From Watts Up With That?
World Meteorological Congress approves global greenhouse gas monitoring initiative
In a recent development, the World Meteorological Congress approved the Global Greenhouse Gas Watch (GGGW), a project to monitor greenhouse gases on a global scale. The initiative intends to “fill critical information gaps” and provide a framework that brings together surface-based and space-based observing systems, modeling, and data assimilation capabilities.
We should cautiously welcome the initiative and the consolidation of international efforts it represents. As Prof. Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general, noted, “There are still uncertainties, especially regarding the role in the carbon cycle of the ocean, the land biosphere and the permafrost areas.”
However, while new data gathering initiatives like GGGW are important, how the collected data will be handled raises questions. Specifically, our concern should be what happens once this data starts being homogenized, filtered, adjusted, or otherwise processed for use in various climate models and political discussions.
The four main components of the GGGW initiative consist of:
- A global set of surface-based and satellite-based observations of CO2, CH4 and N2O concentrations, total column amounts, partial column amounts, vertical profiles and fluxes, and supporting meteorological, oceanic and terrestrial variables, internationally exchanged as rapidly as possible, pending capabilities and agreements with the system operators;
- Prior estimates of the GHG emissions based on activity data and process-based models;
- A set of global high-resolution Earth system models representing GHG cycles;
- Associated with the models, data assimilation systems that optimally combine the observations with model calculations to generate products of higher accuracy.
However, the devil, as they say, is in the details. Remember, scientific progress depends not only on data collection but also on rigorous, unbiased data analysis. So, how will the GGGW ensure that these vast data sets are processed in an impartial manner? We’ve seen instances in the past where data homogenization or filtering led to significant shifts in conclusions about climate trends. How do we ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes?
Dr. Lars Peter Riishøjgaard, deputy director of the WMO’s infrastructure department, stressed that the initiative will provide “valuable, timely and authoritative information on greenhouse gas fluxes to the UNFCCC parties.” This is all well and good, but we should also remember that these parties are political entities with their own agendas and pressures. Is there not a risk that this rich trove of data might be misused or skewed to fit preconceived narratives?
To safeguard the integrity of this project, we need transparency and open dialogue. The data and the methodologies used to process it should be freely available for scrutiny by independent scientists around the world. That’s the best way to ensure that this initiative lives up to its promise and truly helps us understand the complex issue of climate change.
In summary, we should welcome the GGGW initiative, but caution is necessary. If we’re to avoid the pitfalls of the past, transparency and impartiality in data processing and interpretation are crucial. The climate debate, fraught as it is with contention and political baggage, would benefit greatly from a robust and unbiased source of information. Let’s hope the GGGW can deliver just that.