Monday, June 17, 2024

Global Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Infrastructure takes shape

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Sustained, coordinated global monitoring of greenhouse gas concentrations and fluxes is vital to help us understand and tackle the drivers of climate change and to support implementation of the Paris Agreement.  

Though WMO has worked in the area of greenhouse gases for several decades, multiple products and datasets that are critical for supporting international climate policy are supported only by the research community. At present, there is no comprehensive, timely international exchange of surface and space-based greenhouse gas observations. There is also a need for improved collaboration on the model development and generation of the decision-support information on global scale. Some governments and international organizations undertake specific monitoring activities and maintain datasets but there is no steering mechanism and there is undue reliance on research funding.    

The three-day symposium aims to assemble the different pieces of the jigsaw puzzle into a single framework for a sustained, internationally coordinated monitoring infrastructure.  

More than 250 experts from research and operational communities, space agencies, meteorological services, the ocean and climate observing communities, academia, and UN partners are participating in the session at WMO’s headquarters.  

“This initiative has a very important role to play,” said Michel Jean, President of WMO’s Infrastructure Commission. “It’s about the operationalization of the system into something which is much simpler and more coordinated than what we have now,” he said. “The role of WMO in this planned greenhouse gas monitoring infrastructure global effort is to convene the global community and ensure international coordination” 

The carbon cycle 

The proposed monitoring system would improve understanding of the carbon cycle and help reduce uncertainties in estimates of the strength of natural sources and sinks, e.g.  as the biosphere, the ocean and the permafrost areas. Understanding the full carbon cycle is vitally important for the planning of mitigation activities, since climate change is driven by the total amount of greenhouse gas content of the atmosphere, irrespective of their origin (natural or human-induced). 

“The proposed greenhouse gas monitoring infrustructure would provide a solid underpinning for mitigation steps taken by the Parties to the Paris Agreement and enable them to monitor and understand the effectiveness of their action,” said WMO’s Lars Peter Riishojgaard. « It will enhance the quality of national greenhouse gas emission inventories and complement the data available to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. We need to deliver better and more actionable information if we are serious about changing course.” 

It will be a top-down approach to the flux evaluation which builds on existing capabilities in surface- and space-based observations and modelling and ensures timely exchange of all observations and data.  

Global coordination efforts of the type that is needed for the development of these infrastructure has provided successful in weather prediction and climate monitoring and is embodied by WMO’s 60 year-old World Weather Watch and its acclaimed Global Atmosphere Watch.  

WMO’s research activities on greenhouse gases dates back to 1975, with introduction of the concept of “science-for-service” in 2015 with the adoptation of the Congress resolution on the  Integrated Global Greenhouse Gas Information System. 

WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin provides annual updates to the UN Climate Change negotiations on atmospheric concentrations of the main long-lived gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) and these consistently break new records.  

A new study published by the UK’s Met Office said the rise in CO₂ concentrations would have been even higher without the triple-dip La Niña event, which has had a temporary cooling effect on global temperatures and has encouraged tropical forests and other vegetation to soak up more carbon-dioxide than usual. But it cautioned that this would only be temporary and that there is a need for rapid emissions cuts if global warming is to be limited to 1.5°C. 

The biggest challenge of our time 

“Climate change is the most pressing and long-lasting challenge of our time and the urgency of climate action has never been more important. Without understanding how our climate is changing and the risks that these changes will bring, we can not plan for a climate resilient future,” said Hugo Zunker of the European Commission. 

The EU has committed itself to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 55% by 2030 and to reacha net zero by 2050. The European Green Deal is mainstreaming climate change policies to all other policy areas to initiate the transition to a sustainable society and economy. 

The symposium heard how the EU’s Copernicus anthropogenic CO2 emission monitoring and verification support capacity aims to support policymaking with information on the emission levels and trends based on independent CO2 atmospheric observations analysis acquired by dedicated space-borne sensors at high temporal and spatial resolutions all over the globe. 

In the United States, NASA has a Carbon Monitoring System and NOAA is developing a prototype of an operational greenhouse gas emissions estimation system.  

China, Japan and the Republic of Korea are all actively involved in greenhouse gas observations in Asia, and Australia is also developing an observational network. 

Experts from the research community made presentations about progress and opportunities – as well as existing gaps and challenges.  

The symposium follows a decision by WMO’s Executive Council in June 2022 to develop an architecture for a global Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Infrastructure. Proposals and a concept document developed at the Symposium will be submitted to WMO’s Executive Council meeting in February and the full World Meteorological Congress in June 2024. 

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