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Earth Science Technology

Forget "Bottom-up" Reporting of Emissions; Try an Atmospheric Monitoring System (thebulletin.org) 68

Lasrick writes: Ray Weiss at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography describes how countries report greenhouse gas emissions -- a 'bottom-up' approach that can result in inventories that differ from those determined by measuring the actual increases of emitted gases in the atmosphere. Weiss proposes a 'top-down" atmospheric monitoring system for greenhouse gases, and goes into the technology that already exists for doing so.
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Forget "Bottom-up" Reporting of Emissions; Try an Atmospheric Monitoring System

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  • by Noah Haders ( 3621429 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:59AM (#51657335)

    the benefit of reporting bottoms up is you can see a list of your primary sources and work to clean up those sources. if you just get a tops down number, it doesn't provide any indications about how to start cleaning things up.

    • No reason you can't do both at the same time.
    • whynotboth.gif
    • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @04:46AM (#51657719) Journal
      This is about treaties and how much a nation emits in total. When doing bottom up, a lot of the data for individual sources comes from the gov. It is worthless when nations lie about their primary sources. Recently, China has admitted that they burned 17% more coal over the last 30+ years. This is because oco-2 caught them. Now, gosat2, along with oco-3 will further increase monitoring only at higher resolution. This will likely result in China, along with the rest of BRIC, having their values go up. We need empirical data and not guesswork based on lies.
    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      the benefit of reporting bottoms up is you can see a list of your primary sources and work to clean up those sources. if you just get a tops down number, it doesn't provide any indications about how to start cleaning things up.

      The other benefit is that you can really make up whatever numbers you want and schedule the spot checks on those days that match the paperwork. Oh wait... you need both low level reporting and overall monitoring to keep the low level reporting system honest and also to get the big picture when the low level reporting numbers don't add up.

      • but you can't monitor emissions, other than through spot checks. you can monitor air quality, but there's no straight line between emissions and air quality.

        • by bigpat ( 158134 )

          but you can't monitor emissions, other than through spot checks. you can monitor air quality, but there's no straight line between emissions and air quality.

          You could do continuous monitoring of point source emissions, but the point is that if you are estimating total emissions from sporadic monitoring of local emissions then your estimates are highly suspect. You need both kinds of monitoring to know what you are missing.

          • i think the easiest thing to do is not to monitor emissions at all. Instead focus on tracking activities that create emissions. for ex. to cover the transportation sector you could track the amount of gasoline or diesel that is sold. similar for electricity generation, track how much coal / NG is getting burned. There are trickier sectors which require much more attention to track, but when you've taken care of the 90%, you can focus on the 10%. For example, fugitive emissions from methane leaking from our

            • by bigpat ( 158134 )

              i think the easiest thing to do is not to monitor emissions at all. Instead focus on tracking activities that create emissions. for ex. to cover the transportation sector you could track the amount of gasoline or diesel that is sold. similar for electricity generation, track how much coal / NG is getting burned. There are trickier sectors which require much more attention to track, but when you've taken care of the 90%, you can focus on the 10%. For example, fugitive emissions from methane leaking from our pipe infrastructure. Or, area source emissions from things like landfills or other places where biological breakdown creates methane.

              Efficiency is relative so you can't just measure overall fuel consumption if you care about figuring out ways of reducing emissions. But yes, you could just measure overall fuel consumption and figure it will be burned in the next two years or so and get some pretty good overall estimates. Although those numbers can also be fudged +/- 30% probably with creative bookkeeping. I think the important thing is to do as much estimating and measuring as possible at each level and then see where your numbers do

    • No the advantage of bottom up measurement is the rent-seekers can "adjust the data" to fit their preconceived prejudices, besides we have a perfectly good means of measuring from the top down, it's a satellite called OCO-2, Orbital Carbon Observatory [nasa.gov]"USE IF OBSERVING: Sources and sinks of CO2 with high precision and resolution" and the data is Publically Available [nasa.gov]; it just doesn't agree with what the redistributionists want to see.

    • the benefit of reporting bottoms up is you can see a list of your primary sources and work to clean up those sources. if you just get a tops down number, it doesn't provide any indications about how to start cleaning things up.

      I think we should monitor from the side in.

  • Launching shortly: (Score:5, Informative)

    by ctrl-alt-delete ( 37629 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @01:02AM (#51657343) Homepage
    http://www.ghgsat.com/ [ghgsat.com]

    "GHGSat is building and will launch and operate the world’s first satellite capable of monitoring greenhouse gas (GHG) and air quality gas (AQG) emissions from any industrial site in the world."

    It's built and launching shortly.

    • That will be a big improvement over the top-down readings we are doing now, which means sampling at one specific mountaintop in Hawaii. We know how much of each gas is in the atmosphere, but nothing about how each is distributed. A sat will be able to tell how the concentration of each gas by region correlates with cities and volcanoes.

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      http://www.ghgsat.com/ [ghgsat.com]

      "GHGSat is building and will launch and operate the world’s first satellite capable of monitoring greenhouse gas (GHG) and air quality gas (AQG) emissions from any industrial site in the world."

      It's built and launching shortly.

      Great for Greenhouse gases, but what about air quality monitoring? For full monitoring including air quality we would need a comprehensive system of ground based sensors. Perhaps mounted at various levels of communications towers to get readings at near ground level and slightly above where air quality actually effects people's health directly.

  • This is probably also a good idea to make sure the supposed carbon fixation projects actually do so at the rate they're supposed to.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @03:41AM (#51657607)

    I can only assume the author completely missed the Harris booth at the conference.

    There, he would have learned about NASA's ASCENDS program, where teams from JPL, Goddard, and Harris have all flown prototypes for space-borne CO2 mapping LIDARs on the DC-8 flying laboratory. He would have learned about NASA's ACT-America science mission that's outfitting a C-130 with a suite of CO2 mapping instruments to investigate Active Carbon Transport over a 3 year mission. He would have learned about GreenLITE, a terrestrial scanning LIDAR providing a REAL TIME MAP of CO2 emissions across a swath of downtown Paris, implemented specifically for the conference.

    He would also have learned about GOSAT-2, Japan's second generation CO2 mapping satellite, set to launch in 2017. And maybe that would have sparked his interest in the first generation GOSAT launched in 2009, or the first generation US satellite OCO-2 launched in 2014.

    It's like the author is completely unaware of the technology developed specifically to address his concerns.

    • Bingo. Right now, oco-2 has been showing that there are lots of issues with numbers, which is why China had to grow their coal emissions by 17%. And it is still far too low. Gosat2, along with oco-3 ( being added to iss ) should give us a much better idea of real national co2 levels. In fact, I am guessing that once these are added, it will force China and a few other nations ( generally BRIC ) to revise their numbers upwards again.
  • Ray is correct that the current means does not enable true measuring. It is far too unreliable ESP since gov data is used by nations with a proclivity for 'inaccurate' data. But rather than use aircrafts, we should be using a network of SATs that are equal or better to oco-2. By using a network, we can see exactly what co2 flows in and out of a nation. Oco-2 had provided a number of surprises for the climate scientists that are still being reconciled.
  • Icehouse Earth (Score:2, Informative)

    by emil ( 695 )
    This raises the question of climate change. It should be conveyed and understood that we are in a phase of “icehouse earth” that is abnormally cool for the planet. While this phase has lasted the entirety of human civilization and would have drastic consequences for many species should it end, it must be understood that temperatures and CO2 levels have normally been far higher, and the industrial contribution is relatively tiny.

    “We find that CO2 emissions [during the Cretaceous] resultin

    • Too bad we can't survive in an atmosphere of 35% oxygen and 6 to 10 times more CO2. So the distant past is irrelevant - we live in a different environment. Change it too much, we will suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs.
      • Too bad we can't survive in an atmosphere of 35% oxygen and 6 to 10 times more CO2. So the distant past is irrelevant - we live in a different environment. Change it too much, we will suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs.

        So if we release too many GHG emissions we'll end up getting hit with a giant asteroid that instantly incinerates thousands of miles of of land, causes massive tsunamis, global earthquakes and volcanoes, and dims the atmosphere for at least several years? Cool! Now that's a correlation I hadn't heard of before! ;-)

        • The dinosaur extinctions began well before any meteor impact. Blame climate change.
          • ...it asserts that the extinctions followed [philly.com] the impact.

            "The Alvarezes have argued that all 13 species of dinosaurs living in North America at the time of the asteroid's impact suddenly went extinct," Rigby said. "We now have evidence that at least 11 survived the asteroid collision. At the most, two species of dinosaurs went extinct - and we have some doubts about whether even that occurred."

            • "Suddenly" could mean 100s of 1000s of years ... there are various theories, but whether it was vulcanism or a meteor impact, it changed the climate.
    • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

      This raises the question of climate change. It should be conveyed and understood that we are in a phase of “icehouse earth” that is abnormally cool for the planet. While this phase has lasted the entirety of human civilization and would have drastic consequences for many species should it end, it must be understood that temperatures and CO2 levels have normally been far higher, and the industrial contribution is relatively tiny.

      No it doesn't raise a question about climate change. Why do you think humans exist independent of the climate system? The climate switching to the "hothouse" Earth would summarily cause an extinction event with an extremely high likelihood of taking us with it. That's the whole point.

      Your argument of "in the past" is completely irrelevant to present day. The current biodiversity (which has been precipitously plummeting as of late) is based on the current climate. Our species depends on the current climate.

      • "You seem to think a warmer planet/higher CO2 level is a good thing while completely ignoring the global devastation..."

        I will draw your attention to my opening statement:

        While this phase has lasted the entirety of human civilization and would have drastic consequences for many species should it end...

        I support all reasonable caution for the environment. I also have an interest in climate science, and the causes and conditions of "snowball/icehouse/hothouse" earth. You seem to have less interest in climate

      • Finally, 50,000 years ago or so modern humans showed up

        From Wikipedia: "The oldest fossil remains of anatomically modern humans are the Omo remains found in modern-day East Africa, which date to 195,000 (±5,000) years ago"

  • The best approach is to simply make any business in an industrial zone which has a smokestack pay for monitoring. Don't specify the means of monitoring, just specify what has to be monitored and how accurately. The free market will provide the hardware. The producers should be responsible for paying for the maintenance. In the bargain, implement a forced 30-day shutdown for any site found to be deliberately tampering with their emissions equipment, and longer forced shutdowns for subsequent offenses... let'

    • I'm not against atmospheric monitoring, but it's "never" (not any time soon) going to be as good as point-of-production monitoring. Every one of us who has a car made since 1996 is living under a regime like this, and in fact, the system is actually working very well to reduce automotive emissions. The car knows when it is producing excessive emissions and will light the MIL (malfunction indicator light) when it is producing more than 2.5 times the federal test standard. Cars usually produce way under the standard or way over, unless they have just a minor exhaust or intake leak or similar. It's illegal to tamper with the system and regular inspections "ensure" that this is not being done.

      Disclaimer, I have not followed by the Volkswagen closely at all (so sorry if this is a dumb question), but I was confused due to exactly what you say above. Surely there are at least some states that when inspecting cars inspect the actual emissions rather than just the computer diagnostics? Surely EPA / FHA / someone does this for new cars, right? How did VW get missed?

      • Disclaimer, I have not followed by the Volkswagen closely at all (so sorry if this is a dumb question), but I was confused due to exactly what you say above. Surely there are at least some states that when inspecting cars inspect the actual emissions rather than just the computer diagnostics?

        There are a variety of approaches used [wikipedia.org], and they actually vary by county or district; emissions control districts may or may not correspond directly to county borders. In California, there is mandatory testing every two years, or when a vehicle changes hands more than 30 days after a smog check, except to a family member. In two counties (one of which is Lake, I forget the other) there is no recurring smog check requirement, but all the other requirements remain the same. In a few counties, they are now do

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        VW "cheat" software was designed to fool emissions testing by sensing when it was being tested and go into the "clean emissions" mode (which was less efficient but cleaner).
        VW was finally busted by real world testing (which nobody does routinely). Some green advocacy group wanted to show Europe how green the VW cars were in the US and commissioned a series of tests which ended up busting VW.

  • *GASP* Holy crap! How dumb is that? We've been assuming that bottom up measurements are accurate. Let's think about this for a moment. You can't measure every single source nor can you measure any source with 100% accuracy. So what you end up with is a statistical approximation. Let's try an experiment that you can do at home. Go buy 100 resistors all of the same value, say 1k ohms. Hook them all up in series. Measure the resistance. The math would tell you that you should get 100k ohms. Ok, so

    • *GASP* Holy crap! How dumb is that?

      Until now, nobody cared much about CO2, so there wasn't a need to measure it accurately.

  • There were signs that diesels weren't as clean as they were advertised (and VW was found to be actually cheating) when the actual NOx emissions measured in cities were rising much faster than the models using the manufacturers emission numbers predicted.
    Probably a good idea to do both measurements.

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