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MIT study assesses effects of Kyoto Protocol

CAMBRIDGE, Mass -- The first comprehensive assessment of economic, atmospheric, climatic, and ecosystem effects of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change will hit newsstands in Nature's October 7 issue. The study, by researchers from MIT and the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, shows that a strategy for controlling multiple gases associated with greenhouse warming could reduce control costs by over 60 percent compared with controlling carbon dioxide (CO2) alone.

The study also indicates flaws in the "yardstick" by which gases are compared under the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement now signed by 84 countries, including the U.S., that was negotiated in December 1997 with the intent of slowing global warming.

"The main finding is that including gases other than CO2 emissions from fossil fuels could greatly reduce costs of meeting the Protocol," observes Dr. John Reilly, lead author of the paper and associate director for research at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. "Economically efficient policies will be required that encourage reduction of these emissions -- not an easy task, as reductions must come from sources as diverse as landfills, aluminum production, livestock, and electrical switchgear."

Adds co-author Professor Ronald Prinn, head of MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and co-director of the Joint Program, "No other effort to date has comprehensively considered both the scientific and economic implications of the Protocol. The results are exciting and illuminating."

Much current analysis and policy discussion narrows climate issues to a debate about carbon emissions from fossil fuels. Most economic analyses likewise have considered only emissions of CO2 from fossil fuels. This situation has, according to the present study, led to an approximately 21 percent overestimation of annual costs in 2010 for meeting Kyoto Protocol emissions caps in industrialized regions.

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Contact: Judith Stitt
jstitt@mit.edu
617-253-3983
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
7-Oct-1999


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