Economic Implications of Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act

While there have been a large number of analyses of the potential ramifications of regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the U.S. Clean Air Act (CAA), very few have assessed the potential economic impacts. A recent piece in the journal Review of Environmental Economics & Policy does just this, and also compares economic impacts vis-a-vis legislative alternatives.  The article also discusses options to increase compliance flexibility, thereby potentially maximizing emissions reductions. This would be a an excellent student reading.

Among the article’s take-aways:

  1. New CAA regulations that took effect in 2011 will reduce light vehicle emissions by 21 percent by 2030, “making them among the most stringent standards in the world.” Moreover, even more stringent regulations that are being developed, and would take effect;
  2. Once a pollutant is made subject to CAA jurisdiction in any context, it extends to stationary sources, which means that greenhouse gases from such sources are now subject to New Source Review, which, inter alia, mandates Best Available Control Technology for new or substantially modified existing facilities;
  3. The third tool in the CAA’s belt, regulatory standards, covering stationary sources, will have the greatest impact on greenhouse gas emissions. This includes the potential to treat GHGs as a hazardous pollutant under CAA §112, regulation of greenhouse gases by establishing National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQs) under CAA §108–110, regulation of U.S. emissions based on their international impact, or performance standards under ;
  4. The use of performance standards is the most “effective and practical approach” to address greenhouse gas emissions under the CAA
    • Benefits of this approach, which includes New Source Performance Standards, include the ability to build on existing standards, a relatively quick regulatory process, and consideration of cost in setting standards, unlike under NAAQS;
    • Potential disadvantages of performance standards include the threat that courts might require the EPA to issue GHG NAAQs since they supercede CAA §111(d), discouraging the EPA from expending limited resources on performance standards; performance standards are technical and data intensive; and regulations of individual sources will likely prove more expensive than economy-wide standards
  5. A flexible performance standard under §111(d) could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by  5–10 percent in the coal sector—as much as about 3 percent of total U.S. emissions—without changing the level of electricity generation, at costs more modest than national climate change legislation that passed the U.S. House in 2009;
  6. However, in the longer term, at least, regulation under the CAA could neither facilitate the most efficient opportunities for emissions reductions, nor would it provide the same level of long-term regulatory certainty essential to drive requisite investments.

DISCCRS Program Symposium

DISCCRS VII Interdisciplinary Climate Change Research Symposium

Dates: October 13-20, 2012

Location: La Foret Conference and Retreat Center
Colorado Springs, CO

Application Deadline: February 29, 2012
Participation limited to 30 early-career Ph.D. scholars
Airfare and on-site expenses are supported through grants from NSF and NASA

Ph.D. requirements completed between August 1, 2009 – February 29, 2012 in any natural or social science field relevant to the study of climate change, its impacts, or its societal implications. U.S. citizens and residents have preference though limited funds are available for non-U.S. participation.
See for information on the previous symposium scholars, and for information on the symposium experience.

Since 2003, DISCCRS has hosted symposia for early-career researchers to catalyze formation of interdisciplinary collegial networks, while fostering skills to better prepare graduates to conduct collaborative research and respond to the myriad challenges posed by climate change and its impacts. Participants will share their research; engage in discussions with peers, mentors, and funding agency representatives; and participate in communication and team training. Thirty early-career scholars will be selected through a review process with the expectation that invitees will become leaders in their chosen fields. Airfare and on-site expenses are supported through grants from NSF and NASA.

Symposium Application Instructions

DISCCRS Resources

Webpage The DISCCRS webpage includes information about symposia, a Ph.D. dissertation registry, news and links to other climate research sites, DISCCRS symposium and program reports and publications from the symposia, information.

Online Ph.D. Dissertation Registry Join over 2500 climate change researchers by registering your Ph.D. dissertation and adding your abstract to our fully searchable database. Or browse the registry to identify other climate change researchers.

Career Resources In addition to the Dissertation Registry, the DISCCRS website includes a wealth of valuable resources for finding a job, developing your professional skills, locating funding opportunities, crafting grant proposals and more.

Electronic Newsletter: With weekly climate-change job listings, news stories, funding opportunities and more, our weekly e-newsletter is automatically provided to anyone who registers their Ph.D. You can also subscribe at:

Mock U.S. Supreme Court argument on climate change liability: Videofeed

The University of Houston Law Center is hosting a mock U.S. Supreme Court argument on climate change tort liability at the University of Houston Law Center on Jan. 19, 2012. The bench includes John Cruden, Ken Starr and former Texas Supreme Court Judge Tom Phillips.  Rick Faulk and David Axelrad will present the arguments, and we’ll then have an extended analysis and discussion with student input afterward.

The event can be viewed at the following address, either during the event (12pm CST), or thereafter:

Scholarships for MSc in Climate Change and Development at University of Sussex, UK

The University of Sussex would like to invite applications for the MSc in ‘Climate Change and Development’ for entry in September 2012. Scholarship information is provided below.


This is a unique course that aims to provide state-of-the-art training for the rapidly expanding market for development professionals with specialisation in climate change.  The programme is strongly multidisciplinary. Students will acquire specialist knowledge of the causes and consequences of climate change, the implications for developing countries, and the policy and practice of efforts to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. Courses are taught by leading researchers in these fields from the world renowned Institute for Development Studies (IDS), the Geography Department and Science and Technology Policy Research Unit (SPRU).




Up to ten partial scholarships of £3,000 are available. The scholarships will be awarded to students who possess the highest academic ability and potential (not made on the basis of financial need). The deadline for scholarship applications is 1st May 2012.

Further information on the programme and the on-line application process




Applications for scholarships should be made on the Climate Change application form:




Further information about the climate change network at Sussex see




Tel: +44 (0)1273 877686



Climate 101 Now Available

Almost 3000 non-science major undergraduates at the University of Chicago have taken PHSC13400, Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast, since Ray Pierrehumbert and I (David Archer) first developed it back in 1995.  The class is now available online,  Open Climate 101. The course is free, and one can obtain a certificate after completion of the course if one obtains a sufficiently high score on an online examination.

UNU Courses on Climate Adaptation


UNU’s Institute for Sustainability and Peace is pleased to announce postgraduate level courses on ‘Building Resilience to Climate Change’. The courses run for five weeks in Tokyo (Japan) from 20th February to 23rd March 2012.


Following two courses will be offered, each with duration of 2 weeks:


  • Course-1: Science, Impacts and Vulnerability’
  • Course-2: Approaches to Adaptation


In addition, week-long hands on training in ‘Remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)’ will also be provided.  Please refer to the attached brochure for detailed information.


Priority will be given to students who are currently enrolled in a postgraduate programme.  However, the courses are also open to young faculty members, researchers and practitioners who have completed master’s degree and are working in the relevant field.


Limited competitive fellowships are available for the deserving candidates from the developing countries. The application deadline is now extended to 20th January, 2012 (31st January, 2012 for applicants from Japan).


UNEP and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Gap

A new United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Synthesis Report has assessed whether the pledges made by States in recent years at UNFCCC meetings are consistent with holding temperature increases to either 1.4 or 2C above pre-industrial levels; the study also suggests measures that could be taken to reach this objective. Among other purposes that this study could be used in climate change courses would be as a source of data for simulated negotiations or a “solutions” module. Among the take-aways of the report:

  1. Total anthropogenic emissions (fossil fuel and land use emissions) in 2009 were estimated at 49.5 GtCO2e;
  2. Carbon dioxide concentrations in 2010 were pegged at 388.5ppm, methane at 1870ppb and nitrous oxide at 323ppb;
  3. It is “likely” (greater than 66% probability) that limiting global emissions to 44 GtCO2e in 2020 would put the world on a path to limiting temperature increases to 2C during the 21st Century; in 2050, emissions would have had to drop to 21 GtCO2e to meet this objective;
  4. If countries implement their lower ambition pledges made at the Copenhagen and Cancun meetings of the UNFCCC, and are subject to “lenient” accounting rules (including LULUCF credits and surplus emission units), it will result in annual emissions of 55 GtCO2e in 2020, compared to 56 GtCO2e without the Copenhagen pledges; in the best case scenario, i.e. including all the conditional pledges of the Parties at Copenhagen and Cancun and strict accounting rules, emissions top out at an estimated 51 GtCO2e, still leaving a substantial gap in terms of the level of obligations necessary to avoid a 2C temperature increase. Expressed a different way, the reductions of Annex I States are now pegged at somewhere between a 4% reduction bellow 1990 levels up to 11% above those levels, for the least ambitious scenario, to 16-18% below 1990 levels for the most ambitious scenario. In either case, this is well below the 25-40% reductions that the IPCC has suggested are necessary to avoid more than a 2C temperature increase;
  5. Since the last assessment by UNEP of emissions pledges, countries have clarified their pledges in a manner that increases projected levels of emissions during this century;
  6. There are several measures that could help us close the “emissions gap”:
    • Renewable energy sources could contribute up to 38% of electricity production by 2020, resulting in an emission reduction potential of 1.5-25 GtCO2e;
    • Reductions from the industrial sector of 2.2-3.9 GtCO2e are possible, including use of best available technologies or practices, the use of fossil fuels as feedstocks in chemicals processing, etc.;
    • Reductions in the transportation sector could reach 1.4-2.0 GtCO2e by 2020;
    • Forestry practices could reduce emissions from 1.3-4.2 GtCO2e annually by 2020;
    • Opportunities exist to reduce non-carbon dioxide emissions, including methane production from landfill and wastewater, the source of 50% of anthropogenic methane emissions;
    • Potential reductions at the international level in the aviation and shipping sectors are in the order of 1.7-2.5 GtCO2e in 2020.

Noticeably absent in UNEP’s assessment of potential measures that can be taken to further reduce emissions are any discussion of the the costs of these interventions or their political viability. This could be a good starting point for class discussion. Also, one could try to tease out the assumptions that UNEP used to assess the impacts of lenient v. stringent implementation of emissions pledges.