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Press Releases :: April 22, 2009

Committee Examines Federal Programs that Track Greenhouse Gases

(Washington, DC)—The House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing today to examine the systems available to track the emissions, sequestration and transport of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, on land, and in the oceans.  The hearing focused on federally-sponsored programs to monitor greenhouse gases. 

“Without robust monitoring and verification systems, we cannot understand the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases,” said Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN).  “We cannot detect changes in atmospheric or ocean chemistry or understand the potential impacts of those changes.  And, we cannot evaluate the effectiveness of policies to control emissions of greenhouse gases.  Equally important, we cannot verify compliance with emissions reductions agreements.”
 
The Committee is seeking to identify the key requirements that need to be addressed in developing a scientifically and operationally robust system for verifying compliance with potential climate agreements.  The current monitoring system serves primarily research and observation purposes.  Witnesses offered recommendations for enhancing the existing monitoring system so that it would be better able to provide the information required by a greenhouse gas control program.   These recommendations included such things as increasing the number and density of ground-based observations, enhancing vegetation inventories, and providing for continuity of satellite-based information such as the land cover information from Land Sat.  
 
Witnesses testified about the need for both top-down and bottom-up measures.  Top-down measures include satellite-based or ground-based monitoring focused on measurement of aggregate emissions over large areas or global averages.  Bottom-up measures include monitoring or reporting of emissions from specific facilities or geographic locations.  The extent and mix of top-down and bottom-up approaches will be different depending upon the design of the control program.
 
“Our colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee have begun their work to develop a plan to reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.  In December, 192 countries will meet in Copenhagen to forge an international agreement to reduce emissions.  We will need a robust monitoring system that is capable of telling us whether we are reducing emissions and meeting our policy goals.  And, we need to know how the Earth’s climate system is responding,” said Gordon.  “Of course, the specific design of the monitoring system will depend upon the type of emission control policy we ultimately decide upon.”
 
This is the second hearing in a series.  The Committee held a hearing on February 24, 2009 to examine greenhouse gas reporting systems and the methods used to verify the information reported to greenhouse gas registries. 
 
For more information, please see the Committee’s website.
 
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