A one-stop scientific website bringing together worldwide relevant data on climate change was launched in France last week (20 November), with the hope of contributing to the fight against global warming.
The LSCE, a French laboratory on climate and environment science, has recently launched a unique project called Global Carbon Atlas. The aim of the programme is to collect all scientific data on carbon dioxide, even with divergent results.
“We have many reports, sometimes the data are not well referenced to the sources. Here we will gather all the sources,” said Philippe Ciais, in charge of the LSCE project.
The website has been created in France but the information comes from all 30 different university laboratories which have contributed to the project, including the EU, China and soon a Brazilian partner should join the team.
It was launched online on 20 November, at the same time when the Global Carbon Project was publishing its annual list of CO2 emissions.
This year, the world is set for 36 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions, studies unveiled recently.
Scientists warn that emissions must be limited to 350 billion additional tonnes over the course of this century if we are to limit the increase of temperatures to +2°C.
Humans are estimated to have caused the release of 550 billion tonnes of CO2 since the beginning of the industrial revolution.
Scientific and pedagogical
The objective of the website is both scientific and pedagogical. It also fuels the debate about the “Anthropocene,” an informal term that serves to mark the impact of human activities on the climate.
“Depending on the data, we see that human CO2 emissions have varied to a large extent in the past too,” the expert adds.
Thus significant increases or decreases in the population have often had an impact on carbon dioxide emissions. The arrival of the Mongols in China, which decimated the Ming dynasty, led to a sharp decline in CO2 emissions, related to reforestation. The same phenomenon was observed in Europe in the fourteenth century when the plague took 25 million lives, reducing the population to a third.
The systematic crossing of data also allows identifying anomalies: “Our problem today is the margin of error due to more or less rigorous audits conducted by some countries. In China for example, the margin of error is 15%, while it’s 3-4% elsewhere,” the researcher explains.
China’s official emissions plummeted by 10% between 1997 and 2000. In 1997, the country banned a type of polluting coal loaded with sulfur. Its use, however, was banned progressively and not overnight.
“No doubt that the official statements were wrong," said Philippe Ciais.
This initiative is welcome in times when climatoscepticism regularly appears in debates.
“It’s a tool to trigger the fight against climate change”, said Michel Pebereau, president of honor of BNP Paribas, who helped fund the project.
The EU has a legally-binding goal for 2020 of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 20% and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix by the same amount, both measured against 1990 levels. A voluntary target of a 20% increase in energy efficiency is also in place.
Poland, which derives some 90% of its energy from coal, has dragged its feet on these targets and fervently opposed any expansion of the EU’s climate ambition.
In 2012 the Central European Energy Partners (Ceep), which was founded by, and is mostly made up of, state-owned Polish energy firms, organised the annual European coal industry conference in Brussels.
The year before that,controversy broke out, when EurActiv revealed that the then-Polish EU presidency’s logo appeared on posters advertising the Second Coal Days conference.