CO2 Discrepancies between Top Data Reporters Create a Quandary for Policy Analysis

Policy Brief
1 January 2010

A review by the CO2Scorecard Group has revealed substantial discrepancies between the top publicly available global databases of CO2 emissions.

Differing methodologies and the use of back-end data have produced data sets with wildly divergent CO2 emissions estimates for monitored countries. These discrepancies are so great that they dwarf the annual reduction targets generally proposed under cap-and-trade programs, the Kyoto protocol and negotiations surrounding the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Our findings are based on the analysis of 2009 CO2 emission estimates reported by BP and PBL-Netherlands.

If some of the best available data sources are so discrepant with each other , it creates a real dilemma for policy analysis and a problem for managing human-induced climate change. With inadequately standardized methods for monitoring CO2 emissions, there is no way to verify the year-over-year impact of emissions mitigation programs at the national level. Many governments could go years claiming emissions reductions, merely by changing methodologies for measurement. Greater attention, standardization, empirical testing and third party audit of estimation methodologies is necessary to create a CO2 emissions reporting infrastructure that is able to support verification of impacts from efforts to reduce overall CO2 emissions at the national and global level.



Shakeb Afsah and Michael Aller

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Publication | 15 June 2011