Here’s the conclusion from a new report issued today by the National Academy of Sciences:
Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems. Each additional ton of greenhouse gases emitted commits us to further change and greater risks. In the judgment of the Committee on America’s Climate Choices, the environmental, economic, and humanitarian risks of climate change indicate a pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare to adapt to its impacts.
Among the specifics important to readers of this blog:
… Continuing to build new coal-fired power plants will lock in further dependence on GHG-intensive energy sources (unless commercial-scale carbon capture and storage soon become widely implemented).
Significantly reducing U.S. GHG emissions, however it is accomplished, will produce “winners” and “losers” along several dimensions.
Increasing the price of carbon-intensive energy, for instance, will have a disproportionate impact on those who need to drive long distances to work and residents of some coal-mining communities.
Basic notions of fairness require that adverse energy price impacts on those least able to bear them be identified and addressed.
Carbon-related revenues, obtained from carbon taxes or auctioning of emissions allowances in a cap-and-trade system, would provide resources that could be used for this purpose.
Alternative or additional policy measures that make incentive-based climate change policies more accessible to low-income households (e.g., graduated subsidies or tax credits for home insulation improvements) may also be appropriate.
Directly engaging economically disadvantaged and other vulnerable communities in the policy planning process helps allow the legitimate interests of those communities to be addressed, while nonetheless allowing broadly desirable investments to be made.
A summary of the report is available here, and this is what my friend Dina Cappiello at The Asociated Press wrote about it:
An expert panel asked by Congress to recommend ways to deal with global warming said Thursday that the U.S. should not wait to reduce the pollution responsible and any efforts to delay action would be shortsighted.
But that’s exactly what Republicans and some Democrats in Congress are trying to do.
With a majority in the House and many freshman lawmakers skeptical of the science behind climate change, Republicans are pushing measures to block the federal government from controlling greenhouse gases.
The House passed a bill to do that last month. An identical measure failed to get enough votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but a majority there did support reining in the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to reduce heat-trapping pollution.