focuses on policy at the national level, our aim is to suggest a policy framework within which all actors can work effectively toward a shared national goal. In addition, we consider how U.S. actions can provide incentives for effective action on climate change by other countries.

  • Chart a course for managing the policy process over the coming decades. It is inevitable that policies put in place today will need to be adjusted over time as new scientific information changes our understanding of the magnitude and nature of climate change. Moreover, the experience of implementing even well-conceived policies will no doubt produce unexpected difficulties (and, one hopes, surprising successes) to which future policy should adapt. And finally, technological innovation—or lack thereof—will alter the strategies available for limiting future climate change. It will be essential for policy makers to respond regularly to new knowledge about science, technology, and policy if we are to address climate change successfully.

Because of the considerable complexities involved in climate change limiting policy, existing research and analysis do not always point to unequivocal recommendations. Where research clearly shows that certain policy design options are particularly effective, we recommend specific goals for the evolving policy portfolio. In other cases, however, we simply examine the range of policy choices available to decision makers and identify sources of further information on these choices. Relatively little research seems to be available on a few fundamentally important issues. For example, the problem of designing a durable yet adaptable policy framework to guide actions over decades is not well understood. In these cases, we raise the issue and point to the need for further analysis or research.


To provide structure and rigor to the process of evaluating alternative climate change limiting policies and strategies, the panel developed a set of guiding principles, selected after reviewing and debating nearly a dozen examples of principles for climate policy that have been proposed by nongovernmental organizations, congressional leaders, and others. The principles are intended to be enduring—reflecting nonpartisan, cross-generational, and pluralistic values. We acknowledge that an inherent tension exists among some of these principles, and thus it may not always be possible to satisfy them all simultaneously. The principles are not themselves policy prescriptive, nor do they represent a set of specific goals or desired outcomes. Rather, they were used as a framing exercise to help us identify priority recommendations. The principles are as follows:

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