Will nations build on climate-change momentum of 2007?
In 2008, expect developing nations to play a more active role in negotiations for the post-Kyoto Protocol period.
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In the Senate, 48 lawmakers have backed some form of cap-and-trade bill. And in the House, two influential moderates have indicated they would like to harness the cap-and-trade approach: John Dingell (D) of Michigan and Rick Boucher (D) of Virginia. Among the forces at work there: Industry. It's getting more difficult to site a coal-fired power plant. State programs are springing up like dandelions, raising the prospect of adhering to a regulatory patchwork. And after the US Supreme Court affirmed that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate CO2 as a pollutant, industry is loath to see the EPA craft emission regulations.Skip to next paragraph
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What technology is being eyed to tackle CO2 emissions?
Look for significant increases in R&D for greener energy sources, at least in the US. The omnibus spending bill President Bush signed in December contains a 23 percent increase in the Department of Energy's energy R&D budget over the amount the White House requested. The administration's original request represented a 10 percent cut from the previous year, according to an analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Congress gave the department authority to spend nearly $1.9 billion on energy research.
The goal is to advance technologies such as carbon sequestration, energy from biomass, and solar energy. Carbon sequestration is particularly important, because for developing countries like China and India, coal remains the cheapest, most abundant fuel. The countries with the largest lead are likely to reap the greatest economic benefits as international agreements include or enlarge incentives to grow in a greener way.
What about energy efficiency?
This plays a prominent role in both IEA projections and in the Lieberman-Warner bill. The IEA estimates that improved efficiency in buildings, vehicles, appliances, lighting, and other power-hungry technologies could contribute nearly 25 percent of the CO2 cuts needed by 2030 to reach the 3.6 degree-warmer climate mark by century's end. The Lieberman-Warner bill calls for new codes that by 2010 would lead to new or renovated residential and commercial buildings that are 30 percent more energy efficient. The bill calls for a 50 percent increase in efficiency by 2020.
What projects are scientists planning?
In February, federally-funded scientists head to the Southern Ocean to measure the rate at which carbon dioxide moves from the atmosphere to the ocean and back. It's one of the latest efforts to get a better handle on the processes Earth uses to store carbon dioxide. The rate at which the oceans and biomass on land can store CO2 is critical for estimating how quickly the heat-trapping gas will build up in the atmosphere.
Scientists estimate that oceans soak up about 25 percent of the CO2 produced by industrial activity. Rates of CO2 exchange between sea and air have been measured for the North Atlantic and the equatorial Pacific, but not the Southern Ocean. Yet the amount of surface area in the Southern Ocean available for CO2 absorption is huge. Wind is thought to be the key factor driving the exchange. But wave height also may play a role: high waves may block wind, calming the seas between crests. Calmer water takes up less CO2. Pinning down these processes also can help scientists project the region's future CO2 uptake as global warming alters weather patterns.