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Rick Duke, a director at NRDC, told Kellogg students that significant reduction in greenhouse gases could occur with only 'marginal net cost to the economy.' He visited Kellogg March 7.

McKinsey report heats up global warming debate

NRDC’s Rick Duke accents the economics of solving climate change threat

By Aubrey Henretty

3/11/2008 - On how best to combat the effects of global warming, the jury may be out, said Rick Duke, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Center for Market Innovation. The science, however, is in.

“We are indeed transforming the atmosphere — there’s no question about that,” said Duke. “We are putting a CO2blanket around the planet and we’re running this experiment.”

At the invitation of the Kellogg Center for Biotechnology, Duke visited the Donald P. Jacobs Center on March 7 to present the findings of a recent McKinsey & Co. report on the economic implications of global warming. Titled, "Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much at What Cost," the report concluded that the United States could reduce emissions by 4.5 gigatons by 2030 with marginal net cost to the economy and no reduction in the nation's standard of living.

“There’s a lot of different things to be done here, and there is no magic bullet,” said Duke, a former McKinsey manager. To realize the report’s projected energy transformation, he said, the public and private sectors will have to work together to fund and implement green power-generation technology and to produce a full spectrum of energy efficient products. “We need fast legislation that covers all the bases.

According to the report, a nationwide switch to more efficient automobiles, electronics, homes and heating systems would pay for itself quickly enough to offset the rising costs of energy and much of the R&D and construction costs that come with greener power facilities. Duke emphasized that the report assumed no major technological advances between now and the 2030 — the success of its most aggressive plan relied on the large-scale adoption of existing, proven green technology.

Still, Duke said, following the report’s recommendations won’t be easy. While the net cost over time would be low, industries and consumers would be affected differently at different phases, and some would be hit harder than others.

“It’s a challenge that we can’t give up on simply because it’s difficult,” said Duke.“We really have no choice but to proceed.”

Duke's visit was co-sponsored by the Social Enterprise at Kellogg Program, the Social Impact Club, the Healthcare and Biotechnology Club, and the Environmental Sustainability Business Club.