New, Revised Guidelines to Help Limit Global Warming

Considering the current changing climate, it has become even more crucial to account for the emissions of greenhouse gases.

Image Credit: Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

To reduce global warming, governments worldwide are trying to meet the reduction targets using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines. However, to get an opportunity to meet these reduction targets, governments have to know the techniques to precisely estimate and report the emissions and eliminations of greenhouse gases.

But according to scientists from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), while the IPCC guidelines are crucial, they are unfortunately outdated and need to be improved as inventory reports are being prepared by countries as part of Paris Agreement commitments over the following year.

Global society could be doing a better job in producing greenhouse gas inventories. It is paramount that we get greenhouse gas inventories right, so that the emissions we report are equal to the emissions in the atmosphere. Closing this gap between actual and reported emissions is a prerequisite to successful climate change mitigation.

Leehi Yona ’18 M.E.Sc., Study Lead Author, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

The study was recently reported in Ambio, an academic journal. Mark Bradford, a professor of soils and ecosystem ecology at F&ES, and Ben Cashore, a former F&ES faculty member, also contributed to the study.

In the study, the scientists pointed out the restrictions of the present IPCC guidelines. Firstly, the procedure through which the guidelines were created has not been revised since they were established in 1996. At present, the guidelines need a complex, multi-step review where experts nominated by governments write and update the drafted reports.

Apart from the fact that the experts are dependent on national interests, the guidelines do not exploit the phenomenal advances made in “synthesis approaches”. Such approaches can be applied more expeditiously and precisely to inventory greenhouse gas emissions at the national level.

Another difficulty is the methodology used for reporting greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC originally created a multi-tiered system of methodologies to accurately deal with the economic statuses of several signatory nations involved in the Paris agreement.

While wealthier and bigger nations were anticipated to use more stringent techniques, developing countries used the default reporting methodologies. But almost all the countries are still utilizing the default techniques partly because of a lack of resources.

According to the scientists, these default techniques are the ones that need to be optimized. Although there are still difficulties, the scientists have suggested technological developments that can accurately deal with them.

The researchers have recommended the use of satellite imagery to fill data gaps together with machine-learning tools that not only speed up quantitative synthesis but also account for emissions relating to land use and management.

The team has also suggested a transparent and dynamic assessment process that is modeled after “the Cochrane Collaboration.” The Cochrane Collaboration is utilized in health science and medical fields to proficiently produce the most latest scientific data to notify medical policy and practice that benefits the general public directly.

Evidence synthesis has revolutionized in the past 25 years, since the first greenhouse gas inventories were developed. Medicine has availed of these advances, providing relevant, up-to-date, high-quality information to save and improve the quality of millions of lives. Our planetary health surely demands that we use such advances in synthesis to similarly inform the accounting and management of greenhouse gas emissions.

Mark Bradford, Professor of Soils and Ecosystem Ecology, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies


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