Towards policy-relevant global carbon cycle observation and analysis
The budgets of carbon and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) have many uncertainties that make it difficult to evaluate the success of climate change mitigation strategies. Improvements in long-term, high quality observing systems within and across the atmospheric, oceanic, terrestrial, and human domains are required to quantify GHG sources and sinks, to understand changes in the carbon cycle and hence the climate system, and to assess the level of effort required in order to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Current observing efforts and initiatives are a mix of regional and global efforts, requiring a global coordinating mechanism that provides useful and comparable information to resource managers and policy makers.
Main principles: Support and build on existing efforts
The intention is neither to write new strategies nor duplicate existing efforts, but instead to build on existing initiatives and networks, ensure their continuity and coherence, and to facilitate their cooperation, the interoperability of their data and efforts, including WMO’s IG3IS effort and GCOS programme, to fill in the missing pieces to obtain a comprehensive, globally coordinated, carbon and GHGs observation and analysis system.
Beijing Ministerial Exhibition. Source: GEO Secretariat
Objectives and benefits
Many efforts and initiatives suggested there are now in place to monitor and understand carbon cycle and GHGs, but still a globally coordinated and comprehensive initiative, ranging from science to policy, and addressing all the components of the needed C and GHGs-observing system is missing. This is reflected in the state of the art of carbon cycle and GHG knowledge and understanding: in fact, despite the significant progresses made by the scientific community, still many issues are in place, like uncertainties in the estimates, understudied gases, the risk of passing tipping points, the role of critical hotspots, the sustainability of networks, the low global coverage of them, the lack of interoperability of different monitoring systems, and often also an inadequate communication between different communities.
Tentative implementation plan
- User needs and policy interface: to engage with users and policy makers and ensure the consistency with their evolving needs, to drive the activities of the GEO Carbon and GHG Initiative and address the policy agenda.
- Data access and availability: to provide long-term, high quality and open access near-real-time data and data products, complying with the GEOSS principles, from a domain-overarching carbon cycle and GHGs monitoring system.
- Optimization of observational networks: to develop and implement on an ongoing basis, a procedure for achieving observations of identified essential carbon cycle variables within user-defined specifications and at minimum total cost.
- Budget calculations and breakdown across scales to inform policy implementation: to develop consistent budgets of GHGs (CO2, CH4, and N2O) from local/urban to global scales using a combination of observations, inventories, models and data assimilation techniques.