Nav: Home

Seeking better guidelines for inventorying greenhouse gas emissions

January 31, 2020

In the face of a changing climate, the process of accounting greenhouse gas emissions is becoming ever more critical. Governments around the world are striving to hit reduction targets using Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines to limit global warming. To have a chance of hitting these targets, they need to know how to accurately calculate and report emissions and removals.

The IPCC guidelines are essential but woefully out of date, say researchers from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), and in need of improvement as countries prepare inventory reports as part of Paris Agreement commitments over the next year.

"Global society could be doing a better job in producing greenhouse gas inventories," said Leehi Yona '18 M.E.Sc., the lead author of a paper recently published in the academic journal Ambio. "It is paramount that we get greenhouse gas inventories right, so that the emissions we report are equal to the emissions in the atmosphere. Closing this gap between actual and reported emissions is a prerequisite to successful climate change mitigation."

Yona was joined on the paper by Mark Bradford, professor of soils and ecosystem ecology at F&ES, and former F&ES faculty member Ben Cashore.

In the paper, the researchers outline the limitations of the current IPCC guidelines. Firstly, the process through which the guidelines are produced has not been updated since their inception in 1996. The guidelines currently require a cumbersome, multi-step review process where government-nominated experts write and revise drafted reports. Aside from the fact the experts are then not independent of national interests, the guidelines fail to take advantage of the tremendous advances made in "synthesis approaches" that can more accurately and expeditiously be used to inventory national-level greenhouse gas emissions.

The methodology for reporting greenhouse gas emissions presents another challenge. A multi-tiered system of methodologies was initially created by the IPCC to properly address the economic statuses of the different signatory countries involved in the agreement. Larger, wealthier countries were expected to apply more rigorous methodologies, while developing nations used the default methods of reporting. However, nearly all of the nations are still using the default methods in part due to a lack of resources.

It is these default methods then that the researchers say must be improved. Though challenges exist, the researchers lay out technological advances that can properly address them. They suggest such things as using satellite imagery to fill data gaps coupled with machine-learning tools that expedite quantitative synthesis, as well as account for emissions associated with land use and management. They also recommend a dynamic and transparent review process modeled after "the Cochrane Collaboration," used in medicine and health science to expertly synthesize the most recent scientific data to inform medical policy and practice that directly benefits the public.

"Evidence synthesis has revolutionized in the past 25 years, since the first greenhouse gas inventories were developed," said Bradford. "Medicine has availed of these advances, providing relevant, up-to-date, high-quality information to save and improve the quality of millions of lives. Our planetary health surely demands that we use such advances in synthesis to similarly inform the accounting and management of greenhouse gas emissions."
-end-


Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.
Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.