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More accurate emissions data needed worldwide, U.S. researchers say.

Under the Copenhagen climate accord reached last December, countries that pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions are to be held to strict domestic and international reporting standards. But this doesn't ensure that reported emission levels are truly accurate, according to a recent report from the U.S. National Research Council (NRC). For most countries, independent data on the full range of greenhouse gases is still unavailable, the report concludes.


In industrialized countries, self-reported national inventories of carbon dioxide [CO.sub.2] emissions from fossil fuel use have estimated uncertainties of less than 5 percent, on average. However, uncertainties for net [co.sub.2] emissions from land use change (such as deforestation) and for emissions of methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride often range from 25 to 100 percent.

The NRC offers several recommendations for improving the collection, analysis, and reporting of emissions that could quickly improve verification procedures. The cost, based on an estimate of improving emission verification in 10 of the largest emitting developing countries, would be a "relatively modest" US$11 million over five years.

"For any international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, it would be essential for each country to monitor its own emissions and to provide a trans-parent capability for any nation to check the values reported by another," said Princeton University ecologist Stephen Pacala, who chaired the NRC committee that produced the report. "This would give nations confidence that their neighbors are living up to their commitments."

In the March report, the NRC noted that improved satellite technology also offers tremendous potential for accurate emission measurements, especially of natural [CO.sub.2] sources and sinks such as forests. In 2009, the Japanese Aerospace Agency and the United Nations launched the first satellite that could track green house gases. And U.S. President Barack Obama's 2011 budget request includes $170 million to replace the Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite, which crashed in February 2009. Brazil and India plan to launch emissions-monitoring satellites in the next two years, and private companies such as Google are developing soft ware that may also advance satellite emissions measurements.

by BenBlock

(unless otherwise credited)

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Title Annotation:EYE ON EARTH
Author:Block, Ben
Publication:World Watch
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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