Carbon in North America

November 28th, 2007

Posted by: admin

I didn’t want the month to expire without mention of the release of “SAP 2.2“, or The First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR): The North American Carbon Budget and Implications for the Global Carbon Cycle, a report three years in the making issued by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. Disclaimer, I was co-lead for the report, which was authored by over 90 scientists from a wide variety of disciplines. The bottom-line punchline is that sources (such as emissions from energy) outweigh sinks (such as forest and soil uptake) in North America by approximately 3:1. This strongly suggests that sinks by themselves are not going to be sufficient to deal with removing emissions in the future. Sinks are also likely to decline and become more uncertain in the future– consider the scientific reports just this month on the volatility of sinks (a few weeks ago, we heard about emissions from forest fires, this week, it is about the reduced carbon uptake during the drought of 2002).

Being a bit of an insider on this report, I wanted to share my own personal opinion on what was distinct and unique about this effort for carbon cycle science and for the CCSP reports issued thus far.

As far at the treatment of carbon cycle science, it was the first attempt that we were aware of that examined the balance of carbon at the continental scale in North America with a common data framework from the ground up, meaning not from atmospheric data. We of course built off of many previous efforts at a national or regional scale. The second notable approach was the decision to place equal emphasis on the human activity components of the carbon cycle in North America and the land (and coastal) components. Carbon cycle science is often presented as a budget with much detail on the land, ocean and atmosphere side, with not much detail for the “source” terms, the energy side of the question. The document includes chapters on energy extraction and conversion, transportation, buildings, industry and so on. Also, we included from the start economic and policy analyses to provide a decision-relevant context to our information. Finally, we tried our best to include stakeholders and potential users of the information from the start of the process, at the outline stage, all the way to the finished draft. We held three separate workshops, provided numerous opportunities for comment, and changed the structure and questions answered in response to our participants. The process took more time, resources and effort, but was essential in the team’s mind to fulfilling our mandate to be policy-relevant. Only time will tell if we succeeded. Some of the news coverage can be found here:
usa today
Rocky Mountain News
Science Daily

and blogged by Andy Revkin of the NY Times here:

Please check out the report, feedback welcome!

One Response to “Carbon in North America”

  1. LDilling Says:

    Apologies to the person who commented here, we have experienced problems with our site and some comments/posts have been lost. We did not remove this comment intentionally. thanks, Lisa