2011 Proposal for ICOS-NL
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The following text is from the proposal we submitted in 2011. In 2013 we will submit a new proposal that will differ substantially from the previous proposal. Nevertherless the old proposal will give a good idea of our intentions and ambitions.

Coping with climate change is arguably the largest environmental challenge society faces in the coming century. Managing climate change requires understanding of the underlying causes. One well understood cause is the rise of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Their increase has been established beyond any doubt through careful measurements of their concentration over the past decades. Human actions are known to be the most important driver of this increase, but anthropogenic emissions tell only half the story. The response of natural ecosystems over land and in the ocean to increased levels of greenhouse gases forms the other half, introducing a complex set of interactions between humans, climate, and our use of natural resources. Our poor grasp of these interactions is partly responsible for the wide range of climate predictions, and the resulting stale-mate in negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Better monitoring of greenhouse gas exchange is the key to better understanding these interactions and hence to better science, needed to inform society on the best climate change abatement options. The infrastructure we propose here lies the foundation for this science.

The global nature of climate change and greenhouse gas exchange necessitates a global framework for this endeavor. For this reason the GEO (Group on Earth Observations) was launched in response to calls for action by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and by the G8 leading industrialized countries. According to GEO a national greenhouse gas monitoring infrastructure is "as important for countries as the building of roads and telecommunications networks". To contribute to the GEO goals, the EU has recently established the Integrated Carbon Observing System (ICOS) that aims to monitor greenhouse gas exchange at the precision, density, and frequency needed to verify emissions and quantify exchange with natural ecosystems in the EU. This effort exceeds the current national emission reporting to the UN as it derives information from the actual GHG levels in the atmosphere, rather than from statistics and estimated emission factors. Time after time, such data have been demonstrated to be inaccurate and biased low as the financial incentive to underreport emissions grows under protocols such as Kyoto and its planned successors. Under ICOS, individual EU countries can support the collaborative effort by any combination of (a) monitoring of greenhouse gas levels, (b) reporting of independently derived greenhouse gas balances, and (c) providing key infrastructure for ICOS. The Dutch contribution to ICOS, called ICOS-NL, will contribute to all three.

ICOS-NL will establish a national greenhouse gas monitoring infrastructure according to the prescribed international standards using a set of eight atmospheric monitoring sites, and six ecosystem-monitoring sites. The network will be augmented with auxiliary observations specifically useful in the densely populated and highly productive agro-industrial Dutch landscape. A commercial partner will establish and collaborate with a significant part of the atmospheric monitoring capacity. Independent greenhouse gas balances will be calculated and reported from the observations on an annual basis. This is one of the tasks of the ICOS-NL “Carbon Portal”: a new central facility to be part of the ICOS infrastructure, tasked with the collection, dissemination, valorization, and assimilation of all ICOS greenhouse gas information. Contributing the ICOS-NL Carbon Portal will put the Netherlands at the heart of ICOS, and pave the way for the better science and informed policy requested by GEO. This unique opportunity builds upon more than a decade of fruitful partnership and international leadership by Dutch carbon cycle scientists represented in our consortium.

The Carbon Portal will combine state-of-the-art IT infrastructure with state-of-the-art science. High performance computing will be done at SARA/NCF to fuse all European greenhouse gas observations with highly detailed greenhouse gas simulations, a task known as data assimilation. The seamless access to all ICOS data required for this task is ensured though the Carbon Portal, and the resulting independent annual balances will be digitally distributed through that same Portal in custom products targeting science, policy, and public outreach. Recognizing that the largest future challenge lies in attribution of GHG trends (to processes, regions, and activities) and verification of GHG trends (for treaties, national reports, trading, and reduction targets), we propose an intensive development and innovation track for the ICOS-NL infrastructure. It will enhance both our observational and numerical capacity, and focus on three themes relevant for the Netherlands: fossil fuel emissions, land-atmosphere exchange in natural ecosystems, and satellite remote sensing. In all three fields Dutch researchers have recently contributed high impact science and the chances for scientific breakthroughs through ICOS-NL are high.

Download the full proposal document (pdf)

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