Greenhouse gas data threatens Paris climate deal

An investigation has found powerful, climate-warming gases are being emitted into the atmosphere but are not being recorded in official inventories.

Levels of some emissions from India and China for example are so uncertain that experts say their records are plus or minus 100%. These flaws pose a bigger threat to the Paris climate agreement than US President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw.

Among the key provisions of the Paris climate deal, signed by one hundred and ninety five countries in December 2015, is the requirement that every country, rich or poor, has to submit an inventory of its greenhouse-gas emissions every two years.

Under UN rules, most countries produce “bottom-up” records, based on how many car journeys are made or how much energy is used for heating homes and offices. Air-sampling programmes that record actual levels of gases, such as those run by the UK and Switzerland, sometimes reveal errors and omissions.

Another rare warming gas, carbon tetrachloride, once popular as a refrigerant and a solvent but very damaging to the ozone layer, has been banned in Europe since 2002. Scientists are still seeing 10,000-20,000 tonnes coming out of China every year. China’s approach to reporting its overall output of warming gases to the UN is also subject to constant and significant revisions. Investigation also discovered vast uncertainties in carbon emissions inventories, particularly in developing countries. Methane, the second most abundant greenhouse gas after CO2, is produced by microbe activity in marshlands, in rice cultivation, from landfill, from agriculture and in the production of fossil fuels. Global levels have been rising in recent years, and scientists are unsure why. For a country such as India, which is home to 15% of the world’s livestock, methane is a very important gas in their inventory, but the amount produced is subject to a high degree of uncertainty.

The rules covering how countries report their emissions are currently being negotiated.

(Source: BBC News)

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