Policy Implications of Global Climate Change To Be Investigated

November 08, 1996

WASHINGTON, DC -- Resources for the Future (RFF) today announces the launch of its Climate Economics and Policy Program that aims to increase understanding and knowledge of the complex issues of global climate change that must be addressed to design appropriate, cost-effective policies in the United States and abroad.

RFF's new program responds to both the ongoing debate about climate change, and the specific debates surrounding the negotiations being carried out under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Convention involves an agreement among 154 countries to develop programs and cooperate in slowing climate change, and to consider climate change in its management of agriculture, energy, and water and natural resources.

"Policymakers around the world are paying increasing attention to climate change, as well they should," says RFF President Paul R. Portney. "The stakes are potentially enormous on all sides of this complicated issue, and it is essential that careful analysis complement the political calculations that so often drive decisions."

Climate change involves a gradual rise of the Earth's surface temperature as a result of human activity that is changing the way the atmosphere absorbs and emits energy. Certain gases that occur naturally in the atmosphere tend to trap the sun's heat. This natural "greenhouse effect" helps keep the Earth's average temperature at 59° Fahrenheit. Without these greenhouse gases, the Earth would be about 0° F.

But human activities are causing some greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, to build up in the atmosphere. Whenever fossil fuels such as gasoline, oil, coal or natural gas are burned, more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. The resulting temperature changes will affect rainfall, sea level and other natural processes. These changes in turn could have significant social and economic consequences.

The publication of the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has signaled the beginning of a broader agenda of research and debate. While there is still scientific uncertainty about the magnitude of climate change risks, the world's policy makers are now shifting more of their attention to debating appropriate policy responses.

"RFF brings to this debate a well recognized and respected reputation for objectivity," says Darius Gaskins, Jr., chairman of RFF's Board of Directors. "Over its 45-year history, RFF researchers have tackled the most difficult issues in environmental policy, including the value of undisturbed wilderness areas, the design of more cost-effective pollution control measures, and the best way to prevent resource scarcity. It is only natural that they now address the challenges of climate change."

Integrating the various aspects of climate change with a substantial amount of ongoing and future research at RFF on energy markets, water and forest resource management, air pollution, environmental regulation, and sustainable development, RFF's Climate Economics and Policy Program focuses on five main areas:

The economic and environmental consequences of climate change and policies to deal with climate change.
Domestic and international policy design issues.
Interactions between climate change and other policies.
Equity, efficiency, and other criteria used in decisionmaking.
Development of analytical tools.


RFF will conduct a number of research projects and issue a series of short papers on a variety of issues related to policy design. It will also regularly share its climate change findings with members of the academic, business and environmental communities, and representatives of local, national and international governments by publishing and disseminating discussion papers and convening educational forums on selected topics. To support a well-informed public, RFF will provide regular reports of its climate change activities to the news media, post program updates and activities on RFF's internet home page (http://www.rff.org), and provide educational materials for lay audiences on the economics of climate change.
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AT A GLANCE: RFF's Climate Economics and Policy Program

Principle areas of program investigation:
Economic and environmental consequences of climate change and policies to deal with climate change.
Domestic and international policy design issues.
Interactions between climate change and other policies.
Equity, efficiency, and other criteria used in decisionmaking.
Development of analytical tools.


Climate research projects underway at RFF:
Effective Environmental Policy in the Presence of Distorting Taxes
Carbon Consequences of Tax Reform
Vulnerability of Low-Income Households to the Hydrologic Effects of Climate Change
International Cooperation for Effective and Economic Greenhouse Gas Limitation
Implications of Climate Change Mitigation on Other Environmental Problems
Greenhouse Gas Consequences of Electricity Market Restructuring
Bringing Uncertainty into the Equation When Calculating Climate Change Risks
Carbon Policy and Endogenous Technical Change


Potential questions to be addressed by RFF policy briefs:
How should the climate problem be thought about in general?
How might a domestic emissions trading program be established?
How does the performance of revenue-raising and non-revenue-raising policy instruments compare?
How should emissions reductions be scheduled over time?
What is the potential for technical innovation to substantially lower the cost of greenhouse gas limitations, and what government policies can tap that potential?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of different modeling approaches for assessing the economic costs of greenhouse gas limitations?


How RFF will communicate the findings of its climate program:
Publish and disseminate discussion papers.
Host educational forums on selected topics.
Provide regular reports to the news media.
Post program updates and activities on RFF's internet home page
(http://www.rff.org). Provide educational materials for lay audiences on the economics of climate change. # # # RFF is an independent, nonprofit organization that has analyzed environmental policy and contributed to its formation for the past 45 years. Its research staff represents one of the largest groups of economists and policy analysts devoted to environmental and natural resource issues working under one roof anywhere in the world. Media representatives interested in speaking to RFF experts about climate change should contact Michael Tebo in RFF's public affairs office at (202) 328-5019.

Resources for the Future (RFF)

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