Beyond Business as Usual
Professor Andy Hoffman helped write report calling for a national policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.---A comprehensive study on climate change released today by the National Research Council included the work of Andy Hoffman, the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment.
The three-part study calls for the United States to act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a national strategy to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change.
Hoffman, who is also associate director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, was a contributing author to the report titled "Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change." The other reports in the study are "Advancing the Science of Climate Change" and "Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change."
Hoffman's report says that substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require prompt and sustained efforts to promote technological and behavioral changes. Although limiting emissions must be a global effort to be effective, strong U.S. actions to reduce emissions will help encourage other countries to do the same. In addition, the U.S. could establish itself as a leader in developing and deploying the technologies necessary to limit and adapt to climate change.
An inclusive national policy framework is needed to ensure that all levels of government, the private sector, and millions of households and individuals are contributing to shared national goals. Toward that end, the U.S. should establish a greenhouse gas emissions "budget" that sets a limit on total domestic emissions over a set period of time and provides a clear, directly measurable goal. However, the report warns, the longer the nation waits to begin reducing emissions, the harder and more expensive it will likely be to reach any given emissions target.
The report does not recommend a specific target for a domestic emissions budget, but suggests a range of emissions from 170 to 200 gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent for the period 2012 through 2050 as a reasonable goal, a goal that is roughly in line with the range of emission reduction targets proposed recently by the Obama administration and members of Congress. Even at the higher end of this range, meeting the target will require a major departure from "business-as-usual" emission trends.
The report notes that with the exception of the recent economic downtown, domestic emissions have been rising for most of the past three decades. The U.S. emitted approximately 7 gigatons of CO2 equivalent in 2008 (the most current year for which such data were available). If emissions continue at that rate, the proposed budget range would be used up well before 2050, the report says.
A carbon-pricing system is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions. Either cap-and-trade, a system of taxing emissions, or a combination of the two could provide the needed incentives. While the report does not specifically recommend a cap-and-trade system, it notes that cap-and-trade is generally more compatible with the concept of an emissions budget.
Carbon pricing alone, however, is not enough to sufficiently reduce domestic emissions, the report warns. Strategically chosen, complementary policies are necessary to assure rapid progress in key areas such as: increasing energy efficiency; accelerating the development of renewable energy sources; advancing full-scale development of new-generation nuclear power and carbon capture and storage systems; and retrofitting, retiring or replacing existing emissions-intensive energy infrastructure. Research and development of new technologies that could help reduce emissions more cost effectively than current options also should be strongly supported.
The entire three-part study can be found at http://americasclimatechoices.org.
For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847, firstname.lastname@example.org