Unreliable information on CO2 emissions

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Greenhouse gas emissions underestimated in the 1990s

According to an international team of researchers from Australia, the United States and Germany, the information on CO2 emissions, on the basis of which the goals for reducing CO2 emissions were often set, are unreliable. Recent analyzes indicate that a “cumulative underestimation” has taken place here, the scientists led by Roger Francey from the Center for Australian Weather and Climate Research report in the journal “Nature Climate Change”. Francey and colleagues write that the countries' figures on carbon dioxide emissions do not match the actual measured atmospheric values

According to the researchers, the values ​​determined on the basis of government data on CO2 emissions were extremely unreliable, particularly in the 1990s. The CO2 balance is calculated from the reported emissions minus the changes in the CO2 concentration in the air. The difference shows how much carbon dioxide is stored in the so-called CO2 sinks such as forests or oceans. Ideally, humans should not emit more CO2 than can be deposited in the CO2 sinks. The scientists led by Roger Francey have now analyzed the development of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere since the 1990s using the measurement data from two stations - one in Mauna Loa in Hawaii and one in Cape Grim in Tasmania. The expected deviations between the northern and southern hemisphere have been confirmed in the measurement data of the two stations. In the northern hemisphere with its high density of industrialized and emerging countries, there was a greater increase in carbon dioxide concentration than in the southern hemisphere.

Cumulatively underestimated CO2 emissions The researchers' proven growth in CO2 concentration and the “inter-hemispherical concentration differences during the global financial crisis support earlier speculations that the increase in reported emissions from 2000 to 2008 due to a cumulative underestimation” of CO2 emissions the scientists report that it can be explained in the 1990s. "What was observed in the atmosphere during the nineties did not match the emission statistics," explained co-author Martin Heimann, head of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena involved in the study. The analysis of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions with improved measurement and calculation methods had shown that the carbon dioxide emissions reported by the states are apparently a greater uncertainty factor than previously assumed.

Atmospheric measurement methods instead of government emission data According to the researchers, the deviations between the reported CO2 emissions and the development of the CO2 concentration in the air could theoretically also be caused by changes in the storage capacity of the CO2 sinks, but the Francey and colleagues consider this scenario to be rather unlikely. Here it should rather be assumed that the reported emission data from the 1900s did not correspond to the actual CO2 emissions. This finding seems quite problematic, since the national and international climate protection goals often proclaim a reduction in CO2 emissions compared to basic data from the 1990s. The researchers' findings also raise general doubts about the accuracy of previous information on CO2 emissions. Here the Francey and colleagues advocate the use of atmospheric measurement methods in order to avoid corresponding inaccuracies. The researchers concluded that the emission rate could be controlled much better in future with a network of measuring stations. (fp)

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Image: Bernd Wachtmeister / pixelio.de

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