South African scientists specializing in the observation of carbon emissions in the ocean, terrestrial, and atmospheric domains have concluded a significant workshop titled “Integrated Regional Observation Carbon-Climate Constraints”. They have devised a plan to enhance the country’s capacity to accurately monitor changing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as carbon sources and sinks.
The workshop, organized by Professor Pedro Monteiro from Stellenbosch University’s School for Climate Studies (SCS), marked the first collaborative meeting of its kind in South Africa. Professor Monteiro described it as a grassroots initiative aimed at establishing a gold standard of carbon observation within the next three to five years. He emphasized that while scientists in the field had already made significant contributions individually, their efforts had not been adequately coordinated. The workshop and subsequent initiatives seek to address this issue.
“What’s truly remarkable is that we now realize our community possesses all the necessary components of this puzzle,” stated Prof. Monteiro during his address to the workshop delegates. “In certain areas of the regional ocean-land-atmosphere system, we are capable of reconstructing 20-30 year maps of regional carbon variability using machine learning techniques, based on a few oceanic or terrestrial measurements. We can expand this to cover the entire region, but we need to integrate our efforts so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts within three years.”
Prof. Monteiro further proposed the establishment of a hub, potentially facilitated by the South African Environmental Observation Network (NRF-SAEON), to foster collaboration and amplify the impact of South Africa’s carbon-climate science on both local society and the global stage. He also commended the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) for its investments in core scientific and engineering infrastructure capabilities through initiatives such as the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR) Program.
South Africa faces a pressing need to enhance its carbon dioxide emissions monitoring to bolster confidence in model projections and support national and international mitigation policies. These efforts aim to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions, explore negative emissions, contribute to global stocktake assessments, foster a sustainable carbon market, and develop metrics to evaluate effectiveness. Dr. Gregor Feig, manager of the Expanded Freshwater and Terrestrial Environmental Observation Network (EFTEON) and co-organizer of the workshop, emphasized the importance of monitoring greenhouse gases and acknowledged the monitoring and evaluation challenges South Africa currently confronts.
The workshop took place at the National Research Foundation (NRF) offices in Brummeria, Pretoria, from May 16th to 17th. It was convened by EFTEON, a Research Infrastructure under the DSI SARIR Program hosted by NRF-SAEON, in collaboration with Stellenbosch University’s School for Climate Studies. Participating scientists hailed 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).