Carbon Dioxide

Fossil fuel consumption is projected to increase over the next 20 years, as was discussed in Chapter 2 (Past, Present, and Future Role of Coal), with coal being the leading energy source in some countries, especially certain developing countries; consequently, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are projected to increase. The increase in CO2 emissions and concern about global warming have received international attention. The first major action was taken in New York on May 9, 1992, when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted. The objective of the Convention is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system [55]. Stabilization must be achieved in such a time-frame as to ensure that food production is not threatened and to allow economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner. The Convention contains a legally binding framework that commits the world's governments to voluntary reductions of greenhouse gases or other actions such as enhancing greenhouse gas sinks aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at 1990 levels by the year 2000 [56].

On June 12, 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 154 nations, including the United States, signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In October 1992, the United States became the first industrialized nation to ratify the treaty, which came into force on March 21, 1994. The treaty was not legally binding and, because reducing emissions would likely cause great economic damage, many nations were not expected to meet the goal [57]. The Convention has become a cornerstone of global climate policy representing a compromise among a wide range of different interests among the member countries. The concept of a common goal but different responsibilities provided for different roles for industrialized and developing countries, notably in the obligations imposed on them in connection with climate protection policy [58]. This led to a grouping of the member states of the Convention into Annex I, Annex II, and non-Annex I countries, the latter including developing countries with no commitments to reducing climate gases. Annex I countries agreed, among other issues, to adopt national policies and take corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change, periodically provide information on its policies and measures to mitigate climate change, and calculate emissions sources and removal through sinks. The developed countries in Annex II agreed, along with additional provisions, to provide new and additional financial resources to meet the agreed full costs incurred by developing countries in complying with their obligations.

Representatives from around the world met again in December 1997 at a conference in Kyoto to sign a revised agreement. The Clinton Administration negotiators agreed to legally binding, internationally enforceable limits on the emissions of greenhouse gases as a key tenet of the treaty. The protocol called for a worldwide reduction of emissions of carbon-based gases by an average of 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2010. Different countries adopted different targets. Those countries agreeing to reduce specified amounts of climate gases within a specified time period are listed as Annex B countries, which is a subcategory of the Annex I countries. For example, the EU committed to a reduction of 8% in climate gases, the United States to 7%, and Japan to 6%, while Russia and the Ukraine agreed to stabilize at 1990 levels. Table 4-13 lists the Annex I, Annex II, and Annex B countries, along with the specified amounts of climate gases agreed upon by the Annex B countries [58,59].

Conflicts with regard to the distribution of different obligations have become apparent since the Kyoto conference. In March 2001, the United States announced that it would not support the Kyoto Protocol [60]. The United States insists that the rules pertaining to the Annex B countries (i.e., voluntary commitment to reducing climate gases) be extended to at least the major developing countries and made this a precondition to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.

In November 2001, the participating member countries of the United Nations Seventh Conference of Parties (COP-7) met in Marrakesh, Morocco, and reached final agreement for the procedures and institutions needed to make the Kyoto Protocol fully operational [60]. On March 4, 2002, the EU voted to ratify the protocol, committing its 15 member countries to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as specified in the accord. No agreement has been reached among the EU member countries, however, with regard to the individual emission reductions that will be required. Some countries feel they have been given a disproportionate share of the EU's total reduction burden [60]. The Kyoto Protocol enters into force 90 days after it has been ratified by at least 55 parties to the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention, including a representation of Annex I countries accounting for at least 55% of the total 1990 CO2 emissions from the Annex I group. Although the United States had the largest share of Annex I emissions in 1990 at 35%, even without U.S. participation the Protocol could enter into force for the other signatories [60].

Air Quality and Coal-Fired Emissions

The EPA evaluates the status and trends in the nation's air quality on a yearly basis and tracks air pollution by evaluating the air quality measured from over 5200 ambient air monitors located at over 3000 sites across the nation that are operated primarily by state, local, and tribal agencies [61]. In addition, the EPA has tracked emissions from all sources for the last 30 years. In the most recent report (for the year 2002) on the latest findings on air quality in the United States, the EPA stated that aggregate emissions of the six principal (i.e., criteria) air pollutants tracked nationally have been reduced by 48% since 1970 [62]. During this same period, the U.S. gross domestic product increased 164%, energy consumption increased 42%, the population increased 38%, and vehicle miles traveled increased 155%. This reduction in emissions in criteria air pollutants between 1970 and 2002 is illustrated

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