Monday, March 22, 2010

New NAS Report on Verification of Greenhouse Gas Emission

The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences has just released (here) a prepublication version of an interesting report on "Verifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Methods to Support International Climate Agreements." Here's the conclusion from the report's Summary:
The report concludes that each country could estimate fossil-fuel CO2 emissions accurately enough to support monitoring of a climate treaty. However, current methods are not sufficiently accurate to check these self-reported estimates against independent data (e.g., remote sensing, atmospheric measurements) or to estimate other greenhouse gas emissions. Strategic investments would, within 5 years, improve reporting of emissions by countries and yield a useful capability for independent verification of greenhouse gas emissions reported by countries.... [B]y using improved methods, fossil-fuel CO2 emissions could be estimated by each country and checked using independent information with less than 10 percent uncertainty. The same is true for satellite-based estimates of deforestation, which is the largest source of CO2 emissions next to fossil-fuel use, and for afforestation, which is an important sink for CO2. However, self-reported estimates of N20, CH4, CFC, HFC, PFC, and SF6 emissions will continue to be relatively uncertain and we will have only a limited ability to check them with independent information.
This conclusion lends support to my recommendation that, instead of a comprehensive regulatory scheme covering all greenhouse gases and sources, both the international community and the US, domestically, should follow the EU's lead in focusing on CO2, at least for the near- to mid-term.

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