IGOS PARTNERS MEETING
Global Carbon Observations (IGCO) Theme
1. Background and Rationale
The growing consensus that human activities are already affecting global climate and that the emission of greenhouse gases are the primary cause has led to an initial policy response via the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol. These mechanisms represent the first attempt by mankind, acting collaboratively across the world, to manage, at least partly, a global element cycle of the Earth System - the global carbon cycle.
This challenge requires the support of a coordinated set of international activities - scientific research, observation, and assessment. The latter is perhaps the most advanced, with the pioneering work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) providing the scientific assessment required for the policy action; the IPCC's Third Assessment Report (TAR) is due to be delivered in May 2001. In terms of scientific research, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) has coordinated international research on aspects of the global carbon cycle for over a decade, but only recently has IGBP joined forces with the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) to build an international framework for integrated research on the carbon cycle.
The IGOS (Integrated Global Observing Strategy) Partnership provides the ideal platform on which to build the third 'pillar' of international carbon activities - an integrated strategy for the observation of the global carbon cycle - land, oceans, atmosphere and human activities, as well as observations of the dynamics of the carbon cycle in the past. IGOS is the only group where both the in situ and space-based observation communities as well as the international global environmental change research programmes 'sit at the same table', facilitating common approaches to complex observational and scientific research challenges.
This document calls for the relevant IGOS Partners to join together to develop a strategy for Integrated Global Carbon Observations - the IGCO Theme. This proposal is for the first phase of the theme - the development of the strategy only. The implementation of the theme, in terms of operationalizing the strategy, would require a different set of agencies and organizations and a different lead group. The proposal also recognises that IGOS earlier identified the importance of an overarching global carbon theme and asked GOOS (Global Ocean Observing System), GCOS (Global Climate Observing System), GTOS (Global Terrestrial Observing System), IGBP and NASA (representing CEOS) to prepare a proposal(s) for such a theme. (This group of five organizations, hereafter called the IGCO Group (see notes on terminology in Section 3.1), represents a core of relevant IGOS Partners; other relevant IGOS Partners may join the theme as it develops - see Section 3.2 below.) This document is a step towards such a proposal.
The objective of the IGCO theme is:
to develop a flexible and robust strategy for international, integrated global carbon observations over the next decade. The strategy should:
- Seek integrated solutions using both remote and in situ observations;
- Build upon existing efforts to identify priority observation requirements in terrestrial, oceanic and atmospheric components of the carbon cycle;
- Integrate observational strategies in the terrestrial, oceanic, and atmospheric compartments, and appropriate palaeo and human dimensions components/sectors of the carbon cycle;
- Be compatible and integrated with the international framework for carbon research being developed by the three international global environmental change programmes (IGBP, IHDP, WCRP) and responsive to the policy needs of the UNFCCC, with the IPCC providing the essential linkage between scientific research and assessment and policy applications;
- Be flexible enough to incorporate new observation approaches as both science and measurement technologies develop and requirements evolve;
- Be robust enough to meet the challenges of continuity and consistency;
3. Development of the IGCO Theme
The recent IGOS-P-5 meeting in Geneva (June 2000) re-emphasised the need for a global carbon theme. Subsequently, IGBP has worked closely with GTOS and GOOS to build an integrated carbon theme, based largely on existing and planned 'component' activities.
Several ongoing activities provide the nucleus for an IGCO theme. First, the existing TCO (Terrestrial Carbon Observation) theme, based on a partnership involving GTOS and IGBP, has mechanisms in place to work with the scientific community and has organised two workshops on the topic. This provides a sound base on which to build towards an IGCO theme. Second, the existing Oceans Theme, in partnership with GOOS and its panels, has done work towards developing an ocean carbon observation strategy. Third, the ongoing initiative of IGBP, IHPD and WCRP to develop an international framework for research on the global carbon cycle provides an appropriate in-built platform and mechanism to develop the IGCO theme in close collaboration with the scientific community.
The following terms are used to describe components in the structure proposed to implement the IGCO theme:
IGCO Group - the group of IGOS Partners (organisations) which formally agree to contribute to the IGCO theme (currently 5 - see Section 3.2).
IGCO Coordinating Team - the group of 9 individuals, representing contributing IGOS Partners, who have ultimate oversight of the development of the IGCO theme on behalf of IGOS-P.
IGCO Leadership Team - the group of 3 coordination team members who will lead the coordinating functions on behalf of the IGCO Coordinating Team, which is too large to do this efficiently as a 'committee of the whole' on a day-to-day basis.
IGCO Theme Team - the group of scientists who are developing the detailed technical plans and outputs. It has terrestrial and ocean sub-teams.
3.2 The IGCO Group: GOOS, GCOS, GTOS, IGBP, NASA (for CEOS) (cf Action 4/9 - IGOS-P-5). Notes:
- Other IGOS Partners are most welcome to join the IGCO Group, as interest and resources allow.
- The IGCO Group should use their connections to other organisations which are relevant but not yet in IGOS-P to entrain the expertise of these groups in the development of the IGCO theme (e.g., IGBP with IHDP and IPCC; GOOS with the SCOR-IOC Ocean CO2 Panel and the International Ocean-Colour Coordinating Group).
3.3 Management Structure
An IGOS Carbon Coordinating Group already exists to guide the development of an overarching carbon theme. As noted above, it is now called the IGCO Coordinating Group. It currently consists of:
A Dahl, UNEP
The group thus includes representatives of the five current IGCO Group members. Additional IGOS Partners may appoint a representative to the IGCO Coordinating Group.
A large and inclusive set of IGCO Group members is important to (i) obtain critical inputs to the development of the theme, and (ii) enhance 'buy-in' for the implementation of the theme. However, a day-to-day management structure based on the IGCO Coordinating Group members presents a somewhat unwieldy operational mechanism. We propose that GOOS, GTOS and IGBP form a leadership group to guide the development of the IGCO theme, and that the representatives of these three on the IGCO Coordinating Group (Summerhayes, Tschirley, Steffen, respectively) act as an IGCO Leadership Group to lead, in practice, the development of the theme, on behalf of the IGCO Coordinating Group and Partners. IGBP has offered to act as the coordinator for the Leadership Group to ensure that consensus is reached among the IGCO Group members and that the Leadership Group agrees on a workplan and actions to be taken.
3.4 IGCO Theme Team
The development of an IGOS theme is led by a 'theme team', the group of people who put together the scientific underpinning and technical strategy for the theme. The TCO theme team (now the IGCO terrestrial sub-team), co-led by Josef Cihlar and Scott Denning, has already completed much work and is well on the way to achieving the goals of the TCO. Recently, a leadership team of Maria Hood, Scott Doney and Art Alexiou has been formed to lead the development of the oceans component of the IGCO theme, building on the existing Oceans theme work as well as scientific developments within IGBP. This group will liaise with and consult the Ocean Observations Panel for Climate (OOPC), with IOCCG and with the SCOR-IOC CO2 Panel. As for TCO, the oceans theme sub-team will adopt a flexible approach using their judgement to co-opt people to achieve the theme objectives in as efficient a way as possible.
The integration of the terrestrial and oceans components (and implicitly the atmosphere) with other aspects of carbon observation (e.g., palaeo) is the responsibility of the IGCO Leadership Group. Alan Thomas of GCOS has offered to assist the Leadership Group with this task. Additional support, as required, will be co-opted from within the Theme Team, and beyond if necessary.
3.5 Development Activities
A series of activities organized by IGBP and its GEC colleagues provide a convenient framework in which to carry out the work of the IGCO Theme Team, saving both people's time and scarce resources. In between, much progress can be achieved via electronic communication.
The earlier meetings in Ottawa and Lisbon, which were the major events in the development of the TCO theme, also lay the groundwork for the IGCO theme. The key additional activities already planned that are relevant for the IGCO theme include:
- Joint EC-US Ocean Carbon Cycle Science meeting, Paris, 6-8 September. This meeting is designed to focus on the ocean component of the carbon cycle, addressed the major gap from the Lisbon meeting and preparing for the October meeting in the USA. Both research and observations will be included. The oceans part of the IGCO Theme Team will likely hold a dedicated working group session as part of this meeting.
- Future of Ocean Biogeochemistry Research, Plymouth, UK, 23-25 September. This meeting, co-sponsored by SCOR and IGBP, will help set the future international directions for global change research in the oceans. Although it is not focused on the carbon cycle per se, it may identify research and observational needs for work on the interaction between the carbon and other element cycles, which may be of relevance for the IGCO theme.
- US/EU IGBP/IHDP Integrated Carbon Meeting, Durham, NH, USA, 16-20 October. This major workshop will involve 50-60 scientists representing all aspects of the carbon cycle (terrestrial, ocean, atmospheric, palaeo, human dimensions). The primary objectives are to develop an integrated, international approach to studying the global carbon cycle in the form of a framework for collaboration and integration (work begun in Lisbon); and to develop further the IGCO theme on global carbon cycle observation. The meeting will include dedicated working group sessions of the IGCO Theme Team to push the development of the observational strategy towards completion. The emphasis at this meeting will be on the integration of the terrestrial and ocean components.
- Any other small follow-up meetings which may be required to complete aspects of either framework document (see below) – research or observations. A possible meeting to enhance human dimensions input into the planning process has been mooted, for example.
In addition, there is much ongoing work that has resulted in several expert reports dealing with aspects (or all) of this strategy, such as the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Plan, the Carbo-Europe Cluster reports, and the reports of the Ocean Observations Conference at St Raphael in October 1999 (as well as the IOC-SCOR CO2 meeting in Paris in early September 2000). This work provides much valuable input into the development of the IGCO theme.
3.6 Other Issues
So far the global carbon cycle has been viewed in terms of its biophysical aspects, usually broken down into atmospheric, ocean and terrestrial compartments. Yet, the reason for the current intense interest in the behaviour of the global carbon cycle is (i) the nature of the human perturbation to the cycle, and (ii) the perspective that this human perturbation is without precedent over the past 420,000 years at least, from ice core evidence.
Discussions of observation strategies on the global carbon cycle have so far focused primarily on the contemporary biophysical aspects of the cycle. An issue which the IGCO Theme Team may wish to discuss is the extent to which the strategy should incorporate palaeo observations and observations on the human dimensions of the carbon cycle. Although such considerations should not dilute the primary focus on operational requirements for terrestrial and oceanic observations, both remotely sensed and in situ, over the next decade, we should retain enough flexibility in the strategy to accommodate innovative observational strategies in these other areas as they are developed (e.g., the 'socializing the pixel' initiative in the human dimensions community).
In the context of the human dimension, there is a need for the IGCO theme to define with some precision the value of carbon observation data to land managers and policy makers working at the national level on economic development activities related to forestry, agriculture and industrial development. The products that they may find useful in their work needs consideration if a broad base of support for observational activities is to be built.
We propose that two products, both under the IGOS-P banner, be delivered as outcomes of the IGCO theme. These products will be developed with oversight, feedback and ultimate approval of the steering committees/groups of the contributing Partners.
4.1 Framework for Integrated Global Carbon Observations
We propose that the primary product be a succinct, attractive framework document (not more than 50 pages, and preferably less) that clearly sets out the objectives and strategy for the IGCO theme. It would be published and distributed in May 2001, if possible. The document would be one of a set of two, complementary documents: (i) the 50 page (or less) framework document for an integrated global carbon observation strategy, published by IGOS-P; (ii) a ca. 50 page scientific framework for international carbon research, with observations as one of the components (along with experiments, process studies, models, etc.), published by IGBP, IHDP and WCRP. The two documents would be interlinked and draw upon one another. A detailed outline, with some text, of the scientific research document has been drafted and is being expanded; an initial outline of the terrestrial part of the observations document was drafted at the Lisbon EU-IGBP-GTOS workshop.
The timing and complementarity of the two documents would send a timely and clear message to the global carbon policy community. The IPCC TAR will set out the current state of understanding and the challenge to both observation and research. The IGOS-P and IGBP/IHDP/WCRP documents will answer that challenge in a coordinated and timely way. Considerable care will be needed in drafting and designing this document, as it could be a powerful tool in helping to obtain resources to implement the IGCO theme.
4.2 Detailed Implementation Strategy
In terms of helping the relevant agencies and members of the scientific community to actually implement the IGCO theme and make use of its data, a more detailed, technically authoritative document(s) is/are required. A model for that type of document is already under development for the TCO. The IGCO theme would need to address some important issues related to the integration of this material. For example, identifying key observations in one component (e.g. terrestrial, oceans) that constrain recommended observations in another; identifying key observations (including issues related to scaling, frequency, methodology, modelling requirements etc) where more discussion, consensus-building is needed; etc.
In addition, there are some procedural questions to be addressed such as: should the detailed strategy be a single document or should it be, to facilitate implementation, produced in interlinked modules that are targeted more at specific observation communities - terrestrial/GTOS, oceanic/GOOS, etc.? Should it be produced as a hard copy report or on the web (for ease of updating), or both? At any rate, such a document(s) is critically important for operationalizing the IGCO theme - for providing detailed guidelines for those agencies and groups which wish to modify existing or initiate new activities to contribute to the IGCO theme.
Given the target date of May 2001 set by the planned release of the IPCC Third Assessment Report, it is critical that current momentum can be maintained and the target date met. To achieve this, we request that (i) the IGOS Partners discuss via email as soon the possible the proposed interim management arrangements - Summerhayes, Tshirley and Steffen acting as an IGCO Leadership Team to guide current activity and complete the development of a formal proposal for an IGCO theme to IGOS-P, and (ii) that the IGCO theme be formally approved/confirmed at the November meeting in Brazil.
5. Proposed Timeline
- Correspondence exchange with WMO/GAW
Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2000 16:58:37 +0200
Dear Dr Delsol,
Thank you for your message and my apologies for the delay in responding. I have been away on travel for about two weeks and am behind in correspondence.
Your point is a very good one, and I agree with the need to involve WMO/GAW fully in the IGCO. And I am delighted that you suggest Dr John Miller, whom I know from his IGAC connections, as the contact point.
I will bring the issue of WMO/GAW up at the IGOS-P meeting in a few weeks and take corresponding steps to make connections.
With best wishes,
>The Atmospheric component with CO2, CO
and CH4 is also an important
>I would like therefore to suggest that
WMO/GAW be associated with IGCO, Dr.