Greenhouse Gas Inventories
Dealing With Uncertainty
Matthias Jonas and Others
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The assessment of greenhouse gases emitted to and removed from the atmosphere is high on the international political and scientific agendas. Growing international concern and cooperation regarding the climate change problem have increased the need for policy-oriented solutions to the issue of uncertainty in, and related to, inventories of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The approaches to addressing uncertainty discussed here reflect attempts to improve national inventories, not only for their own sake but also from a wider, systems analytical perspective — a perspective that seeks to strengthen the usefulness of national inventories under a compliance and/or global monitoring and reporting framework. These approaches demonstrate the benefits of including inventory uncertainty in policy analyses. The authors of the contributed papers show that considering uncertainty helps avoid situations that can, for example, create a false sense of certainty or lead to invalid views of subsystems. This may eventually prevent related errors from showing up in analyses. However, considering uncertainty does not come for free. Proper treatment of uncertainty is costly and demanding because it forces us to make the step from “simple to complex” and only then to discuss potential simplifications. Finally, comprehensive treatment of uncertainty does not offer policymakers quick and easy solutions.