Climate Scientists Plot Way Forward for SA Emissions Future

Climate Scientists Plot Way Forward for SA Emissions Future

South African scientists in the ocean, terrestrial and atmospheric carbon observation fields have concluded their seminal workshop themed Integrated Regional Observation Carbon-Climate Constraints and have plotted a way towards building capacity to strengthen the country’s ability to observe accurately the changing greenhouse gas emissions as well as carbon sources and sinks.

Professor Pedro Monteiro, from Stellenbosch University’s School for Climate Studies (SCS) and co-organiser of this first combined meeting of these scientists in South Africa, described the workshop as a bottom-up initiative to build towards that capability. “What we want is in three to five years’ time to have this, I’d like to call it, a gold standard of carbon observation,” he said.

“The country’s scientists in the field were already doing a lot of this work, but they combined efforts minimally. The workshop and future initiatives stemming from it will address this,” Prof. Monteiro told the workshop delegates. “What’s really amazing is that when we look at our community now, we realise that we can do all the required parts of that puzzle. In some parts of the regional ocean-land-atmosphere system, we can now go from some ocean or terrestrial measurements at a few locations to reconstructing 20 – 30 year maps of regional carbon variability using machine learning techniques. We can extend this to the whole region, but we need now to put it together so that what we have in three years’ time is bigger than the sum of the parts that we have at the moment.”

Prof. Monteiro added that institutions such as the South African Environmental Observation Network (NRF-SAEON) offered the possibility for the creation of a hub to facilitate the envisioned collaboration that would strengthen the impact of SA carbon-climate science both society and globally. “Furthermore, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has started to make critical investments in core scientific and engineering infrastructure capabilities, through the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR) Program and other initiatives.”

South Africa has a pressing need to improve its carbon dioxide emissions observations in order to increase confidence in model projections as well as to support national and international mitigation policies towards, net-Zero CO2 emissions and negative emissions through assessments such as the global stocktake as well as to contributing to a sustainable carbon market and to develop metrics to evaluate their effectiveness. Says Dr Gregor Feig, manager of the Expanded Freshwater and Terrestrial Environmental Observation Network (EFTEON) and co-organiser of the workshop, “We know that the monitoring of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses is a priority and South Africa faces a monitoring and evaluation challenge.”.

The workshop was held at the National Research Foundation (NRF) offices in Brummeria, Pretoria, from 16 to 17 May and convened by EFTEON, a Research Infrastructure under the DSI SARIR Program hosted by NRF-SAEON, and Stellenbosch University’s School for Climate Studies. Participating scientists were drawn from institutions such as the NRF and its facilities NRF-SAEON/EFTEON; universities; the Department of Forestry Fisheries and Environment; the SA Weather Service; and the DSI-CSIR Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observatory (SOCCO).

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