Towards treaty verification of all non-CO2 long-lived greenhouse gases

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Many countries are required to report emissions of long-lived greenhouse gasses (LLGHG) under international agreements or emissions trading schemes. In the near future it is hoped that such programmes will be extended to every nation on Earth under a global climate treaty, to curb the damaging effect these gasses have on the environment. Whilst national emissions are currently reported based on 'bottom-up' methods (in which emissions inventories are compiled by considering factors such as fossil fuel use), it is clear that accurate and independent verification of these estimates will be vital if such treaties are to be successful. Here I propose to address this issue through the development the first system that can determine emissions of all of the most damaging non-carbon dioxide LLGHGs: methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), halons, perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). Together they account for one third of mankind's contribution to the 'greenhouse effect'. A new modelling system is proposed for the determination of LLGHG emissions using atmospheric measurements. The method will use two complementary models to maximise the information that can be extracted from the measurements by allowing emissions to be derived at high resolution close to monitoring locations and low resolution further from them. Because of the unique combination of models and techniques in this system it will be possible, for the first time, to derive emissions of all of the above LLGHGs simultaneously, allowing mutually-beneficial information to be shared between the fields being determined. The two most important non-CO2 LLGHGs, methane and nitrous oxide, will require special attention in the proposed 'inversion'. These gasses differ from the majority of LLGHGs in that they have large, but very uncertain, natural components. Their year-to-year variability has been the subject of much debate and their likely future growth is very poorly understood. To further our understanding of the behaviour of these gasses, I will employ new techniques in collaboration with partners at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research and Massachusetts Institute of Technology: parameter estimation of a state-of-the-art wetland methane emissions model, and the incorporation of the first high-frequency isotopologue measurements of nitrous oxide into the proposed model framework. The proposed research will provide a unique opportunity to answer one of the most important questions in modern atmospheric chemistry: what is the concentration and variability of the hydroxyl radical? This is a key question because the hydroxyl radical is the single largest 'cleaner' of pollutants from the atmosphere. The novel multi-species inversion outlined in this proposal will allow much tighter constraints to be placed on this quantity, providing vital information with which to test future models of atmospheric chemistry and transport, and to predict how the lifetimes of LLGHGs may change in the future. The outcomes of this proposal will be the most accurate and comprehensive emissions estimates of all non-CO2 LLGHGs currently available, an increase in our fundamental understanding of methane and nitrous oxide source partitioning and variability, and a greater knowledge of the behaviour of the hydroxyl radical. These aims are recognised as being particularly important to the evaluation of the UK Climate Change Act (2008), and as such DECC and DEFRA will provide letters of support. The understanding gained from the proposed work, and the techniques developed, will pave the way towards international treaty verification for these important greenhouse gasses.

Publications

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Chipperfield M (2016) Model sensitivity studies of the decrease in atmospheric carbon tetrachloride in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

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Kirschke S (2013) Three decades of global methane sources and sinks in Nature Geoscience

 
Title World of Music Arts and Dance installation "Collective Breath" 
Description Interactive installation by Neville Gabie and inspired by trace gas sampling carried out at the Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group (Bristol), in which bags of "breath" were collected from WOMAD festival-goers and compressed to play a musical instrument. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact Installation at WOMAD, which included talks by me and other scientists. Video at Mace Head monitoring station, Ireland. 
URL http://www.nevillegabie.com/womad-music-festival-2014/
 
Description Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are primarily responsible for stratospheric ozone depletion. Using atmospheric CFC measurements and a model of atmospheric chemistry and transport, we have estimated the lifetimes of CFCs in the atmosphere. We find that the most important of these, CFC-11 and CFC-12, will decay from the atmosphere with timescales of approximately 54 and 110 years respectively. Using similar techniques, we estimated the lifetime of potent greenhouse gases such as methane, HCFCs and HFCs, a vital first step in being able to determine their emissions using measurements and models (Rigby et al., 2013).

There is currently a great deal of debate amongst scientists and policy makers regarding whether to regulate HFCs under the Montreal Protocol due to their high global warming potentials. In Rigby et al. (2014), we examined recent trends in HFCs and other synthetic greenhouse gases and estimated the influence of such global treaty changes on climate. We found that the proposed changes to the Montreal Protocol could result in a reduction in radiative forcing by 2050 equivalent to between 0.5 and 3 years of global CO2 emissions.

In Lunt et al. (2015) we showed inaccuracies in global HFC emissions reports.

The methods developed in this work have been applied to several additional problems relating to trace gas emissions and trends, resulting in over 10 further publications.
Exploitation Route This research is important for policy makers who are responsible for estimating and reporting national greenhouse gas emissions.

By better constraining the future recovery timescales of stratospheric ozone, it will also allow policy makers to better account for future health impacts due to stratospheric ozone loss. This research provides valuable information for researchers who are interested in estimating the recovery of stratospheric ozone, and the rate of accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Sectors Environment

URL http://mattrigby.blogs.bris.ac.uk
 
Description This work has been used in the IPCC assessment reports and WMO Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion. It has therefore been used to inform policy makers involved in climate and ozone depletion.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Contributing authorship of World Meteorological Organisation Scientific Assessment of Ozone depletion
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
URL http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/arep/gaw/ozone_2014/ozone_asst_report.html
 
Description Contributing authorship to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (Working group 1, Chapter 2)
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
URL http://www.climatechange2013.org
 
Description Lead authorship of World Meteorological Organisation Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2018
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/csd/assessments/ozone/2018/
 
Description SPARC Report on the Mystery of Carbon Tetrachloride
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL https://doi.org/10.3929/ethz-a-010690647
 
Description Greenhouse gAs Uk and Global Emissions
Amount £783,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/K002236/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2013 
End 10/2016
 
Description Met Office Newton Fund - Brazilian methane emissions
Amount £179,000 (GBP)
Organisation Meteorological Office UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2020
 
Description NERC standard grant
Amount £800,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R000921/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2021
 
Description PhD studentship with Edwards Ltd.
Amount £81,000 (GBP)
Organisation Edwards 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 03/2019
 
Description Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) 
Organisation Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Country Australia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution International programme to measure and model atmospheric trace gases
Collaborator Contribution Data provision. Model development.
Impact Several publications (e.g. Rigby et al., 2013; 2014).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) 
Organisation Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology
Country Switzerland 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution International programme to measure and model atmospheric trace gases
Collaborator Contribution Data provision. Model development.
Impact Several publications (e.g. Rigby et al., 2013; 2014).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) 
Organisation Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution International programme to measure and model atmospheric trace gases
Collaborator Contribution Data provision. Model development.
Impact Several publications (e.g. Rigby et al., 2013; 2014).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Edwards Ltd. semiconductor manufacture PFC emissions 
Organisation Edwards
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Model simulations of perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in the atmosphere.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of data and expertise.
Impact No outcomes yet.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Global Carbon Project-methane 
Organisation Laboratory of Climate Sciences and the Environment (LSCE)
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Model simulations of global atmospheric methane
Collaborator Contribution Publications, data provision
Impact Kirschke et al (2013), Nature Geoscience.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Greenhouse gAses, Uk and Global Emissions (GAUGE) 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Part of the NERC greenhouse gases and feedbacks programme.
Collaborator Contribution New observations, model development.
Impact New measurement stations in the UK
Start Year 2013
 
Description Greenhouse gAses, Uk and Global Emissions (GAUGE) 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council
Department Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Part of the NERC greenhouse gases and feedbacks programme.
Collaborator Contribution New observations, model development.
Impact New measurement stations in the UK
Start Year 2013
 
Description Greenhouse gAses, Uk and Global Emissions (GAUGE) 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Department School of Geosciences Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Part of the NERC greenhouse gases and feedbacks programme.
Collaborator Contribution New observations, model development.
Impact New measurement stations in the UK
Start Year 2013
 
Description Greenhouse gAses, Uk and Global Emissions (GAUGE) 
Organisation University of Leeds
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Part of the NERC greenhouse gases and feedbacks programme.
Collaborator Contribution New observations, model development.
Impact New measurement stations in the UK
Start Year 2013
 
Description Greenhouse gAses, Uk and Global Emissions (GAUGE) 
Organisation University of Leicester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Part of the NERC greenhouse gases and feedbacks programme.
Collaborator Contribution New observations, model development.
Impact New measurement stations in the UK
Start Year 2013
 
Description Greenhouse gAses, Uk and Global Emissions (GAUGE) 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Part of the NERC greenhouse gases and feedbacks programme.
Collaborator Contribution New observations, model development.
Impact New measurement stations in the UK
Start Year 2013
 
Description Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
Organisation Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I collaborate closely with Prof. Ron Prinn, who is PI of the AGAGE network, at MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Collaborator Contribution Access to data, model development
Impact The collaboration has so far involved several joint publications (e.g. Rigby et al., 2013; 2014) and invited visits to MIT.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Met Office 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Expertise in inverse methods
Collaborator Contribution Exertise in atmospheric modelling
Impact Publications.
Start Year 2012
 
Description NASA JPL 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Statistical investigation of model parameterisations in OCO-2 retrieval code.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of data and model output.
Impact No outcomes yet
Start Year 2016
 
Description National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) 
Organisation National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration
Department Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL)
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Modelling of greenhouse gases.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of greenhouse gas data and expertise
Impact Several publications have resulted from this collaboration.
Start Year 2012
 
Description University of Wollongong 
Organisation University of Wollongong
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Model runs, data provision and processing, expertise in atmospheric modelling and statistics.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in statistics
Impact Several publications, with further work in the pipeline.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Carbon tetrachloride workshop: Solving the carbon tetrachloride mystery 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A workshop to determine the global budget of carbon tetrachloride, a potent ozone depleting substance. A report of the workshop is in progress and will be disseminated to policy makers involved in the Montreal Protocol.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.sparc-climate.org/news/news/news/2015/02/19/workshop-on-solving-the-mystery-of-carbon-tet...
 
Description GAUGE press release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Press release describing the newly funded GAUGE project

N/A
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Royal Society Pairing Scheme 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Spent 3 days in Parliament shadowing Stephen Williams MP. Organised a reciprocal visit to the University of Bristol.

Significant interest from Stephen Williams in atmospheric greenhouse gases. Tweated his followers saying that he'd learned about HFCs and other greenhouse gases.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013
 
Description University of Bristol, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry invited seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Invited seminar on the role of ozone depleting substances and greenhouse gases on climate.

Enquires about my research from members of the university not involved in atmospheric chemistry
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description WMO Integrated Greenhouse Gas Information System (IG3IS) workshop on Moroccan, South African and Brazilian emissions 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Workshop with three countries to develop strategies for setting up greenhouse gas monitoring capabilities in each.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017