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Energy and Global Warming News for November 4: Economists see threat in global warming

Survey: Economists see threat in climate change

Researchers who deal in cold numbers rather than warming climates believe the “significant benefits from curbing greenhouse-gas emissions would justify the costs of action,” a new survey finds.

In fact, the survey of economists finds 94% believe the U.S. should join climate agreements to limit global warming.

The survey results to be released today come as debate over the economics of global warming moves center stage in Washington, D.C. Republican senators boycotted a hearing Tuesday over an Environmental Protection Agency analysis about the costs of a clean-energy bill. In addition, the United States and European Union are preparing for a December meeting in Copenhagen to discuss a climate treaty.

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“An economist tree hugger is an imaginary creature,” says Michael Livermore of New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity, which conducted the survey. “But we found that economists really see climate change poses a lot of risk to the economy.”

The survey approached the 289 economists who had published climate-related studies in the top 25 economics journals in the past 15 years. About half, 144, responded, and 75% agreed or strongly agreed on the “value” of greenhouse-gas controls.

In the survey of economists:

“¢91.6% wanted a tax or “cap and trade” system, where polluters buy and sell emission permits, instead of regulation, to cut greenhouse gases.

“¢84% agreed the effects of global warming “create significant risks” to the economy, particularly to agriculture, fishing, insurance and health.

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“¢Of the 94.3% who favor the U.S. joining climate agreements to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, 57% say greenhouse-gas cuts should come “regardless of the actions of other countries.”

This shouldn’t be a total surprise, since most major independent economic analyses show even strong climate action has such a low total cost — one tenth of a penny on the dollar.Merkel urges Congress to act on climate

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Congress and the Obama administration Tuesday to take bold steps to address global warming, even as Senate Democrats and Republicans feuded over whether to press ahead with a climate bill.

peaking at a joint meeting of Congress, Merkel described climate change as one of the “great tests” of the 21st century. She took pains to compliment lawmakers and the administration for viewing “the protection of our climate to be a very important task,” even as she suggested that they move faster.

“We all know we have no time to lose,” she said.

While the entire Democratic side gave those remarks a standing ovation, most Republicans — including key swing voters, such as Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.) — remained in their seats. When Merkel added that curbing greenhouse gas emissions would spur growth in “innovative” jobs worldwide, the same partisan divide marked lawmakers’ reaction.

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Merkel tried to assuage lawmakers’ concerns that any agreement coming out of international climate talks in Copenhagen next month would not include binding commitments from China and India, saying those nations will make serious emissions cuts once the leaders of industrialized nations “show ourselves ready to adopt binding commitments.”

“In December the world will look to us, to the Europeans and to the Americans,” she said.

Obama: Time to “Redouble our Efforts” on climate change before Copenhagen

President Obama today said that efforts need to be redoubled in order to make progress at the Copenhagen climate change summit next month in December.

“And all of us agreed that it was imperative for us to redouble our efforts in the weeks between now and the Copenhagen meeting, to assure that we create a framework for progress in dealing with what is a potential ecologic disaster.”

The President spoke today at the end of the U.S.-European Union Summit in the Cabinet Room with the Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, President of the European Commission Jos© Manuel Barroso, and the European Council High Representative Javier Solana.

The leaders emerged from their hour-long meeting today confident about the status of the climate change negotiations that will culminate next month in Copenhagen. The summit will attempt to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2010.

“Regarding climate change I want to tell that I am more confident now than I was in days before,” Barroso said, “President Obama changed the climate on the climate negotiations because with the strong leadership of United States we can indeed make an agreement. We are working toward a framework agreement in Copenhagen that will be an important agreement for the world.”

Groups press U.S. and China on carbon

Three prominent American research organizations that are pushing for greater cooperation between the Obama administration and China on the issue of climate change say the two governments should make a priority of supporting the use of carbon capture technology and the creation of a market for carbon.

The organizations, the Asia Society, the Center for American Progress and the Natural Resources Defense Council, or N.R.D.C., are putting out two separate reports this month that urge the two governments to put more money into projects in China that can better develop the technology of carbon capture and sequestration, commonly called C.C.S. The process captures carbon dioxide emissions from industrial and power plants before they enter the atmosphere and stores them underground, usually in geological formations.

President Obama is scheduled to make his first trip to China this month. He and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have said cooperation on climate change is a new top priority in United States-China relations. But the two countries have yet to take concrete steps together on any proposals. Some environmental advocates who have been following the talks say they are growing increasingly pessimistic about the chances of serious cooperation.

Advocates also say that any hope of a meaningful result emerging from the international climate change summit meeting to take place in December in Copenhagen might depend on whether the United States and China first demonstrate that they can reach agreements among themselves.

Senate Dems propose their share of contentious amendments

The Republicans may be boycotting the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee markup of climate legislation, but panel Democrats have been busy, filing 80 amendments for whenever the debate resumes.

EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) opened the markup yesterday on the 959-page climate bill, though she did not get very far after Republicans boycotted the business meeting over what they say is insufficient analysis from U.S. EPA.

Boxer yesterday told reporters she would wait for Republicans “before we do any amendments” — though she walked back from that statement a few moments later and said she had not ruled out proceeding on the bill if the GOP committee members do not show up eventually.

Republicans for the second time yesterday ignored Boxer’s deadlines for submitting amendments, leaving only the 80 Democratic items on the agenda should Boxer proceed with the markup. Some of the amendments focus on hot-button issues like greenhouse gas emission limits and pre-emption from U.S. EPA climate regulations.

Here is a rundown of some of the amendments pending in the EPW Committee:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has offered a series of provisions aimed at changing the bill’s current 20 percent emissions target for 2020, according to his office.

Under one approach, Baucus would establish a two-tiered mid-term target that starts at 17 percent, though it go to 20 percent if other countries adopt and implement their own reduction targets before 2013. Baucus also has an amendment that would set the 2020 target at 14 percent, which is the same level that President Obama used during his presidential campaign last year.

Baucus’ bid to overhaul the 2020 emissions limit may be the biggest fight of the EPW Committee markup. Boxer and the lead sponsor of S. 1733, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), say the recent economic downturn has already driven down domestic emissions and makes their goal that much more achievable. Liberals on the committee, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), have countered that they would prefer an even more aggressive 2020 emissions limit.

But Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, opened the climate hearings last week warning of his own “serious reservations” if the sponsors did not budge on this issue.

Other Baucus amendments include a requirement that any state program with more stringent greenhouse gas limits after 2017 must be approved by that state’s Legislature, as well as presidential oversight of domestic and international carbon offset project criteria.

Further pushing the envelope with his Democratic colleagues, Baucus also is seeking to limit EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act — with specific goals of exempting agriculture and small sources that emit less than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year.

Baucus also has an amendment that would eliminate EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the law’s New Source Review provisions, which focus on aging industrial facilities. And he would try to block EPA after 2020 from regulating enteric fermentation or manure under the law’s New Source Performance Standards, which deal with new industrial facilities.