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New Climate Tool Tracks CO2 Emissions


The United States has announced the development of a new climate tool designed to keep track of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says this tool will enable its users to know whether their efforts to reduce or store carbon emissions are effective. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

Scientists blame climate change largely on man-made emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Until now, it has not been possible to distinguish between naturally produced carbon and human-produced fossil fuel emissions.

The administrator of NOAA, retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, says the carbon tracker now makes that possible. He says scientists will be able to take this information and determine the difference in net emissions between two cities or other localities. Lautenbacher says the carbon tracker can make an accurate assessment of carbon dioxide increases or decreases. This is very different from methods used now, which rely more on economics.

"Today we cannot do that. It is done by economic, what I would call parametric, estimates based on how much fuel is burned," he said. "People make estimates and in some cases they can measure what is produced from a power plant and how much fuel they use and what the chemical equation could tell you is being released. This is going to give you the measurement in the atmosphere and that is very, very critical because there are lots of other processes going on. So, that will be very useful to tell how our mitigation measures are working and what ought to be done."

Over the last five years, the United States has been working with Canada, Australia, France, Brazil and other countries to build a carbon-monitoring center.

Lautenbacher says the United States has put in place up to 60 very precise carbon- measuring stations in areas, such as forests and cities that have interesting data on carbon uptake or carbon release.

"We are able to collect that information and put it into a computerized tool - you want to call it model - tool, which provides a display on the Internet of where carbon concentrations are located around the world," he added. "So, given this information, we can give you a picture of the world and tell you where the carbon is. We can start to distinguish between anthropogenic carbon and naturally released or absorbed carbon."

Lautenbacher says the monitoring of fossil fuel emissions will be even more effective as more reporting stations are established around the world.

By pinpointing the problem, Lautenbacher says it is easier to arrive at solutions. He says other greenhouse gases will eventually be incorporated into the monitoring portfolio.