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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d99may21

Acid Rain: Current and Projected Status of Coldwater Fish Communities in the Southeastern US in the Context of Continued Acid Deposition, Project Completion Report, A. J. Bulger, B. J. Cosby, and J. R. Webb, Trout Unlimited, June 1998, 32 pp., available free at

Stream chemistry data from 304 Virginia brook trout streams, part of an Appalachian-forest acid-sensitive ecosystem, were analyzed. Despite the reductions in acid-causing air pollution brought about by the Clean Air Act, these streams continue to be affected by acid deposition. Only 18% of preindustrial, forested watersheds in Virginia were acidic. Currently, about 50% are acidic, and approximately 6% are chronically acidic and unable to support fish. This analysis indicates that 1991 levels of acid deposition will need to be reduced 70% to keep the remaining 50% of Virginia’s brook trout streams nonacidic. Lesser reductions will cause a large number of those streams to become chronically acidic by the year 2041.

Item #d99may22

Soil Calcium Depletion Linked to Acid Rain and Forest Growth in the Eastern United States, G. B. Lawrence and T. G. Huntington, Water Resources Investigations Report 98-4267, USGS, $4.00 plus $3.50 shipping and handling, 12 pp.; also available at

Calcium levels in forest soils have decreased at locations in ten states in the eastern United States, which is cause for concern because calcium is necessary for neutralizing acid rain and is an essential nutrient for tree growth. Decreases in available calcium have been linked to reduced resistance to insect defoliation and low winter temperatures. Acid rain releases aluminum from the underlying soil, and that aluminum is transported upward by root uptake and water movement. That aluminum then replaces calcium, and the trees have a harder time getting the needed calcium. Measurements of soil calcium in the Northeast have been found to be well below those taken 50 years before. Depletion of calcium in soils is common in the Southeast as well. Timber harvesting can contribute to the problem because the calcium removed with the trees would otherwise have been recycled within the ecosystem. Depletion of calcium in forest soils may also explain why, despite decreases in acid rain during the past three decades, streamwater chemistry has shown continued decreases or only minimal recovery in calcium concentrations and acid-neutralizing capacity at many locations in the Northeast.

Item #d99may23

Implementing the Kyoto Protocol: The Role of Environmental Agreements, Asbjørn Torvanger and Tora Skodvin, Report 1999:04, CICERO, 59 pp., free, also available at

Voluntary agreements between an industry or a company and the government to regulate various environmental impacts, such as the emissions of greenhouse gases, is a popular policy tool in many OECD countries. The suitability of such agreements was examined. The results of the survey and analysis indicated that:

  • These agreements are most attractive as a supplement to traditional command and control or to market-based policy tools.
  • Skillful design of such agreements can improve their efficiency (e.g., by the introduction of subsidies in case of over-fulfillment of the agreement by the company combined with a tax in case of under-fulfillment).
  • Bilateral agreements can be used effectively to regulate pollution from other countries.
  • Regional agreements are rare but can have certain advantages and be an important supplement to other policy tools.
  • Such agreements can constitute a transitional stage from traditional command and control to domestic emission trading and then to emission trading and joint implementation.

Item #d99may24

National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program Biennial Report to Congress: An Integrated Assessment, NAPAP, May 1999, various paginations, free; also available on line at

The National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) coordinates federal acid-rain research and monitoring. This report analyzes the recent results from the controlling of sulfur dioxide emissions by the largest fossil-fueled electric generating units. It uses quantitative and qualitative indicators to assess the effectiveness of market-based approaches to reduce emissions and acidic deposition and to keep compliance costs down. It includes analyses of the ecological, human-health, property-preservation, cultural-resource, and visibility benefits of reduced atmospheric concentrations of acid deposition and its precursors. The report also identifies the research, monitoring, modeling, and data-access needs for the next comprehensive assessment, which is to be prepared in 2000. The report finds that:

  • The market-based approach has reduced compliance costs for utilities below those of a command-and-control approach.
  • All affected utilities have fulfilled or exceeded the compliance requirements of Title IV.
  • Allowance trading has been successful both in terms of the volume of trades and in its effectiveness in keeping compliance costs down.
  • In the first year of compliance, SO2 emissions for Phase I electric utility units were 39% below the 1995 allowable level.
  • Statistically significant reductions in the acidity of and sulfate concentrations in precipitation were reported at sites in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast United States.
  • It is too early to determine whether changes in aquatic ecosystems have resulted from the 1995 emission reductions.
  • Sulfur and nitrogen deposition have caused adverse impacts on certain highly sensitive forest ecosystems in the United States.
  • The gradual leaching of soil nutrients from sustained inputs of acid deposition could eventually impede forest nutrition and growth in several areas.
  • Dry deposition is now considered to be more damaging to stone materials and cultural resources than is wet deposition.
  • The linkage between reduced sulfate concentrations and improved visibility is difficult to ascertain without long-term data.
  • Some evidence suggests that quantifiable economic benefits could be relatively large in the areas of human health and visibility, exceeding the costs of complying with Title IV.

The report also identifies some known, adverse, environmental effects of acid deposition:

  • The soils of high-elevation forests in Colorado, West Virginia, Tennessee, and California are saturated or nearly saturated with nitrogen.
  • In the Chesapeake Bay, excess nitrogen is causing algae blooms that suffocate other life.
  • High-elevation lakes and streams in California, Washington, and Colorado are close to chronically high acidity.
  • Many waters in the Adirondacks are becoming more acidic even though sulfur deposits are declining; at current rates, about half of them will be too acidic to sustain significant life by 2040.

Item #d99may25

Meeting Our Clean Air Needs With Emission-Free Generation: The Need for Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Energy Institute, free, 52 pp.; also available at

This report highlights the contribution of nuclear energy to U.S. air quality. Along with describing the environmental benefits of avoided greenhouse-gas emissions, it looks at the role of nuclear energy in meeting air-quality standards by avoiding the emission of controlled pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides (precursors of ozone). As the electricity market becomes more competitive, the report considers the ramifications of failing to maintain the emission-free component of the U.S. generation portfolio (now 31%, with nuclear supplying two-thirds of that total). The report evaluates the likelihood of other nonemitting sources replacing a significant amount of nuclear or hydroelectric capacity, and concludes that relicensing of existing nuclear plants and policies for effective spent-fuel management are vital to meeting our clean-air obligations, both international and domestic.

Item #d99may26

Agriculture & Global Climate Change: A Review of Impacts to U.S. Agricultural Resources, R. M. Adams, B. H. Hurd, and John Reilly, Pew Center for Climate Change, 34 pp., free; also available online at

This report analyzes the effects of climate change on U.S. food production, including distributional impacts, and agricultural resources. Those effects include increased crop yields in the northern United States and Canada, but decreased yields in the southern United States. Increases in precipitation may benefit water-short areas but aggravate problems in regions with excess water, although higher CO2 levels decrease water use. Increases in rainfall intensity pose a threat to agriculture because it causes soil erosion, leaching of agricultural chemicals, and runoff of livestock waste. Adaptive behavior on the part of farmers, such as hanging planting and harvest dates, rotating crops, selecting varieties, irrigating, fertilizing, and tilling can lessen losses from climate change. Negative indirect effects include changes in pest and pathogen incidence, soil degradation, increased ground-level ozone, and increased demand for limited irrigation water. Agricultural practices also produce methane, nitrous oxide, and CO2; these emissions could be partly offset by the planting of trees and biofuel crops. Overall, expected climate changes could lower global production but would have only a small effect on U.S. agriculture. Greater amounts of warming (i.e., a 4°C rise in average temperature) would decrease agricultural production in most areas of the United States and substantially limit global production.

Item #d99may27

The Increasing Sustainability of Conventional Energy, R. L. Bradley Jr., Policy Analysis No. 341, Cato Institute, $6.00, 50 pp., April 1999.

This publication looks to a future in which fossil fuels are virtually unlimited resources and in which technology has made it possible to burn all fuels in an environmentally acceptable manner. It estimates probable reserves of fossil fuels to be two to eight times proven reserves and says that an array of unconventional fossil-fuel resources (synthetic and agricultural oils, gas hydrates, etc.) will be available as petroleum, natural gas, and coal becoome scarcer. It says that fossil-fuel availability has been increasing even as consumption has reached record levels and points to EPA figures of declining emissions of CO, NOx, SO2, VOCs, particulates, and lead between 1970 and 1997. It notes that early climate models predicted that the global warming from a doubling of CO2 would be 4C and that that figure was revised downward to 2C in the IPCC second assessment on the basis of more-sophisticated models; it takes that reduction as indicative “that further downward revisions may be necessary.” It credits emissions trading as an effective mechanism for discovering the lowest-cost emission reductions but notes that transaction costs could sabotage the program’s economic gains.

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