BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The United States must act to cap its emissions of greenhouse gases and join the fight against climate change or risk losing global leadership, a former CIA director said in a report released on Monday.
“The United States must adopt a carbon emission control policy,” John Deutch, head of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1995-96, said in a report to the Trilateral Commission, a grouping of business and opinion leaders from Europe, the United States and Asia.
“If the United States or any other OECD country that is a large producer of greenhouse gas emissions is to retain a leadership role in other areas, it cannot just opt out of the global climate change policy process,” he wrote.
Deutch, an energy specialist who is now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also proposed an expanded use of nuclear power, international cooperation to develop clean coal technology and a sharing of the costs of emissions control between rich countries and large emerging nations.
He advocated an additional tax of about $1 per gallon on gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products in the United States, coupled with a tightening of fuel economy standards for U.S. car manufacturers, to encourage fuel efficiency and dampen demand, while recognizing that would be politically difficult.
He suggested Washington use the same “cap and trade” system of limiting carbon dioxide emissions and issuing emissions permits to industry that can be traded, which the European Union currently uses.
His report to the council, created in 1973 to build a policy consensus among capitalist democracies on three continents, was the latest in a series of international studies highlighting the need for radical policy changes to combat global warming.
Deutch also listed so-called geotechnical measures under consideration to counterbalance climate change, including adding aerosols to the stratosphere, placing balloons or mirrors in the stratosphere and even “high altitude nuclear explosions to induce a nuclear ‘spring’”.
These ideas were so risky and hard to demonstrate technically that they highlighted the need to redouble efforts to mitigate human-induced climate change.
The report said the major industrialized countries must began a process of transition away from a petroleum-based economy to reduce their dependence on oil and gas imports for political as well as environmental reasons.
It also called for China and India to be admitted to the International Energy Agency to improve cooperation among major oil and gas importers and help avoid tensions over supplies.
While Deutch placed great expectations on carbon capture and sequestration technology to reduce emissions from coal-fired power stations, notably in China, a parallel report to the Trilateral Commission by French energy executive Anne Lauvergeon cast doubt on that solution.
Lauvergeon, chief executive of Areva, which builds nuclear power stations, said the capture and storage of carbon emitted through the burning of fossil fuels was too often presented as a miracle solution.
“This technology will ... not play a significant role in the limitation of carbon emissions for half a century,” she wrote.