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Suggested Citation:"Highlights." National Research Council. 1990. Confronting Climate Change: Strategies for Energy Research and Development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1600.
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Suggested Citation:"Highlights." National Research Council. 1990. Confronting Climate Change: Strategies for Energy Research and Development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1600.
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HIGHLIGHTS Human activities, primarily related to energy production and consumption, are increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere faster than the rate of absorption by natural sinks. If this continues, there is concern that irreversible climatic changes may occur and adversely impact human societies. However, scientific uncertainty exists regarding the timing and extent of global climate change and its consequences. The committee was asked, nevertheless, to suggest federal strategies for energy research and development (R&~) on alternative energy technologies should the government want to give priority to stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of GHGs. In response, the committee has recommended strategies to facilitate prudent and decisive actions by the United States. 1. There is no immediate single technological fix for reduction of GHG emissions. Consequently, if GHG emissions are to be reduced, a multifaceted effort will be required by the U.S. government and the private sector, on major improvements in U.S. energy productivity, on the adoption of relevant technologies in the marketplace, on energy R&D, and on the resolution of environmental and economic issues. 2. As a first step and within existing budget constraints, changes to U.S. energy R&D priorities are warranted whose implementation would (a) enable reductions in GHG emissions and (b) merit public expenditures for other reasons, even in the absence of concerns over global climate change. The underlying R&D strategy (referred to as the Focused R&D Strategy) has the objective of reducing uncertainties about the costs and performance of low- or non-GHG-emitting technologies relative to their conventional counterparts. 3. From a programmatic standpoint consistent with the foregoing strategy, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) should take the following steps as soon as possible: (a) Allocate to energy programs on conservation and renewables an additional $300 million or about 20 percent of the civilian energy R&D budget appropriations (b) Obtain the funds for this allocation by refocusing the R&D priorities for magnetic fusion and fossil energy programs 1

(c) (d) Redirect ef forts under the fossil energy program to achieve high efficiencies in converting clean coal to electricity Make international cooperation an important component of alternative energy R&D proj ects . 4. In the near term (i. e., from the year 1990 to 2000), and as ~ supplement to the Focused R&D Strategy, the government ought to consider taking additional actions to stimulate (b) (a) adoption of GHG-reducing technologies that already exist but that are not currently deployed private sector investments in energy R&D on low- or non- GHG technologies. 5. If concerns heighten regarding GHG emissions, an additional R&D strategy (referred to as the Insurance Strategy) should be considered to develop and demonstrate, for their "insurance" value, '"backstop" technologies to reduce GHG emissions. Substantial federal funding (on the order of billions of dollars per year) of applied energy research, development, and demonstration would be needed to minimize uncertainties in the economic and environmental costs of technologies that reduce GHG emissions. Maj or national policy decisions are required to adopt the Insurance Strategy. 6. The U.S. government must continue to emphasize basic and generic research on many fronts to expand knowledge of alternative energy sources. 7. The United States ought to take the lead In GHG-reducing energy R&D in an international context. 2

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