Geography Compass

Emission monitoring reveals a pattern of under-reporting

By Clare Boston

Scientists have revealed that the actual amount of emissions produced by companies and countries is much greater than those reported.  Under the UN Kyoto Protocol, rich countries and companies are able to increase their emissions by paying companies in developing countries to reduce theirs.  This is carried out through the protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is intended to assist poorer countries with development.  However, it appears that atmospheric concentrations of industrial gases such as sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) and carbon tetrafluoride(CF4) are much higher than the reported emissions data would suggest, implying that this data is often under-reported.

Professor Ray Weiss from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California and others have been monitoring regional and global concentrations of these greenhouse gases and are now able to locate problem areas.  This study is just one of many greenhouse gas monitoring programs.  In a recent article in Geography Compass, Marc Imhoff and others discuss the results from the Terra Mission satellite, part of NASA’s Earth Observing System, which provides data on the carbon cycle.  This data includes global and regional primary production, ecosystem structure, biomass, and the distribution of fires, abundance of smoke and CO.  This will greatly increase our understanding of the carbon cycle and the relationship between vegetation, soils and fires and atmospheric CO2 concentrations, therefore helping to understand the effect of industrial emissions on the carbon cycle and other earth systems.

Read Richard Black’s report on under-reported industry emissions on BBC News Online

Read Marc Imhoff et al. (2009). An overview of Terra Mission results related to the carbon cycle. Geography Compass

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