In the introduction to his new book,The Agenda, Washington Post Editor and writer, Bob Woodward, described the book as something between newspaper journalism and history. Woodward notes that “in the information cycle, the newspapers, television and magazines prove the first waves of explanation of events in the days or weeks after they occur. Then, generally after a long interlude, insiders memoirs or histories appear.”The Agenda, according to Woodward, “is a hybrid combining the thoroughness of history with the contemporaneity of journalism.”
This paper is also a mixture of journalism and history. It is journalistic in the sense of providing an annotated chronology of key events and publications since 1970 that ultimately led to the signing of the Framework Agreement on Climate Change (herein referred to as the ‘Convention’). It is also history in that we share our insight on these events and offer our perspective of how science and policy-making interacted.
After the signing of the Climate Convention at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (June, 1992), the authors began to think about the many events that led to this historic agreement. When did the process really begin? What were the seminal scientific papers? When did climate change become a policy issue? What lessons do we learn for the future?
We began to review the history and soon recognized there was no clear beginning to either the science or policy story. Both aspects evolved, with science and policy decisions affecting each other. The resulting history is decidedly a U.S. perspective. While there will no doubt be arguments over the significance of all the events cited as well as the omission of others, we have for the first time synthesized the major themes that led to the climate convention.
Our discussion is organized into three periods of time: 1970–1980 (ending with the first World Climate Conference), 1980–1987 (ending with the U.S. presidential election), and 1988–1992 (signing of the Convention). For each period there is an overall summary and analysis followed by a chronology of selected events.
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Schneider, S. H.: 1976,The Genesis Strategy, Plenum Pub., New York, 419 pp.
Molina, M. J. and Rowland, S.: 1974, ‘Stratospheric Sink for CFCs: Chlorine Atom-Catalyzed Destruction of Ozone’,Nature 249, 810–812.
Benedict, R. E.: 1991,Ozone Diplomacy, Harvard University Press, 300 pp. See also Hecht, A. D.: 1991, ‘International Solutions to the Ozone and Climate Change Problems’,Marine Technol. Soc. (MTS)J. 25, 3, 42-47.
For a discussion of the growth of the environmental community see, Shabecoff, P.: 1993,A Fierce Green Fire, The American Environmental Movement, Hill and Wang, 351 pp. Many old-line conservation groups such as the World Wildlife Fund were active for a long time in protecting wildlife. During the 1970's and 1980's environmental NGO's grew rapidly as Congress passed legislation on hazardous waste, clean air, and toxic substances. The active role of NGOs in global environmental issues grew in the 1980's as institutions such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute attempted to address the issues of both stratospheric ozone and climate change. Their strength and influence has grown, as was also seen in the U.S. debate on NAFTA.
Mormino, J., Sula, D., Patten, C.: 1975, ‘Climatic Impact Assessment Program: Development and Accomplishments 1971–1975’, Final Report DOT-TST-76-41, December 1975.
David Keeling has received many national and international awards for his foresight in establishing the Mauna Loa observing station and of course for his overall research. Considering the value of this program to today's understanding of climate change, it is ironic that during the 1980s some federal managers recommended terminating this program. Many others rallied to Keeling's defense and in the end the federal government did the right thing.
Domestic Council: 1974, A U.S. Climate Program, Washington DC.
Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences: ‘Stratospheric Ozone Depletion. Hearings before the Subcommittee on the Upper Atmosphere’, U.S. Senate, September 8, 9, 15, 17, 1975. U.S. Government Printing Office.
Manabe, S. and Wetherald, R. T.: 1975, ‘The Effects of Doubling the CO2 Concentration on the Climate of a General Circulation Model’,J. Atmos. Sci. 32, 3–15.
United States Committee for the Global Atmospheric Research Program: 1975,Understanding Climatic Change, A Program For Action, National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, 239 pp.
Geophysical Research Board: 1977,Energy and Climate, NAS, Washington DC, 158 pp.
Scientific Council of Canada: 1976,Living with Climatic Change, Proceedings of Toronto Workshop, Ottawa, 105 pp.
Australian Academy of Science: 1976,Report of a Committee on Climatic Change, Canberra, 92 pp.
NAS: 1983,Changing Climate, Report of the CO2 Assessment Committee, Washington DC, 493 pp.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: 1983,Can We Delay a Greenhouse Warming, Washington DC.
WMO: 1985, ‘Report of the International Conference on the Assessment of the Role of Carbon Dioxide and other Greenhouse Gases in Climate Variations and Associated Impacts’, Report of Meeting, Villach, Austria, 9–15 October 1985, WMO World Climate Program Report, No 661, 78 pp.
Ramanathan, V., Cicerone, R. J., Singh, H. B., and Kiehl, J. T.: 1985, ‘Trace Gas Trends and Their Potential Role in Climate Change’,J. Geophys. Res. 90, 5547–5566.
The authors participated in this meeting and have a clear record of the discussion. We are asserting that an element of the U.S. support for the IPCC concept, at least by some agencies, was based on the view that the IPCC would slow down the push for a climate convention. The U.S. attitude toward a climate convention was reversed after the 1988 Presidential Election.
Committee on Environment and Public Works: 1986, ‘Ozone Depletion, The Greenhouse Effect and Climate Change’, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Environmental Pollution of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, United States State, June 10–11, 1986, United States Government Printing Office.
Council on Environmental Quality: 1981,Global Energy Futures and the Carbon Dioxide Problem, U.S. Government Printing Office.
CEQ and the Department of State: 1981, ‘Global Future: Time to Act’, Report to the President on Global Resources, Environmental and Population, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 207 pp.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: 1988,The Potential Effects of Global Climate Change on the United States: Report to Congress, EPA, Washington DC, andPolicy Options for Stabilizing Global Warming: Report to Congress, 1990, EPA, Washington DC.
The Climate Protection Act symbolically elevated EPA's role in leading the policy debate on climate change. EPA Administrator Lee Thomas would later try to use the authority of this Act to capture a policy lead, but this attempt is met with strong opposition from other agencies. Having won a major victory to protect the ozone layer, EPA would never capture full leadership on climate policy, instead it would serve as a catalyst for further actions. In cooperation with DOE, EPA would provide the essential analytical data necessary for developing consensus in the U.S. on policy actions.
WMO: 1988,Developing Policies for Responding to Climatic Change, World Climate Program Report No. 10, WMO, Geneva.
Hansen, J.: 1988, ‘The Greenhouse Effect: Impacts on Current Global Temperature and Regional Heat Waves’, Testimony before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate, Washington DC, June 23, 1988. Hansen's testimony to Congress was given extra publicity when OMB attempted to modify the written text to make it conform to Administrative policy. The story was hyped by the press who charged that the Administration was censuring a government scientist. In fairness to all sides it should be noted that all testimony to Congress given by any official of any Administration is subject to OMB review. This does not preclude any scientist from expressing his own personal view.
George C. Marshall Institute:Global Warming, Recent Scientific Findings, Washington DC.
Schneider, S. H.: 1989,Global Warming: Are We Entering the Greenhouse Century?, Vintage Books (paperback edition), 342 pp. See in particular pages 328-330.
An analysis of the paleoclimatic approach used by Budyko is given in MacCracken, M., Hecht, A. D., Budyko, M., and Izrael, Y.: 1990,Prospects for Future Climates, A special U.S.-U.S.S.R. Report on Climate and Climate Change, Lewis Press, 270 pp.
The U.S. was a major contributor to the IPCC and several agencies wanted to lead U.S. participation in each of the groups. The balance of scientific coordination in the U.S. was now well in the hands of the White House through the CES (see item 17) and they took the interagency lead for the science review. The Department of State wanted lead of the IPCC policy working group and they assumed responsibility for coordinating U.S. participation. This left the impacts groups to be managed and the coordinating job was directed to one of the authors and EPA who had a long standing relationship with U.S.S.R. IPCC chairman Yuri Izrael.
The IPCC continues as an international advisory body and will prepare a second scientific assessment in 1995. In a report issued in September 1994, the IPCC scientific panel concluded that even if present levels of greenhouse gases were capped, atmospheric concentrations would increase for at least 200 years, reaching about 500 ppm by the end of the century.
WMO, UNEP: 1988,Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment, Houghton, J., Jenkins, G. J., and Ephraums, J. J. (eds.), Cambridge University Press, London, 365 pp.
Since the pioneering work by the U.S. in climate modeling, several other national centers have been established. The IPCC report reviewed climate model simulations carried out in the U.S. (at GFDL, NCAR and NASA) and in the U.K. (British Meteorological Office).
In the IPCC report, CFC gases were considered as strong absorbers of the surface IR. Their GWP as quoted in the report (1990) were large and positive ranging from about 300 to 6000 relative to CO2 as the reference gas. However, new analyses associated with theOzone Scientific Assessment in 1991 suggested that the GWP for CFCs were smaller or even negative than previously estimated. As a consequence of this study, the emphasis on CFCs as a greenhouse gas was diminished.
Budkyo's hypothesis that paleoclimate analogues was a good approach to predicting the future was rejected by the IPCC scientific working group. This left the Russians somewhat unhappy with the ‘completeness’ of the IPCC report. While the methodology in this approach is still widely suspect, U.S.-Russian scientists are collaborating on more definitive ways to test the hypothesis.
Discussion paper: ‘A Comprehensive Approach to Addressing Potential Global Climate Change’ presented at an informal seminar 3 February 1990, U.S. Department of State. The intellectual background for this proposal is developed in Ackerman, B. A., and Stewart, R. B.: 1988, ‘Reforming Environmental Law: The Democratic Case for Market Incentives’,Columbia J. Environm. Law 13, 153–169.
Heads of state who spoke at the Second World Climate Conference included: H. E. Mr. Arnold Koller, President of the Swiss Confederation; His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan, Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the U.K., H. E. Mr. Michel Rocard, Prime Minister of France, Hon. Edward Fenech-Adami, Prime Minister of Malta; and Hon. Bikenibeu Paeniu, Prime Minister of Tuvalu. Conference proceedings are published asClimate Change: Science, Impacts and Policy, Edited by Jill Jager and H. L. Ferguson. Cambridge University Press, 1991, 578 pp.
For a detailed discussion of the negotiating process and for a thoughtful and extensive analysis of provisions of the climate convention, the reader is referred to: Bodansky, D.: 1993, ‘The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: A Commentary’,Yale J. Internat. Law, V. 18, #2, 451–558.
The Bush Administration, riding the wave of the campaign debate, began to promote an environmental posture. The Climate Action Plan drew on many voluntary programs which when fully implemented could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The support for a convention was meant to be only a framework convention. No one in the Administration was prepared to endorse binding protocols or emissions reduction targets.
Many NGOs were impatient with the progress at the first INC. The first session of the INC ended with the comment from David Doniger of the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council that “global warming is now moving faster than these negotiations.”
WMO, UNEP: 1988,Proceedings of the World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security, Toronto, June 27–30, 1988. WMO/UNEP: WMO Doc 710 (1989). Canada hosted this conference and was very heavy handed in preparing the final report. The U.S. was never happy with the meeting and at first refused to attend. The U.S. did attend, but distanced itself from the final conclusions.
State Department participant in the negotiations, Dan Reifsnyder, offered the view that the concept of targets and timetables “captured and riveted the public's imagination. It provided a simple litmus test of a country's environment commitment. It required no painstaking feasibility analysis or tedious review of specific mitigation measures. It was political genius.” Speech to 1992 Seoul Symposium on ‘UNCED and Prospects for the Environmental Regime in the 21st Century’, September 2, 1992, Seoul, Korea.
In April 1992, the U.S. released an analysis that said it could reduce emissions in the year 2000 (by voluntary actions) by 125–200 million metric tons which would be about 7–11% below the projected levels.
Congressional Budget Office: 1991,Carbon Charges as a Response to Global Warming: The Effects of Taxing Fossils Fuels, Washington DC, 69 pp.
Office of Technology Assessment:Changing by Degree: Steps to Reduce Greenhouse Gases, Washington DC, 44 pp.
The U.S. statement for the Second Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Montreal Convention, in London, June 6, 1990 said “any financial mechanism set out here does not prejudice any future arrangements the Parties may develop with respect to other environmental issues.”
In advance of the G-7 Paris summit, William Reilly who was the Administrator of EPA during the Bush Administration briefed Bush's Cabinet on climate change. He reported that at the conclusion of the meeting Sununu told the Cabinet that the models on which climate change were premised were fundamentally flawed and the best atmospheric scientists had yet to become involved in climate research. At the same meeting Budget Director Darman called the concept of a climate convention, ‘Clean Air for the Whole World’. Economic advisor Boskin told the President that an international treaty on climate change was a ‘bet-you-economy’ decision. (See Reilly, W. K.: 1994,Breakdown on the Road from Rio: Reform, Reaction and Distraction Compete in the Cause of the International Environment. 1993–1994, Arthur and Frank Payne, Lecture, Stanford University).
The terms of the GEF were renegotiated in 1994. The governance became more transparent and open to NGO involvement. Governments agreed to a replenishment of two billion dollars, with the U.S. agreeing to pay $430 million. While in the past, under the Bush Administration, there was real reluctance to providing financial support for international funds, the Clinton Administration was more forthcoming.
The reader might find the U.S. position on international funding somewhat confusing. First the U.S. opposed funding for the Montreal Protocol fund, but later reversed direction. The U.S. at first also opposed funding for the GEF, but later committed to contribute funds in a bilateral fashion. The position was later changed to provide funds directly to the GEF and to contribute to a separate fund for developing country studies. Part of the changes reflected shifts in senior advisors to the President, part was due to the persistence of the EPA Administrator and other senior officials and part was due to a realistic evaluation of what it would take to conclude the climate convention in time for signing at Rio.
Article 4, Section 2: “Each of these Parties shall adopt national policies and take corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change by limiting its anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases and protecting and enhancing its greenhouse sinks and reservoirs. These policies and measures will demonstrate that developed countries are taking the lead in modifying longer term trends in anthropogenic emissions consistent with the objectives of the Convention, recognizing that the return by the end of the present decade to an earlier level of anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol would contribute to such modification, and taking into account difference in these Parties starting points and approaches, economic structures and resource bases, the need to maintain strong and sustainable economic growth, available technologies and other individual circumstances, as well as the need for equitable and appropriate contributions by each of these parties to the global efforts regarding that objective.”
WMO: 1989,Scientific Assessment of Stratospheric Ozone, WMO Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project Report No. 20, Geneva.
EPA pioneered many programs to promote energy efficiency. One of the first was ‘Green Lights’, a program to convince businesses as well as state and local governments to adopt high-efficient and energy conserving lightning systems. Since its inception ‘Green Lights’ has attracted dozens of companies and state agencies which are beginning to show significant savings in energy costs. ‘Green Lights’ and many other energy efficiency programs were incorporated into theU.S. Climate Action Plan released in October, 1993.
Royal Institute of International Affairs: ‘Pledge and Review Processes: Possible Components of a Climate Convention’, Report of Workshop 1991, Royal Institute International Affairs, London.
Alan D. Hecht is the Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of International Activities and Dennis Tirpak is the Director of the Global Change Division, Office of Policy and Planning, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 401 M Street, SW, Washington, DC 20460.
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Hecht, A.D., Tirpak, D. Framework agreement on climate change: a scientific and policy history. Climatic Change 29, 371–402 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01092424
- Climate Change
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