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Why This Matters: Nearly every nation in the world has presented a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for the Paris Climate Agreement–and many have made commitments to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Experts say that meeting these goals is crucial to preventing catastrophic temperature rise. But even as nations rally, deforestation and ocean acidification have increased, destroying essential carbon sinks. Accurately counting emissions while tracking carbon sequestration is complex and may not always provide the best optics for governments. But if countries fail to measure emissions, the world risks painfully undershooting its emissions targets.
Counting Trees: Christopher Williams, a forest expert at Clark University, says that this study “draws attention to something that has concerned many of us for quite a while — that our national greenhouse gas inventory reporting is not designed to measure and monitor true mitigation.”
Williams explains that this discrepancy can be traced back to some U.N. reporting rules surrounding “managed land” like national parks and regions with intensive forestry. These rules require countries to report how human activity impacts carbon emissions or sequestration from this land. But indirect factors, like atmospheric carbon stimulating forest growth, can be difficult to measure and separate from direct impacts. This challenge has led countries to create their own individual measurements, and emissions impacts of “managed land” can be very inconsistent from country to country. Giacomo Grassi, a forest expert at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and lead author of the study, explains that independent energy system modelers use one technique to measure emissions. Still, a country’s own scientist may use another.
Additionally, by reporting these indirect impacts, countries can take credit for indirect improvements rather than intentional policy or action. “There will be some policy and management in there, but a lot of it is going to be a free lunch,” said Glen Peters, research director of the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo. By counting carbon sinks, some countries can claim net-zero without implementing policies to prevent accelerating emissions which could harm their carbon sinks and lead to an emissions crisis in the future. But Grassi says there is an easy fix. Simply adjusting and standardizing measurement methods could help countries more accurately measure their direct emissions and reductions. “In the absence of these adjustments,” the study states, “collective progress would appear to be more on track than it actually is.”
Why This Matters: The world’s coffee “Bean Belt” is located in regions more vulnerable to the imminent impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures in areas between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer in countries worldwide are increasing disease and wiping out insects needed to pollinate coffee plants.
by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer After the German Constitutional Court ruled that the country’s climate plans weren’t sufficient, the government has announced its new plans: Cutting carbon emissions 65% by 2030 and 88% by 2040 (based on a 1990 baseline) Aiming for net-zero emissions by 2045, five years earlier than the initial target The […]
The world’s glaciers are melting faster than ever before, and it’s having significant consequences on the oceans, wildlife, and our coastlines. A study published Wednesday found that nearly all the world’s glaciers are melting, and some are withering at rates 31 percent higher than 15 years ago.
Why This Matters: As glaciers melt, habitats for critical species disappear, water sources deplete, coastlines recede, and dangerous glacial bursts threaten communities.
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