Monday, March 08, 2010

A thought about monitoring greenhouse gasses

The Economist
has an article pointing out that while scientists are trying to monitor greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, politicians are trying to develop public information systems to monitor the release of these gases from different sources in their economies. The two approaches give different answers:
Ray Weiss of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, has been studying the difference between these approaches. In most cases, he has found that the top-down estimates are appreciably higher. In some, such as that of sulphur hexafluoride, a powerful greenhouse gas that is used as an insulator in high-voltage electronics, the trends as well as the values are different: bottom-up accounts say emissions are falling; top-down analysis says they are going up.
Of course industries whose gas emissions are being monitored may have incentives to make those emissions appear less than they really are. If only scientists can develop means to incriminate the polluters from the distribution of pollutants in the atmosphere at reasonable cost, we may have a better regulatory approach.

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