The Paris climate accord, a United Nations agreement to reduce emissions, is under threat from released gases that are not being officially recorded.
Monitoring equipment at Jungfraujoch, Switzerland, has uncovered large quantities of climate-warming gases being released in a location in Italy for the past 9 years. It is believed that between 60-80 tonnes of the substance have been released each year.
However, official Italian submissions of emissions state that only a very small amount of the substance was actually released.
Experts believe that in some cases official records could be incorrect by a figure of plus or minus 100%.
It is believed that incorrect measurements such as these could cause a bigger impact for the Paris deal than the withdrawal of Donald Trump’s America.
A requirement of the Paris accord is that all 195 signatories must file an inventory of its greenhouse-gas emissions every two years. A majority of these nations provide ‘bottom up’ statistics detailing figures such as car journey numbers and the heating used for homes.
Scientists in Switzerland have previously published data in 2011 which details their findings of a significant emission of a gas called HFC-23, in northern Italy. It is claimed that the refrigeration and air-conditioning gas is around 14,800 times more warming to the atmosphere than CO2.
However, the Swiss scientists believe that despite the official figures published in Italy, the gas is still being released in large quantities.
“Our estimate for this location in Italy is about 60-80 tonnes of this substance being emitted every year. Then we can compare this with the Italian emission inventory, and that is quite interesting because the official inventory says below 10 tonnes or in the region of two to three tonnes,” said Dr Stefan Reimann, from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology.
“They actually say it is happening, but they don’t think it is happening as much as we see.
“Just to put it into perspective, this greenhouse gas is thousands of times stronger than CO2.
“So, that would be like an Italian town of 80,000 inhabitants not emitting any CO2.”
Italian environment agency officials spoke to the BBC and stated that its figures are accurate and that they fully complied with UN regulation, refuting the Swiss figures.
China’s use of coal for power generation has also been under heavy revision but despite this, Dr Stefan Reimann states: “We still see 10,000-20,000 tonnes coming out of China every year.”
“That is something that shouldn’t be there.”
“There is actually no Chinese inventory for these gases, as they are banned and industry shouldn’t be releasing them anymore.”
China’s approach to reporting its emissions is also under scrutiny as is latest submission ran to 30 pages, whereas the UK’s was many hundreds of pages long. This is not helped by china’s defiance and lack of acceptance that in 2007 it was the world’s biggest emitter of CO2.
Dr Angel Hsu from Yale University stated: “I was working in China in 2007, I would include a citation and statistics that made this claim of China’s position as the number one emitter – these were just stricken out, and I was told the Chinese government doesn’t yet recognise this particular statistic so we are not going to include it.”
Errors in China’s 2013 figures totalled around 10% of global emissions.
For unknown reasons, global levels of Methane have been continuing to rise. Methane is the second most populous greenhouse gas after CO2 and is primarily emitted from rice cultivation, landfill and agriculture.
For countries with large methane emissions such as India, which contains around 15% of the world’s livestock, figures are highly uncertain.
Dr Anita Ganesan of the University of Bristol says: “What they note is that methane emissions are about 50% uncertain for categories like ruminants, so what this means is that the emissions they submit could be plus or minus 50% of what’s been submitted, for nitrous oxide, that’s 100%.”
‘Never Mind Statistics’
Professor Euan Nisbet for the university of London states: “What we’re worried about is what the planet experiences, never mind what the statistics are.”
“In the air, we see methane going up. The warming impact from that methane is enough to derail Paris.”