Greenhouse gasses: Gore and NOAA attack 'planetary emergency'

While Al Gore was on Capital Hill today pressing Congress to cut pollution and in general save the world from itself, scientists from NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory announced a tool to more effectively monitor changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The tool, called CarbonTracker, will let its users evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts to reduce or store carbon emissions. CarbonTracker is an online system that calculates carbon dioxide uptake and release at the Earth's surface from a system of sensors all over the world over time. The online data framework distinguishes between changes in the natural carbon cycle and those occurring in human-produced fossil fuel emissions, NOAA said in a release. It also provides verification for scientists using computer models to project future climate change. Potential users include corporations, cities, states and nations assessing their efforts to reduce or store fossil fuel emissions around the world. "NOAA encourages science that adds benefit to society and the environment. CarbonTracker does both," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "Increasingly, observations of the Earth are demonstrating a remarkable impact on our understanding of human and natural systems. We are transitioning this understanding gained from intensive research into operations that benefit the environment and the economy." According to NOAA, until now, scientists have relied on limited direct records of atmospheric carbon dioxide, mainly from remote locations. Also, previously available computer models could not maximize the utility of the information derived. Only analyses of very broad global patterns of carbon dioxide emissions and uptake were possible. Estimates of local carbon emissions have used proxy data, such as reported point-source inventories, gasoline sales records, and other tallies from energy organizations and nations monitoring greenhouse gases, but there has been no way to verify what was actually released into the atmosphere. CarbonTracker uses many more continuous observations than previously taken. The largest concentration of observations for now is from within North America. The data are fed into a sophisticated computer model with 135 ecosystems and 11 ocean basins worldwide, NOAA said. NOAA collaborates with partners in France, Australia, Brazil and other nations to measure greenhouse gases globally. Meanwhile Gore, in testimony before a congressional committee, warned that human- caused global warming constituted a "planetary emergency" requiring an aggressive federal response. Gore rejected complaints by Republican lawmakers that he was waging an alarmist war on the use of coal and oil. Gore, evoking much the same message that is in his Oscar-winning movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," told House committees that humans are artificially warming the world, the risks of inaction are great, and meaningful global action to cut emissions linked to warming will happen only if the United States takes decisive action.

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