interact websit e
httpa/www .unep .orglipcc/ga/cover .htmlj . These discuss contemporary aspects o f
the scientific debate on global climate change, and include :
"Common Questions About Climate Change" . This report is undated . It
poses 10 of the most commonly asked questions about climate change, includin g
whether the Earth has warmed, which human activities might be contributing t o
climate change, what further climate changes are expected to occur, and what effect s
these changes may have on humans and the environment, and suggests possibl e
answers for those questions .
"Scientific Assessment of Stratospheric Ozone Depletion" . WMO Globa l
Ozone Research and Monitoring Project-Report Series . An Assessment of ou r
Understanding of the Processes Controlling its Present Distribution and Change .
This report is prepared every 3 years in cooperation with the UNEP, the U .S.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Federal Aviation Administratio n
(FAA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), th e
Commission of the European Communities and, beginning in 1989
intergovernmental Alternative Fluorocarbon Environmental Acceptability Stud y
(AFEAS) team . This report series offers insight into the potential role of som e
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in stratospheric ozone depletion and global warming, a s
well as the potential climate effects of their approved replacements . This repor t
acknowledged that, although regulated under the 1987 Montreal Protocol o n
Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer for their ozone depleting effects, some o f
these compounds have, in addition, a Total Environmental Warming Potentia l
(TEWP) while others may produce secondary effects on the climate by cooling th e
International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU )
International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) : A Study of Global
Change . Global change report series, report no . 4: A Plan for Action.
International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), Special Committee for the IGBP .
Stockholm, Sweden : August 1988 . This report, prepared for discussion at the Firs t
Meeting of the Scientific Advisory Council for the IGBP, Stockholm, Sweden ,
October 24-28, 1988, laid out a framework for "(1) Documenting and predictin g
global change ; (2) Observing and improving our understanding of dominant forcin g
functions ; (3) Improving our understanding of interactive phenomena in the tota l
Earth system ; and (4) Assessing the effects of global change that will cause large scale important modifications in the availability of renewable and non-renewabl e
resources ." Working groups also evaluated current and projected research capacit y
in four areas : (1) global geosphere-biosphere modeling ; (2) data and informatio n
systems ; (3) techniques for extracting environmental data of the past ; and (4)
geosphere-biosphere observatories .
The U .N. Commission on Environment and Development (UNCED )
Our Common Future . U.N. Commission on Environment and Developmen t
(UNCED) . Geneva, Switzerland : 1987 . The General Assembly of the United
Nations called upon UNCED to propose long-term environmental strategies fo r
achieving sustainable development by the year 2000 and beyond in ways that woul d
promote greater co-operation among developing countries and between countries a t
different stages of economic and social development . As part of this report, th e
Commission stated that "The burning of fossil fuels puts into the atmosphere carbo n
dioxide, which is causing gradual global warming . This greenhouse effect may b y
early next century have increased average global temperatures enough to shif t
agricultural production areas, raise sea levels to flood coastal cities, and disrup t
national economies ."
The U.N . Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC )
Established by the U .N . in November 1988, and made up of prominent scientist s
from WMO and UNEP governing bodies and representatives of national climate
change research programs, the IPCC was charged with performing the firs t
internationally sponsored assessment of global climate change . Its members were
requested by world governments to consider issues associated with the science,
impacts, and possible response strategies to prepare for the possible onset of a
greenhouse warming .
IPCC First Assessment Report : Overview .
World Meteorologica l
Organization and United Nations Environment Programme, Geneva : August 31 ,
1990 . This report focused on the science of, impacts of, and responses to potentia l
global climate change, and contained a policymakers' summary of the IPCC Specia l
Committee on the Participation of Developing Countries . The overview brought
together material from the four IPCC policymakers summaries . It presente d
conclusions, proposed lines of possible action (including suggestions of factor s
which might form the basis for negotiations) and outlined further work required fo r
a more complete understanding of the problem of climate change resulting fro m
human activities . This document summarized the three full reports of the workin g
groups on Science (WG-1), Impacts (WG-2), and Responses (WG-3) . Also, the
Overview Report was an opportunity for additional technical assessment by expert s
of those governments that could not participate in the three Working Groups o f
IPCC, but was not one which reflected individual government's positions .
IPCC Supplement : Radiative Forcing of Greenhouse Gases . IPCC, Geneva :
February 1992 . This report presented an overview and findings of a meeting hel d
in Guangzhou, China, to assess latest scientific data on global climate change ,
including new estimates of the indirect global warming potential of some greenhous e
gases, and to update or confirm findings originally put forth in the three IPC C
Working Group Reports completed in the summer of 1990 .
IPCC Second Assessment Synthesis of Scientific-Technical Informatio n
Relevant to Interpreting Article 2 of the U.N. Framework Convention o n
Climate Change and Summaries for Policymakers of Working Groups I, Ill, an d
III Reports of the IPCC . IPCC Secretariat : Geneva : December 1995 . This repor t
presents a review of the role of developing countries in greenhouse gas emission s
reduction and reporting requirements, and a summary of major findings of the thre e
working group reports : 1) science, 2) impacts, adaptation, and mitigation, and 3 )
economic and social dimensions of climate change . The chairman of the science
working group released a controversial claim in a policymakers summary stating tha t
"The balance of scientific evidence suggests a discernible human influence o n
climate . "
IPCC Technical Papers (1-4) . IPCC . Geneva : 1997 . Four technical paper s
were produced by IPCC working groups at the request of the Ad Hoc Group on th e
Berlin Mandate . Papers delved more in depth into a number of technical issue s
surrounding potential climate change agreements, including elements of a possibl e
international regulatory framework (i .e ., in support of a possible future protocol), an d
issues not resolved by the IPCCs 1995 assessment . The 4 papers include :
® Technologies, Policies and Measures for Mitigating Climat e
Change, November :1996;
® An Introduction to Simple Climate Models Used in the IPCC Secon d
Assessment Report, February 1997 ;
® Stabilization of Atmospheric Greenhouse Gases : Physical,
Biological, and Socioeconomic Implications, February 1997;
▪ Implications ofProposedCO 2 Emissions Limitations, October 1997 .
IPCC Special Report, The Regional Impacts of Climate Change : An
Assessment of Vulnerability . IPCC, Geneva : November 1997 . To expand upon the
work of the IPCC s Second Working Group, the report consisted of vulnerabilit y
assessments for 10 regions that comprise the Eart h 's entire land surface and adjoinin g
coastal seas . It also included annexes that provide information about climat e
observations, climate projections, vegetation distribution projections an d
socioeconomic trends .
Major Reports by U .S. Science Institutions
and Federal Agencies
Official U .S . scientific organizations such as the National Research Council an d
federal government agencies have been involved in scientific research on globa l
climate change for many years now . Some of the latter have also been mandated b y
Congress under U .S . law to produce reports that present a snapshot of U .S. policy o n
climate change. The U .S . Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) began i n
1989 . Today, representatives from nine federal agencies contribute focused scientifi c
research to USGCRP and, along with a few additional agencies, contribute, indirectl y
to global climate change research efforts through various intramural scientifi c
research programs . The following science institutions and agencies are listed i n
chronological order of their involvement with the U .S. global climate chang e
research and policy debate .
U.S. National Research Council (NRC )
The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences ,
a federally chartered institution of scientists, has played an important role i n
organizing U .S . efforts in international studies on the state of the knowledge abou t
global climate change . The NRC Global Change Committee, for example, serves a s
the U .S . representative for the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program - a
global change study - sponsored by ICSU . NRC has also advised federal agencie s
on the broad range of multidisciplinary earth systems studies being undertaken t o
garner knowledge about global climate change, and has served as a major forum fo r
communications between scientists and policymakers on these issues .
Early NRC reports (pre-1983) focused on scientific research related to the issue ,
and summarized findings on the state-of-knowledge about global climate change an d
the role of CO 2 . These were of a technical nature and reviewed scientific findings ,
not policy questions . The significance of these reports was that they represented th e
opinion of an internationally respected scientific institution, and reported th e
consensus of many of the world's leading scientific experts on climate change that
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had the potential to pose a significant threat to th e
environment by causing a warming of the Earth's average global temperature . A fe w
examples of these are :
Studies in Geophysics : Energy and Climate . National Academ y
Press, Washington, DC : 1977. Geophysics Study Committee ,
Geophysics Research Board .
® Carbon Dioxide and Climate : a Scientific Assessment. National
Academy Press, Washington, DC : 1979 . Report of an Ad Hoc Stud y
Group on Carbon Dioxide and Climate, Woods Hole, MA, July 23- 27, 1979 .
Carbon Dioxide and Climate : A Second Assessment : Report of th e
CO2 Climate Review Panel. National Academy Press, Washington ,
DC : 1982. Climate Research Committee, Board on Atmospheri c
Sciences and the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee of th e
Climate Change Board .
Subsequent NRC reports began to include scientific findings of interest to publi c
policymakers, and also addressed science policy concerns such as prioritizing a
research framework, coordinating federal agency activities, allocating researc h
funding for global change research programs, and reviewing strengths an d
shortcomings in the federal science infrastructure that operates such programs .
Changing Climate : Report of the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee.
National Academy Press, Washington, DC : 1983 . The Commission on Physical
Sciences, Mathematics and Resources, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climat e
prepared this report in response to the Energy Security Act of 1980 (P .L. 96-294, 4 1
USC § 891.1.) to assess the potential impacts of the buildup of CO, in the atmospher e
from the full-scale production of synthetic fuels . Authors of the report state,"Ou r
stance is conservative : we believe there is reason for caution, not panic . Since
understanding and proof of what is happening to climate as a result of practices tha t
load the atmosphere with C O2 may come too late to allow for corrective action, w e
may not be able to wait to make certain there is a best course ." This is, perhaps, on e
of the first "policy" documents on the issue of global climate change contributed t o
by scientists, and one that was required by Congress, under P .L. 96-294, Title VIi ,
subtitle B--Carbon Dioxide Study .
Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming : Mitigation, Adaptation ,
Science, and Synthesis Documents . National Academy Press, Washington, DC :
1.991 . The Synthesis Panel . The House Committee on Appropriations called for a n
NAS study on the potential societal impacts of global climate change (H . Rcpt. 100 701. 26). This was funded by an EPA grant approved under the HUD-Independen t
Agencies Appropriations Act of 1989 (P .L. 100-404, 42 USC §13381) . Th e
Committee on Science Engineering and Public Policy of National Academy o f
Sciences undertook this study, popularly known as known as the "COSEPUP study, "
Three reports were prepared and released in the following order : Adaptation (Augus t
1991); Mitigation (June 1991) ; and Science (September 1991) . However, th e
Synthesis Panel Report, which summarized the findings of all three COSEPUP
reports was published first in April 1991, and proposed least cost strategies fo r
reducing U .S . greenhouse gas emissions 10% - 40% of 1990 levels by the year 2000 .
The panel concluded that some greenhouse gas emission reductions could be realize d
at a net savings if appropriate policies were implemented .
A Decade of International Climate Research : The First Ten Years of th e
World Climate Research Program . National Academy Press, Washington, DC:
1992 . Climate Research Committee, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate .
One component of the WMO, the World Climate Research Program (WCRP), i s
reviewed by NAS at the request of the U .S . National Climate Program Office o n
behalf of federal agencies which support climate change research, observatio n
systems, and services . The report findings state, "The WCRP, a framework fo r
cooperation that has been active for a decade, has made measurable progress i n
leading all nations to a better understanding of climate ." The Committee assesse d
the principle achievements and shortcomings of WCRP, and included conclusion s
about and recommendations for future direction .
Overview : Global Environmental Change : Research Pathways for the Nex t
Decade. National Academy Press, Washington, DC : 1998 . Committee on Global
Change Research, Board on Sustainable Development, Policy Division . Participant s
noted that deliberations over the Kyoto Protocol set "environmental goals, whic h
would affect the science priorities as well as economic paths in the coming century ,
and that scientists needed to create an intellectual framework to hone the question s
that need immediate attention, to separate the vital from the interesting, and t o
preserve basic research for discovery of the unexpected ." The Committee provide d
guidance on such a framework and clarified pathways for planning future U .S.
research on global climate change . The report summarized background, findings, an d
recommendations of the Committee and reviewed research over the past decade ,
especially that of the U .S . Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) . This initial
charge to assess performance of the USGCRP would serve as a basis for a futur e
report that would : 1) articulate the central scientific issues posed by globa l
environmental change ; 2) state the key scientific questions which must be addresse d
by USGCRP ; and 3) identify the scientific programs, observational efforts, modelin g
strategies, and synthesis activities needed to attack these scientific questions . Th e
Committee called for a revitalization of USGCRP and stressed the importance o f
U .S . leadership in supporting global change research .
Decade-to-Century-Scale Climate Variability and Change : A Scienc e
Strategy. National Academy Press, Washington, DC : 1998 . Commission o n
Geosciences, Environment, and Resources . Board on Atmospheric Sciences an d
Climate and Climate Change Committees . "Dcc-Cen" Panel on Climate Variabilit y
on Decade-to Century Time Scales . Panel members reported, "In 1990, th e
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its monumental firs t
scientific assessment on climate change .. . . One significant gap involved our meage r
understanding and documentation of natural variability in Earths climate syste m
which provides a context for evaluating the significance of human-induced changes . "
This report formulated a research strategy and presented those scientific issues an d
infrastructure considerations required to most effectively advance understanding o f
climate variability and change on decade-to-century time scales . It also emphasized
steps necessary to more confidently predict future climate conditions and detect
climate change as part of a holistic research perspective, which the panel believed i s
required to address this issue.
The Atmospheric Sciences : Entering the 21 st Century. National Academ y
Press, Washington, DC : 1998 . Commission on Geosciences, Environment, an d
Resources . Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate . This report set fort h
recommendations intended to strengthen atmospheric sciences and provide climat e
prediction services intended to benefit for the nation . Board members concluded, "I t
[the report] is thus intended for those who share the responsibility for maintaining th e
pace of improvement in the atmospheric sciences, including leaders and polic y
makers in the public sector, such as legislators and executives of the relevant federa l
agencies ; decision makers in the private sector of the atmospheric sciences ;
executives of other economic endeavors whose activities are dependent o n
atmospheric information, and of course university departments that includ e
atmospheric science ."
Adequacy of Climate Observing Systems . National Academy Press ,
Washington, DC : 1999 . Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources .
Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate . Climate Change Research Committee .
Panel on Climate Observing Systems Status . This report discussed ho w
instrumentation, observing practices, processing algorithms, and data archiv e
methods used by scientists may profoundly affect the understanding of climat e
change . The Board assessed whether scientists are making the measurements ,
collecting the data, and making it available in a way that would enable contemporar y
and future scientists to effectively increase understanding of natural and human induced climate change . The report concluded that this was not the case, an d
illuminated the importance of multi-decadal climate monitoring and recommende d
strategies to achieve those goals .
Reconciling Observations of Global Temperature Change . Nationa l
Academy Press, Washington, DC : January 2000 . National Research Council, Board
on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Panel . This report discusses whether th e
observed surface warming of the Earth (over the past 20 years) is real or a produc t
of unreliable and inconsistent data . Also, the report attempts to resolve disparitie s
between temperature trends measured at the surface and upper air temperature trend s
from satellite data which skeptics have claimed may invalidate the results of genera l
circulation models (GCMs) that have forecasted future climate change . Critics of
GCMs point out that results of model runs demonstrate a homogenous warmin g
throughout all the layers of the Earth's atmosphere . Panel scientists believe that there
may be a systematic disconnect between the upper and near surface atmosphere an d
have cited physical processes, which may have an unique impact on the uppe r
atmosphere that are not currently accounted for in GCMs . The Panel reported tha t
because of scientific uncertainties the difference in temperature trends cannot b e
explained . This, they concluded, was because of the paucity of surface an d
radiosonde data for some geographic locations, and the Iack of consistent, long-ter m
monitoring of the upper atmosphere .
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE )
Carbon Dioxide Research : State-of-the-Art Report Series . Office of Energy
Research and Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Carbon Dioxide Research Division ,
Washington, DC . DOE reported that the enormity and diversity of the problem o f
coordination of multi-disciplinary research on carbon dioxide made it difficult to :
define the problem ; develop strategies for solving the problem ; and establis h
communication and cooperation among the researchers working on different facet s
of the problem . DOE also recognized that the compilation, integration ,
interpretation, and dissemination of information were especially important . To
improve communication between scientists and public decision makers, DO E
prepared four State of the Art reports :
s Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and the Global Carbon Cycle ,
February 1986 ;
® Direct Effects of Increasing Carbon Dioxide on Vegetation, Marc h
• Detecting the Climatic Effects of Increasing Carbon Dioxide ,
February 1986 ;
e Projecting the Climatic Effects of Increasing Carbon Dioxide, Apri l
Two additional reports, completed earlier, were later added to the series :
® Characterization of Information Requirements for Studies of CO 2
Effects : Water Resources, Agriculture, Fisheries, Forests, an d
Human Health, October 1985
Level : Effects of a C02-Induce d
Climatic Change, 1984 .
A Compendium of Options for Government Policy to Encourage Privat e
Sector Responses to Potential Climate Change . U .S. Dept . of Energy ,
Washington, DC, October 1989 . This is a compendium of generic policy instrument s
and specific policy options available to the U .S . government if it chooses to require
significant private sector efforts to prevent, mitigate, or adapt to climate change .
Authors of the report pointed out, "The selection of any particular package . .. is a
largely political choice of preferred means to achieve the overall policy goal . "
Interim Report of the National Energy Strategy : A Compilation of Public
Comments . U .S. Dept. of Energy, Washington, DC : April, 1990 . The executiv e
summary of the document stated that "Consistent with the Presidents directive t o
build national consensus, we have begun the task of developing a National Energ y
Strategy by opening a dialogue with the American people. We [DOE] have hel d
fifteen public hearings in many areas of the country, several co-chaired by Cabine t
Secretaries from other Federal agencies . More than 375 witnesses representing 4 3
States have contributed to several thousand pages of testimony . Further, our efforts
to seek input from State and local governments, consumer organizations, business ,
industry, and recognized representatives of diverse points of view have resulted i n
more than 1,000 written submissions. The purpose of the Interim document is t o
convey the results of this public dialogue [on a National energy strategy] .. . The
comments received are organized on the basis of presented public concerns, publicl y
identified goals, publicly identified obstacles to achieving those goals, and publicl y
suggested options for action to remove or overcome the obstacles . "
Scenarios of U.S. Carbon Reductions : Potential Impacts of Energ y
Technologies by 2010 and Beyond, "The Five-Lab Study" . U .S . Dept . of Energy .
Washington, DC, September 1997 . The report analyzed some options for using cost effective, high efficiency energy technologies and other low carbon technologies t o
curb greenhouse gas emissions . It also estimated the potential cost per ton for carbo n
reduction required to stabilize U .S . emissions at 1990 levels by 2010, throug h
implementation of such technologies . The 5-lab study also concluded that al l
emission-reduction scenarios that were modeled could be achieved at low or no ne t
Impacts of the Kyoto Protocol on U .S. Energy Markets and Economi c
Activity . U.S. Dept . of Energy, Energy Information Administration (EIA) ,
Washington, DC, October, 1998 . The analysis in this report was undertaken at th e
request of the U .S. House of Representatives Committee on Science on March 3 ,
1998, 9 to analyze potential economic impacts of the Kyoto Protocol, by focusing o n
different scenarios for U.S . energy use and prices and the economy in the years 200 8
to 2012 . This report was prepared as a critique of the DOE "5-Lab Study," describe d
above, and basically disagreed with the former's economic conclusions . Authors
noted, "the report was prepared with sensitivities evaluating key uncertainties [suc h
as] : U.S . economic growth, the cost and performance of energy-using technologies ,
and the possible construction of new nuclear power plants."'
Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States . DOE, Energ y
Information Administration, Office of Integrated Analysis and Forecasting .
DOE/EIA-0573(98), Washington, DC : October, 1999 . Annual report series begu n
in 1996, reflecting 1995 U .S. emissions . These documents report U .S . aggregat e
greenhouse gas emissions based upon reporting consequent to 0605 of the Energy
Policy Act of 1992 (PL . 102-486, 42 USC 03385) . They also project future
emissions based upon projected energy demand . Latest estimates of emissions fo r
carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other greenhouse gases are included .
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA )
Earth Systems Science : A Program for Global Change .
Aeronautics and Space Administration, Earth System Sciences Committee, NAS A
Advisory Council, Washington, DC : January 1988 . This extensive study proposed
near-term (1987-1 .995) and long-term (199
beyond) recommendations for : 1 )
sustained, long-term measurements of global variables ; 2) a fundamental descriptio n
of the Earth and its history ; 3) research foci and process studies ; 4) development o f
Earth system models ; 5) an automated information system/clearinghouse for Eart h
See Appendix D of the cited report : "Letters from the House Committee on Science ."
'" The legislation establishing EtA in 1977 vested the organization with an element o f
statutory independence . EIA does not take positions on policy questions, and does no t
purport to represent the official position of the Department of Energy or the Administration .
system science ; 6) coordination of federal agencies activities ; and 7) enhance d
international cooperation .
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA )
Reports to the
Nation on Our Changing Planet : Our Changing Climate
Dept . of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder ,
CO : Fall 1997 . This report, prepared under a grant to University Corporation fo r
Atmospheric Research, succinctly reviewed the state of the knowledge of climate
change as of its publication and explored the role or natural and possibly human induced changes . Authors stated that, "We have entered an era when actions b y
humanity may have as much influence on Earth 's climate as the natural processes tha t
have driven climate change in the past . Our future climate will be partly of our ow n
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Global Change . (NSF) Mosaic 19, 3/4, Fall/Winter 1998: entire issue . Thi s
special double issue outlined a potential framework for international climate chang e
research and introduced the major players in science policy in the global chang e
community . It discussed a potential role for the U .S . in the International Geosphere
Biosphere Program (IGBP) . The editor of this issue states, "The planners of th e
worldwide effort to untangle the processes that lead to global change have seized th e
moment by producing an outline : now it's up to the scientific communities of man y
nations and many disciplines to fill in the blanks . "
White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP )
Our Changing Planet : the U.S. Global Change Research Program . U.S .
Office of Science and Technology Policy, Committee on Environment and Natura l
Resources, Washington, DC : 1989 . Originally issued as A U.S. Strategy for Globa l
Change Research, a report by the Committee on Earth Sciences, to accompany th e
Presiden t's FY1990 Budget, with expectations that this document would be release d
annually thereafter (pursuant to P .L. 101-606, 15 USC §2921 et seq .). This repor t
was followed by a formal FY1990 "research plan" which looked forward 10 years .
Only one more formal research plan was released for FY1991 . Five-year assessment s
were called for thereafter . The FYI 990 report stated that, "The purpose of thi s
document is to provide an initial research strategy to guide planning and conduct o f
the U .S. Global Climate Change Research Program (USGCRP) ."
These comprehensive research plans presented details of the USGCRP ,
evaluated how well the current activities addressed the key scientific questions an d
program goals, identified the gaps in knowledge, prioritized among research needs ,
and defined individual federal agency roles . They were developed in clos e
collaboration with other national and international planning groups and activities ,
including the National Academy of Sciences and the International Geosphere Biosphere Program, and took into account programs outlined in the 5-year plan of th e
National Climate Program . After FY1991, the research plan was integrated into th e
"Our Changing Planet (OCP)" budget document, which has been published annually
through FY2001 . For FY2000, the OCP contained a section entitled "Perspective s
for the USGCRP for the decade ahead, preparing the agenda for the 21 St century."
U.S.. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA )
The Potential Effects of Climate Change on the United States . U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation ,
Washington, DC : December, 1989 . The Continuing Resolution Authority fo r
FY1987 (P .L .99-591, 15 USC §2901, note) mandated that EPA conduct a study o n
the greenhouse effect and to prepare two reports which focus on the health an d
environmental effects of climate change . This first report focused on the potentia l
health and environmental effects of climate change including, but not limited to, th e
potential impacts on agriculture, forests, wetlands, human health, rivers, lakes ,
estuaries as well as societal impacts, and it was structured to address regional impact s
of climate change on the Southeast, the Great Plains, California, and the Great Lakes .
Policy Options for Stabilizing Global Climate Change . U .S. Environmenta l
Protection Agency, Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation, Washington, DC :
December, 1990 . Second of two reports on the greenhouse effect mandated b y
Congress in PL. 99-591 . The report presented, "A comprehensive and global
approach," covering all sectors and all greenhouse gases, in the analysis of polic y
options for reducing greenhouse gases . The report reflected a wide range of polic y
options, from energy efficiency to new methods of rice cultivation, and presente d
possible future scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions up to the year 2100, with
different levels of policy response, and other independent factors, such as domesti c
economic performance .
U.S . Efforts to Address Global Climate Change : Report to Congress an d
Appendices . U.S . Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Policy, Planning an d
Evaluation and U .S . Department of State, Washington, DC : February, 1991 .
Mandated by Congress in the Global Climate Protection Act of theForeignRelations
Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (P .L. 100-204, §1103 ,Title XI ;
Global Climate Protection - Global Climate Protection Act of 1987) . Section 110 3
expressed certain congressional findings regarding global climate protection ,
including the following : (1) there is evidence that manmade pollution may b e
producing a long-term and substantial increase in the average temperature on th e
surface of the Earth, a phenomenon known as the "greenhouse" effect ; and (2)
vigorous research is required in order to prevent such pollution from altering th e
global climate, and affecting agriculture and habitability over large portions of th e
Earth's surface within the next century . Also, in Title XI of this Act, the President ,
through EPA, was directed to develop and propose a coordinated national policy o n
global climate change ; and to direct the Secretary of State (hereafter Secretary) t o
coordinate such U .S. policy in the international arena . The Secretary and the
Administrator of the EPA (hereafter Administrator) were directed within 24 month s
after enactment of this Act to jointly report to the appropriate congressiona l
committees an analysis, description, and strategy of the United States with respect t o
the greenhouse effect and its potential role in global climate change . Congress ha d
also urged the Secretary of State to promote an International Year of Global Climat e
Protection (IYGCP), and encouraged the President to accord the problem of climat e
protection a high priority on the agenda of U .S .-Soviet relations . The President did
not endorse U .S . involvement in an IYGCP . The resulting report identified U .S .
efforts to address potential climate change, and recommended that U .S. policy shoul d
seek to : (1) increase worldwide understanding of the greenhouse effect and it s
consequences; (2) foster cooperation among nations to coordinate research effort s
with respect to such effect ; and (3) identify technologies and activities that limi t
mankind's adverse effect on the global climate .
Inventory of U .S . Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks : 1990-1996. U .S.
Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation ,
Washington, DC : March, 1998. EPA 236-R-98-006 . This annually published repor t
summarizes the latest information on U .S . greenhouse gas emissions trends fro m
1990, for emissions sources related to energy consumption, land-use change an d
forestry (CO 2 ), hydrofluorocarbons, (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfu r
hexafluoride (SF ()) and selected methane (CH 4) sources .
U.S. Department of State (DOS )
Climate Action Report : 1997 Submission of the United States of Americ a
Under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change . U .S . Dept . of State,
Washington, DC : 1996. DOS Pub . 10496. The report stated, "This document ha s
been developed using the methodologies and format agreed to at the First Conferenc e
of Parties to the FCCC, and modified by the second meeting of the Conference o f
Parties and by sessions of the Convention's Subsidiary Body on Scientific an d
Technological Advice and the Subsidiary Body on implementation ." Also, in th e
report the United States stated that it assumes that this communication, like those o f
other countries - and like the preceding U .S . communication (December 1992) would be subject to a thorough review and discussed in the evaluation process for th e
Parties of Convention . The authors noted that, "Even though the measures listed i n
this report are not expected to reduce U .S . emissions below 1990 levels by the yea r
2000, the United States believes that many of the climate change actions included i n
this report upon being implemented have been successful at reducing emissions, sen d
valuable signals to the private sector, and may be appropriate models for othe r
U.S. Executive Office of the President (EOP)
America's Climate Change Strategy : An Action Agenda . By Presiden t
George Bush, Washington, DC : February, 1991 . This report highlighte d
comprehensive actions to be taken to mitigate or adapt to potential climate change ,
and featured possible actions that "make sense," as well as reviewed actions alread y
being undertaken by the Bush Administration to address global climate change, suc h
as energy efficiency improvements, reforestation pursuant to the "America th e
Beautiful Program," under the 1990 Farm Bill (P .L. 101-624, Title XXIII, 16 US C
§2101), and through proposed reductions of CFCs, under Title VI of the Clean Ai r
Act Amendments of 1990 (P .L. 101-549, 42 USC §7671a et seq .).
Climate Change Action Plan . By President William J . Clinton and Vice
President Albert T . Gore, Jr ., Washington, DC : October, 1993 . On October 19 ,
1993, President Clinton released his Administration's Climate Change Action Plan
(CCAP), which featured domestic measures that might be taken to attain the goal of
greenhouse gas emissions stabilization as outlined under the terms of the U .N.
Framework Convention on Climate Change, which were comparable to th e
President's own emissions goals . The CCAP has relied on a comprehensive suite o f
voluntary actions by industry, utilities, and other large-scale energy users . It als o
promoted energy-efficiency upgrades through devising new building codes i n
residential and commercial sectors, as well as other energy efficiency improvement s
in generic energy-generating capacity and energy consumption . Large-scale tre e
planting and forest reserves were also encouraged to enhance sinks for atmospheri c
carbon dioxide and conserve energy . Other provisions of the plan called fo r
increased utilization of hydroelectric power sources, including upgrading existin g
facilities ; encouraged use of public transportation ; regulated methane release in lan d
fills and capture of waste methane to be utilized as a fuel source . In addition th e
president called for controls on nitrous oxide, and on hydrochlorofluorocarbo n
(HCFC) byproducts believed to be contributing to global warming .
The Kyoto Protocol and the President's Policies to Address Climat e
Change: Administration Economic Analysis . White House Council of Economi c
Advisors (CEA) and others . Washington, DC : July, 1998 . The purpose of the repor t
was to examine costs and benefits of taking action to mitigate the threat of globa l
warming, and in particular, the costs of complying with the emissions reductio n
target for the United States set forth in the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change ,
negotiated in December 1997 . The report concluded that, "With the flexibilit y
mechanisms included in the treaty, and by pursuing strong domestic policies, th e
United States can reach its Kyoto target at relatively modest cost . Moreover, th e
benefits of mitigating climate change are likely to be substantial . "
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
A Comprehensive Approach to Addressing Potential Climate Change . U.S .
Dept . of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division, Task Force on th e
Comprehensive Approach to Climate Change, Washington, DC : February, 1991 .
The work of this group was the model for President Bus h's Action Agenda, describe d
above . The Task Force was created as a federal interagency effort wit h
representatives from the Presidents Council of Economic Advisors, Council o n
Science and Technology, Council on Environmental Quality, White House Office o f
Policy Development and Office of Science and Technology Policy, U .S. Trade
Representative and White House Legal Counsel . Federal agencies participatin g
included : the U .S . Departments of Agriculture, Commerce (National Oceanic an d
Atmospheric Administration), Energy, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation, an d
Treasury . Other independent agencies included were the U .S . Environmenta l
Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Nationa l
Science Foundation .. The report stated that "The best design for a climate chang e
convention, and for any policy responses that might ensue, would he a
`comprehensive' approach that addresses all relevant trace gases, their sources an d
sinks . .. in order to deal with the many scientific, environmental and economi c
aspects of the climate system, which involves multiple trace gases resulting fro m
activities in every sector of human society ."
U.S . Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (OTA)
Changing by Degrees : Steps to Reduce Greenhouse Gases . U.S. Congress,
Office of Technology Assessment, Washington, DC : February, 1991 . Report No .
OTA-O-482 . This assessment focuses principally on ways to cut carbon dioxid e
emissions in the United States and in other countries, although it does conside r
controls on other greenhouse gases . It states, "Major reductions of carbon dioxid e
and other greenhouse gases will require significant new initiatives by the federal
government, the private sector, and individual citizens ." The report considere d
programmatic requirements to reduce U .S . emissions by 15% by the year 2010 .
Authors concluded that, "Many of these initiatives will pay for themselves ; fo r
others, the economic cost may be considerable, . . . [and that] many of these efforts
need to be sustained over decades . "
Preparing for an Uncertain Climate . U.S . Congress, Office of Technolog y
Assessment, Washington, DC : October, 1993 . Report no . OTA-O-567 . OTA's
second report on climate change . This report was requested by three congressiona l
committees : the Senate Committees on Environment and Public Works and o n
Commerce, Science and Transportation ; and the House Committee on Science ,
Space, and Technology . The report, published in two volumes, identified more tha n
100 options that could help ease the transition to an uncertain climate, known a s
near-term "targets of opportunity ." This assessment addressed how natural an d
human systems may be affected by climate change ; evaluated the tools at hand to
ease adaptation to a warmer climate, considering coastal areas, water resources ,
agriculture, wetlands, preserved lands, and forests .
Global Climate Change Science Outloo k
The U .S . Senate has constitutional responsibility to provide advice and consen t
to ratification of international treaties which the United States has signed . Also ,
Congress has appropriations and oversight responsibilities for funding global change
research activities and environmental research and development . Additionally, som e
individual lawmakers have called for enhanced research and development fundin g
to devise fossil fuel emissions control technologies, lesser polluting technologies ,
energy conservation, and expanded use of nuclear power in the United States a s
possible voluntary solutions to reducing greenhouse gases . These are highl y
technical and complex issues that require expert scientific advice .
A number of hearings in the 10 6"' Congress have addressed federal funding fo r
climate change research, scientific debate about theoretical versus observed climat e
change, and the assumptions and findings of a variety of economic analyses tha t
estimate the potential costs of U .S . implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, and th e
potential physical impacts of climate change . International efforts at negotiatin g
climate change protection measures, in which the United States is a party, ar e
continuing under the U .N . Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), an d
negotiations related to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol .
In the spring of 1999, the U .S . Global Change Research Program (USGCRP)
submitted performance measures for the first time under the 1993 Governmen t
Performance and Results Act (GPRA), for funds that were authorized in FY1998 .
Congress reviewed this information, to justify and prioritize research funding fo r
global climate change research in the FY2000 budget . Congress also directed the
White House to report on expenditures for domestic and international climate chang e
programs for FYI 998 and FY1999 . These were transmitted to several congressiona l
committees, pursuant to language in Title V of PL .] 05-277, The Foreign Operations ,
Export Finance, and Related Programs Appropriation Bill, FY1999 . "
Late in the year 2000, the IPCC is expected to release a third scientifi c
assessment on global climate change . New scientific findings and conclusions of th e
IPCC are likely to be revealed during expert review that might have bearing on U .S .
policy and future negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, to the extent that these occur .
In addition, the USGCRP has prepared a National Assessment of the potentia l
regional consequences of climate change for the United States, for which a n
overview, or synthesis report, is expected to be released in April 2000 . Scientifi c
knowledge about, and new research findings on, climate change will continue to pla y
a role in the policy debate on key issues related to climate change concerns .
CRS Products on Global Climate Chang e
Current information on global climate change legislation and related activitie s
can be found in the CRS electronic briefing book, Global Climate Change ; which ca n
be found at [http :/1www.Congress .gov/brbk/html/ebeccl .html] .
CRS Issue Brief s
CRS Issue Brief 97057 . Global Climate Change: Market-Based Strategies t o
Reduce Greenhouse Gases, by Larry B . Parker.
CRS Issue Brief IB10020 . Energy Efficiency : Budget, Climate Change, an d
Electricity Restructuring Issues, by Fred Sissine .
CRS Issue Brief 1B10041 . Renewable Energy : Tax Credit, Budget, and Electricity
Restructuring Issues, by Fred Sissine .
CRS Report 96-699 . Global Climate Change : Adequacy of Commitments under th e
U.N. Framework Convention and the Berlin Mandate, by Wayne Morrissey .
" See CRS Report 98-664, Global Climate Change : Congressional Concern About "Back
Door" Implementation of the 1997 U .N. Kyoto Protocol.
CRS Report 98-2 . Global Climate Change Treaty: Summary of the Kyoto Protocol ,
by Susan R . Fletcher .
CRS Report 97-1015 . Global Climate Change : The Role of US . Foreign Assistance ,
by Curt Tarnoff.
CRS Report 97-1017 . Industrial Energy Intensiveness and Energy Costs in th e
Context of Climate Change Policy, by Bernard Gelb .
CRS Report 98493 . Global Climate Change : The Energy Tax Incentives in th e
President's FY2000 Budget, by Salvatore Lazzari .
CRS Report 98-235 . Global Climate Change : Reducing Greenhouse Gases -How
Much from What Baseline?, by Larry Parker and John Blodgett .
CRS Report 98-349 . Global Climate Change : Selected Legal Questions About th e
Kyoto Protocol, by David Ackerman .
CRS Report 98-664 . Global Climate Change : Congressional ConcernAbout "Back
Door" Implementation of the 1997 U.N. Kyoto Protocol, by Wayne Morrissey .
CRS Report 98-738 . Climate change : Three policy perspectives, by Larry Parker an d
John Blodgett .
CRS Report RL30036 . Global Climate Change : Carbon Emissions and End-use
Energy Demand, by Richard Rowberg .
CRS Report RL30155 . Global Climate Change Policy : Domestic Early Action
Credits, by Larry Parker and John Blodgett .
CRS Report RL30209 . Global Climate Change Policy : From "No Regrets" to S .
Res. 98, by Larry Parker and John Blodgett .
CRS Report RL30285 . Global Climate Change : Lowering Cost Estimates through
Emissions Trading -- Some Dynamics and Pitfalls, by Larry Parker .
CRS Report RL30414 . Global Climate Change and the Role ofEnergy Efficiency ,
by Fred Sissine .
CRS Report RL30452 . Climate Change Technology Initiative (CCTI) : Research ,
Technology, and Related Programs, by Michael Simpson .
Appendix 1 : A Chronology of U .S . Governmen t
Involvement in Global Climate Change Policy throug h
For decades, scientists in federal agencies, such as the National Aeronautics an d
Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administratio n
(NOAA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and others, have participated i n
scientific workshops and international conferences on the nature of Earths climat e
system, and the role of C O2 and other greenhouse gases that are believed by many t o
modify the global climate . Extensive involvement of the United States governmen t
in formulating U .S . policy and assuming a diplomatic role in international effort s
which relate to that issue, however, probably began around 1978, with efforts t o
coordinate federal government activities . The following chronology lists what ar e
considered by many to be major events which shaped U .S . policy over the past 2 2
1978 - The National CIimate Program Act, PL . 95367, 15 USC §2901 et- seq . ,
established the National Climate Program Office (NCPO) in the National Oceani c
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the Department of Commerce for th e
purposes of planning and coordinating U .S . involvement in international researc h
efforts on climate change throughout the federal government .
February 1979 - The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), U .N.
Environment Programme (UNEP), and International Council of Scientific Union s
(ICSU) sponsored the First World Climate Conference (FWCC) in Geneva,
Switzerland . Billed as "a conference of experts on climate and mankind," an d
focusing on the scientific basis of climatic change, the FWCC addressed issues o f
northern hemisphere cooling ; severe winters that were occurring in the mid-latitude s
of the United States and Central Europe ; widespread drought and desertification i n
Sub-Sahara Africa, and public concern about famine and death resulting from th e
observed effects of climate change on some world agricultural systems . The U .S .
government sent representatives to the FWCC ; however, those were mostly exper t
scientists employed at U .S. scientific mission agencies . Government scientist s
attending such conferences participated in their capacity as scientists, not a s
representatives of their respective governments .
Out of the FWCC evolved the WMO World Climate Program (WCP )
jointly sponsored by WMO/UNEP/ICSU, and the four components of WCP : (1) th e
World Climate Data Program ; (2) the World Climate Applications Program ; (3) th e
World Climate Impact Studies Program ; and (4) the World -Climate Researc h
Program . Each was dedicated to . examining particular aspects of the state o f
scientific knowledge about climate change while deducing the technologica l
capability of various nations to address global climate change . In a series of
conferences and workshops sponsored by the WMO, UNEP, and ICSU, the seeds o f
interest were sown among governments for officially participating in such activities .
1980 - The first WCP joint WMO/UNEP/ICSU meeting of experts on th e
Assessment of the Role of CO, on Climate Variations and Their Impact was held
in Villach, Austria in November . This meeting investigated how increasing
greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere could affect various regions of th e
Earth in the 21 s` Century . Participants also discussed the technical, financial, an d
institutional options for limiting or adapting to climatic changes .
1982 - The three representative organizations of the WCP (WMO, UNEP, an d
ICSU) met in October, in Geneva, Switzerland and recommended that continuin g
assessments of C0 2, believed to be responsible for global warming, be held ever y
5 years, starting from the first meeting in 1980 . Following that meeting, an Interi m
Assessment was prepared .
1985 - A second WCP scientific conference was held in Villach, Austria, i n
October to follow up and update an assessment, originally prepared in 1980, of th e
role of increased CO2 and other radiatively active greenhouse gases in climat e
variation and their associated impacts . Participants at this meeting concluded in a
conference statement that, "As a result of the increasing concentrations of greenhous e
gases, it is now believed that in the first half of the next century a rise of global mea n
temperature could occur which is greater than any in man 's history." It was at this
session that full-scale national government interaction with scientists took roo t
because the WCP recommended policy actions to stem potential impacts of climat e
change from increasing concentrations of CO 2 and other greenhouse gases .
September 1987 - The United States completed international negotiations unde r
the auspices of the WMO/UNEP toward an international treaty and regulator y
annexes to protect the stratosphere from ozone depletion suspected to result fro m
man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) . These negotiations, and the guidelines fo r
their conduct were set forth as early as 1985, in accordance with the Vienn a
Convention on the Prevention on Stratospheric Ozone Loss which the United State s
had previously ratified . By 1987, the Parties to the Vienna Convention ha d
concluded negotiations on an international regulatory instrument and had opened fo r
signature the 198
Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer .
Some public policy experts have credited the generally positive experiences o f
scientists and policymakers working together on ozone protection negotiations a s
facilitating the organization and the conduct of both the activities of the IPC C
working groups, and the subsequent U .N. negotiations undertaken for the Framework
Convention on Climate Change .
October 1987 ---Two WCP workshops took place in Villach, Austria, and Bellagio ,
Italy, which led to the discussion of developing international policies for respondin g
to climatic change . The justification was built upon the results of both the 1980 an d
1985 WCP scientific assessments on CO2 The WCP Advisory Group on Greenhous e
Gases (AGGG) saw this meeting as an important step in policy development i n
response to possible climate change at the international level and, as such, a
realization of a goal that was called for originally by the Villach conference in 1985 .
About 6 months after the Bellagio meeting, the governing bodies of WMO an d
UNEP requested the U .N. to establish an Intergovernmental Panel on Climat e
Change (IPCC) to address the issue of climate change, its environmental, economi c
and social impacts, and possible national and international responses to such changes ,
and invited nations to have full ministerial representation in future proceedings .
December 1987 - The White House Committee on Earth Sciences (CES) wa s
established under the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP )
Federal Coordinating Committee on Science, Technology and Engineerin g
(FCCSET) . The committee came to be called the Committee on Earth an d
Environmental Sciences (CEES), and was charged with the development of a 10-yea r
U.S . Global Change Research Program, established by the National Global Chang e
Research Act of 1990 (PL . 101-_606, 15 USC §2921 et seq .).
June 1988-The [U .N .] Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere was hel d
in June . Governments were invited by Canada to participate in formal discussion s
leading toward a possible "law of the atmosphere," controlling atmospheri c
pollutants which, among other things, would seek to control emissions of C O2 int o
the atmosphere .
November 1988 - The first meeting of a newly created U .N. Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) convened in Geneva, November 9-11 ., 1988 . The
plenary meeting of the IPCC included representatives of 35 nations, including th e
United States, the U .S .S.R., several other foreign governments, and internationa l
governmental and non-governmental organizations . The latter served as observer s
and functioned as advisory bodies in the proceedings . As a result of this meeting, th e
IPCC was charged by the U .N . General Assembly to prepare an integrated state-of the-art report on the science, impacts, and responses to global climate change b y
September 1990 .
February 1989 - Following from the 1988 Toronto Conference, at a "Meeting o f
Legal and Policy Experts" held in Ottawa, on February 20-22, 1989, participant s
discussed the feasibility of a climate change convention and issued a statement that ,
among other things, addressed considerations and elements for a specific conventio n
on climate change which would govern emissions of carbon dioxide implicated i n
global warming, and target a 20% reduction thereof .
Spring 1990 - Three consensus documents on science, impacts, and responses o f
the IPCC working groups were produced by the beginning of summer of 1990 an d
were viewed throughout most of the international scientific and global diplomati c
community as definitive statements of the state-of-knowledge about global climat e
change . A majority of participants and independently polled scientists who pee r
reviewed those reports considered the results of each working group a relativ e
success and a major accomplishment for multi-disciplinary scientific and social
research bodies participating within a potential policy making milieu . The
"responses" working group report was criticized for not offering concret e
recommendations as to what governments should do to either mitigate or adapt t o
potential climate change . Furthermore, a group of dissenting scientists claimed tha t
contrary opinions were neither considered nor presented in the final IPCC document s
and, consequently, criticized the IPCC review process because no comments o r
reactions to comments were ever exchanged between independent peer reviewers an d
the IPCC .
June through August 1990 - The three IPCC working groups submitted thei r
findings to the full IPCC in June 1990, and, following a plenary session in Augus t
1990, the IPCC presented its First Interim Assessment Report to the 45th session of
the U.N. General Assembly, at a session of U .N. Second World Climate Conference
(SWCC) in Geneva, Switzerland between October 29 - November 7, 1990 . SWC C
was convened by WMO, UNEP, and ICSU . The IPCC's integrated "synthesi s
report" was adopted by the U .N. General Assembly and would form the basis for
international negotiations toward a framework convention on climate change . Th e
synthesis report consisted of the Interim Assessment, a fourth working pape r
prepared by the ad hoc IPCC Working Group on Financial and Technical Assistance ,
and an IPCC Assessment Overview prepared by the Secretariat of the IPCC . It wa s
subject to a short period of review during SWCC Scientific and Technical sessions .
November 1990 - After presentation of the IPCC integrated Interim Assessmen t
of Global Climate Change at the SWCC, and its adoption by the U .N. General
Assembly, some countries had expected that negotiating sessions for a regulator y
mechanism to address potential global climate change would begin during Ministeria l
sessions that immediately followed the Scientific and Technical sessions . The Unite d
States and the former Soviet Union, however, opposed making any commitments a t
that time, especially any legally binding reductions of C O2 or other greenhouse gases .
The United States argued that such matters would be more appropriately considere d
under the authority of the U .N. General Assembly and not the WMO, and furthe r
suggested that interested nations reconvene in negotiations that would addres s
specific regulatory actions relating to global climate change .
December 1990 -The U.N . General Assembly on December 21, 1990, in furtherin g
its resolutions 43/53 of December 6, 1988 and 44/207 of December 22, 1989, whic h
acknowledged that climate change is a common concern of mankind, established a n
Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) . The INC, supported by WMO an d
UNEP, was charged with preparing the future FCCC, which would contai n
appropriate commitments and any related legal instruments as might be agreed upon .
This resolution, A/RES/45/212, called for the framework convention negotiations to
be completed prior to the U .N. Conference on Environment and Developmen t
(UNCED) scheduled for the June 1992 "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro, and to b e
opened for signature during that conference .
February 1991 - The United States offered to host the first INC session i n
Chantilly, VA, in February 1991 . The meeting was titled, "Protection of globa l
climate for present and future generations of mankind ." Some criticized it as
unproductive because no protocols, memoranda of understanding, or terms o f
reference relating to a framework convention on climate change came out of this firs t
session . Others (such as the United States delegation) insisted that IN C's focus at it s
first session was primarily to attend to organizational business and the INC s
administrative requirements . By the close of deliberations, two subsidiary bodies o n
on science and technology and implementation (and their leadership) had bee n
June 1991 through May 1992 - The second session of the INC met in Geneva ,
June 1.9-29, 1991. ; the third session convened in Nairobi, September 9-20 : the fourth
session convened in Geneva, December 9-20 ; and the fifth session convened in Ne w
York City, February 18-28, 1992 . One more negotiating session, described as a n
extension of the 5th INC session, took place in New York between April 29 and Ma y
8, 1992 . This session was the last remaining opportunity for the parties to meet as
a whole and agree upon a final text for a so-called framework convention on climat e
change that would be opened for signature in June at UNCED, in Rio de Janeiro . A t
the conclusion of this last session, it was evident that a flexible, voluntary respons e
by nations to reduce net atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases would b e
the backbone of the climate convention . This agreement contained a "non-bindin g
aim" of voluntary commitments for industrialized countries to begin to return thei r
net emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels and to devise plans for stabilizin g
concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2000, both by controllin g
sources of emissions and enhancing sinks for greenhouse gases .
January 1992 - Resulting from a meeting in January in Guangzhou, China, the
IPCC ' s Working Group-1 on Science released a "Supplement" to update the firs t
interim scientific assessment of climate change . An IPCC plenary document wa s
also released that integrated findings from activities of the other IPCC workin g
groups. New scientific insights into the role of CFCs and climate change, a s
potentially offsetting some global warming at Earths surface, challenged the Bus h
Administration' s "basket of options" approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions ,
and shifted emphasis in international negotiations back to focusing on CO ,
reductions . The IPCC also declared a need to reassess the indirect global warmin g
potential of other greenhouse gases and their concentration and effect over differen t
time horizons ; and the IPCC also called for further study on the possible climati c
cooling effects of sulfate aerosols in Earth 's atmosphere .
In its Statement on Commitments, submitted at the 5th IN C
session, the United States outlined a new course of measures that it would undertak e
to mitigate climate change . The United States emphasized that these actions woul d
begin immediately, would be taken unilaterally, and would not be contingent on it s
final acceptance or rejection of any legally binding timetables or provisions as migh t
be set forth in a future international climate change agreement . Actions would b e
pursued in several areas, including : (1) improved energy efficiency ; (2) transportatio n
sector improvements ; (3) supply-side changes to lower-emission technologies ; (4)
agriculture and natural resources-methane capture and tree planting ; (5) federa l
research and development measures-technological and scientific ; (6) joint U .S .
government-industry programs to reduce emissions ; and (7) state and loca l
government actions . Some analysts estimated that such actions could reduce CO, b y
about 14% below 1990 levels by 2000 . Environmentalists criticized these "new "
measures as simply a delineation of what the United States had been prepared to d o
all along and, in some cases, what may have been required under existing law dealin g
with energy conservation .
April 1992 - A study by the Bush Administration, US . Views on Climate Change,
suggested that the United States might not be far from the goal of reducing its ne t
emissions of CO, to 199
by 2000 - a goal called for by many INC partie s
- simply by undertaking energy efficiency and savings programs and othe r
mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate change that were already underwa y
in existing federal and state programs .
May 1992 _ INC negotiations, which had begun in February 1991, concluded at th e
U.N. in New York City . A ministerial draft text was adopted culminating in an
international treaty formally known as the U .N. Framework Convention on Climate
June 1992 - On June 12, at UNCED (the Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, th e
United States and 142 other nations signed the U .N. Framework Convention o n
Climate Change (FCCC) . The FCCC contained an action framework that woul d
commit the worlds industrialized countries to voluntary reduction of greenhous e
gases and enhancing greenhouse gas sinks . Such actions would be aimed at
stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at 1990 levels . Th e
FCCC also contained other commitments for all signatory parties, includin g
developing countries, related to its establishment, support, and administration .
Furthermore, the Convention suggested the possibility of continuing negotiation s
through a Conference of Parties, subject to a judgment of the ratifying parties, afte r
the FCCC 's entry into force, that would meet periodically to pursue subsequen t
actions to counter global warming - similar to the 1985 Vienna Convention, tha t
preceded the Montreal Protocol on Protection of the Ozone Layer .
The consensus view among INC representatives was that the convention opene d
for signature at UNCED represented a scientifically sound first step toward s
stabilizing industrial greenhouse gas emissions . Critics however, found it deficien t
because in their view it did not realistically address greenhouse gas emissions fro m
the transportation sector and emissions reductions were voluntary, rather than legall y
binding . Furthermore, there was disagreement on how far the convention shoul d
have gone, and whether it should have also set future emission reduction targets and
timetables beyond the year 2000 target .
September through October 1992 - On September 8, 1992, the Convention wa s
transmitted by the White House to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations fo r
the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification . That Committee endorsed th e
treaty and reported it (S . Exec . Rcpt. 102-55) on October 1 . The Senate consente d
to ratification of the U.N . Framework Convention on Climate Change on October 7 ,
1992, with a two-thirds majority vote ; President Bush signed the instrument of
ratification of the FCCC on October 13, 1992 .
Late November 1992 - The U.S. National Action Plan for Global Climate Chang e
was released at the end of November by the Bush Administration to supplemen t
many of the energy conservation measures in force that may have had a secondar y
effect of limiting future U .S . net greenhouse gas emissions . The former was know n
as a "no-regrets" strategy, because it made sense economically, regardless of an y
potential global warming effects . The National Action Plan also considered othe r
efforts that might be undertaken to adapt to potential climate change, reiteratin g
many of the strategies outlined in President Bush's earlier 1991 Action Agenda o n
Climate Change . However, the 1992 U .S. National Plan went further than the Actio n
Agenda to include : (1) additional federal government measures, both legislative an d
administrative ; (2) actions taken"by state governments ; (3) private sector measures ;
and (4) measures undertaken in cooperation with other countries .
December 1992 -The INC convened its sixth meeting December 7-10, in Geneva ,
Switzerland, to discuss its future, and to reevaluate the urgency (timetable o f
meetings) of moving forward on measures to address potential global climate change .
The INC was requested to act as the interim coordinating body on business matter s
relating to global climate change for the U .N . Secretary General, until the Conferenc e
of the Parties to the FCCC would be established and meet for the first time . The INC
met in March and August, 1993, and, among other things, debated the feasibility o f
the World Banks Global Environmental Fund (GEF) as a mechanism for managin g
international funding of developing countries, which would assist the latter i n
fulfilling their commitments and obligations under the FCCC .
October 1993 - President Clinton and Vice President Gore released a U .S. Climate
Change Action Plan that suggested some 52 voluntary measures to reduce U.S.
greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2000 . This domestic goal would b e
aligned, in principle, with U .S. commitments under the FCCC .
March 1994 - According to terms of the FCCC, the U .N. Secretary General havin g
received at least 50 countries instruments of ratification, the Convention entered int o
force March 24, 1994 .
April 1995 - Seeking grounds for a uniform approach toward climate protection ,
the first Conference of Parties (COP-I) to FCCC met in Berlin, Germany, in th e
spring of 1995, and voiced concerns about the adequacy of countries abilities to mee t
commitments under the Convention . These were expressed in a U .N. ministeria l
declaration known as the "Berlin Mandate," which established a 2-year Analytica l
and Assessment Phase (AAP) to negotiate a "comprehensive menu of actions" fro m
which countries would choose options to address climate change that for them ,
individually, made the best economic and environmental sense . FCCC parties als o
deliberated over elements of possible amendments to FCCC and/or a subsequen t
protocol that might advance climate protection . They also discussed whethe r
numerical aims, such as targets and timetables, binding or non-binding agreements ,
or technology-related goals, alone, might be "adequate" for climate protection .
Another major issue dealt with was what some called "an arbitrary divisio n
between Annex I and Developing countries" that concerned the effectiveness o f
commitments of each class of countries in achieving the goals of FCCC . Criticis m
was leveled by many industrialized countries, including the United States, agains t
many newly industrializing countries (NICs), such as Brazil, India, and China ,
because NICs would continue to be classified as non-Annex I countries and enjo y
certain exemptions under the Berlin Mandate - including exemption from possibl e
future, legally binding emissions reduction agreements - even though thes e
countries collectively could become the worlds largest emitters of greenhouse ga s
emissions within 15 years . '
July 1996 - The Second Conference of Parties to the FCCC (COP-2) met in Jul y
1996 in Geneva, Switzerland, and its Ministerial Declaration was adopted July 18 ,
1996 . This document reflected a U .S . position statement presented by Timothy Wirt h
(former Under Secretary for Global Affairs for the U .S. State Department) that : 1)
accepted outright the scientific findings on climate change proffered by the IPCC i n
For more information, see CRS Report 96-699, Global Climate Change : Adequacy of
Commitments Under the U .N. Framework Convention and the Berlin Mandate .
its second assessment (1995) ; 2) rejected uniform "harmonized policies" in favor o f
flexibility; and 3) called for "legally binding mid-term targets ." Legally, th e
Declaration represented the consensus of ministerial participants at COP-2 that, a s
a body, they did not object to a "future decision which would be binding on al l
parties under the FCCC," with individual reservations included and noted .
June 1997 --- On June 26, 1997, President Clinton submitted "Additional U .S .
Proposals" aimed at efforts to educate the American public on the need for a climat e
protection protocol and stronger climate protection measures . This plan include d
installing a million solar panels on roofs across the United States by the year 2010 ,
convening a White House Conference (October 6,1997) $1 billion in foreign aid fo r
"best environmental practices," and an environmental technology R&D and trad e
incentive for U .S . industry (known as the Climate Change Technology Initiative) .
The vehicle to achieve these reductions was a 3-track proposal which included $ 5
billion in tax breaks (over 5 years) to U .S. industries to develop technologies an d
practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a restructuring of the electric utilitie s
industry, and the development of some form of emissions trading among FCC C
parties for credits.
In addition, the State Department submitted "Additional U .S . Proposals" to th e
COP, that would : 1) condone penalties for parties who exceed an allowed emissions
budget for a given 5-year period ; 2) clarify eligibility of parties to participate i n
emissions trading schemes and their obligations pertaining to measurements an d
reporting of emissions, including devising national mechanisms for certification an d
verification of trades ; and 3) preclude from trading any party which exceeds it s
emissions budget or is in question of compliance . These proposals concerning treaty
compliance were not adopted in the final working text of the Protocol ("the Kyot o
Accord"), but are currently part of ongoing negotiations leading up to COP-6 .
December 1997 -- Prior to ministerial negotiations and COP-3, in Kyoto i n
December 1997, President Clinton had proposed the goal to return U .S . greenhouse
gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2012 (a 30% reduction from estimated 201 .2 levels) .
Japan, on the other hand, had proposed a 5% reduction in CO, below 1990 levels b y
the year 2012, and the EU had proposed reducing emissions of three greenhous e
gases by 7.5% by 2005, and then by 15% by 2010. The developing countries (G-77 )
and the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) sought a reduction of CO2
emissions 35% below 1990 levels, to apply to the industrialized countries, exemptin g
themselves from emissions reductions .
The work on the U .N . Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change was complete d
December 11, in Kyoto, Japan, in a half-day extension of the official session . Most
industrialized nations and some central European countries (defined in "Annex B "
to the Protocol) agreed to legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions o f
an average of 5% below 1990 levels between the years 2008-2012, identified as th e
first emissions budget period . The United States would be required to reduce it s
total emissions an average of 7% below 1990 levels by the year 2012 . However ,
some Annex-B countries (Australia, e .g .) would be allowed to increase thei r
greenhouse gas emissions . Globally, emissions of three major greenhouse gase s
(CO2, C) h, N20) would be targeted to decline about 5% below 1990 levels over th e
next 10 years.
On November 12, 1998, President Clinton instructed a representative to sig n
the Kyoto Protocol to "lock-in" commitments he judged to be in the U .S. nationa l
interest that were achieved during negotiations . Subsequently, the United State s
became the 60 `1' country to sign the treaty . This act drew protest by some in Congres s
because the Kyoto Protocol had not yet been debated by the U .S . Senate and many
claimed that it was in violation of S .Res . 98, the Byrd/Hagel Resolution, introduce d
in July 1997, which required an economic analysis and legally binding emissio n
reductions for all FCCC parties . Many in Congress believe the Protocol would pos e
an unfair burden on industrialized countries, while exempting developing countrie s
from any regulatory requirements . After signing the Kyoto Protocol, the Presiden t
announced he would continue to pursue efforts to gain "meaningful" commitment s
from key developing countries over the next couple of years, before he woul d
consider sending the treaty to the U .S . Senate in deference to S .Res . 98 .
In the meantime, Congress has held hearings on the potential economic impact s
of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol . Some Administration officials and supporters clai m
there are economic benefits to be realized from U .S. ratification of the treaty, whil e
many opponents, including a number in Congress, have projected a significan t
negative impact on the U .S. Economy .
For further details on global climate change activities and issues since the 199 7
Kyoto Protocol , see CRS Report 98-2, Global Climate Change Treaty : Summary of
the Kyoto Protocol ; CRS Issue brief .IB89005, Global Climate Change ; and the CRS
briefing book on Global Climate Change, online website :
[http ://www .congress .gov/brbk/html/ebeccl .html]
Table 1 . Major Conferences on Global Climate Chang e
at Which the U.S . Government has had Diplomatic Representation 13
The Changing Atmosphere (UNEP)
Toronto, Canad a
Forum on Global Change
Washington, D C
Summit of the Arch (G-7)
Noordwijk, Neth .
Washington, D C
Economic Summit (G-7)
Second World Climate Conference
INC negotiations : U .N. FCCC adopted
New York, NY
UNCED (Earth Summit)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazi l
FCCC enters into force
COP-1, Berlin Mandate
Berlin, German y
COP-2, Ministerial Declaration
Oct . 1997
"Challenge of Global Warming" Conf .
Washington, D C
Dec . 1997
COP-3, U .N. Kyoto Protocol text adopted
(FCCC opened for signature)
Fi . Kv ()to
While this table is not exhaustive, it represents those meetings which many believe were significant milestones for United State s
participation in negotiations on international global climate protection agreements .