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Costs of Reducing Greenhouse-Gas Emissions
Robert Shackleton (au)
Human activities around the world are producing increasingly large quantities of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) resulting from the consumption of fossil fuels and deforestation. Most experts expect that the accumulation of such gases in the atmosphere will result in a variety of environmental changes over time, includinga gradual warming of the global climate, extensive changes in regional weather patterns, and significant shifts in the chemistry of the oceans. Although the magnitude and consequences of such developments are highly uncertain, researchers generally conclude that a continuedincrease in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases would have serious and costly effects. A comprehensive response to that problem would include a collection of strategies: research to better understandthe scientific processes at work and to develop technologies to address them; measures to help the economy and society adapt to the projected warming and other expected changes; and efforts to reduce emissions, averting at least some of the potential damage to the environment and attendant economic losses. Those strategies would all present technological challenges and entail economic costs. Reducing emissions would impose a burden on the economy because it would require lessening the use of fossil fuels and altering patterns of land use. This report discusses the economic costs of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S., describing the main determinantsof costs, how analysts estimate those costs, and the magnitude of estimated costs. It also illustrates the uncertainty surrounding such estimates using studies of a recent legislative proposal, H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. Figures.
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