A large satellite dish against the backdrop of a blue sky with scattered white clouds.

Monitoring of climate and climate change

Coherent greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventories and projections are needed to help improve the effectiveness of climate policy. The JRC supports long-term GHG monitoring, in particular within the European Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) Infrastructure and through activities carried out with the within Copernicus, the European Earth Observation Programme. The JRC monitors and evaluates the effects of air pollution and climate change policies on the Earth System in order to determine their effectiveness and provide early warnings of potential risks.

Analysis of trends in greenhouse gas emissions

The JRC maintains and updates the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), an online inventory of emissions of GHGs and air pollutants from 1970 to 2010. With this database the JRC provides global emission time series and their geographical distribution in a comparable and consistent manner to analyse trends. In this way, greenhouse gas and air pollutant emission reductions are verified, and the effectiveness of energy, climate and air pollution policies for industrialised and developing countries is assessed.

Systematic observations

The JRC supports the Copernicus Climate Change Service, by helping to standardise Earth Observation products and services related to climate change. This involves making in-situ measurements, developing and benchmarking new satellite products and assuring compliance with international standards. The JRC collaborates with the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, the USA’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, and space agencies such as the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

EU Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Mechanism

To ensure the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the JRC checks and reviews the EU Member State submissions and contributions to the European Union greenhouse gas inventory report.

Through its Greenhouse Gases in Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Uses in Europe information system  (AFOLU-data), the JRC provides data, models and other tools to promote transparent, complete and comparable greenhouse gas estimates for this sector in Europe. The JRC will further work on the development of AFOLU-data as part of the International Carbon Observing System's portal of ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures).

Carbon pool in soils

With an estimated global stock of 2 300 Gt of carbon, soil organic matter contains more than three times the amount of carbon of the atmosphere. The distribution of soil organic carbon varies greatly with climatic conditions and land use. The JRC contributed to a global map of soil organic carbon (2011) that was used to update the UNEP-WCMC’s Carbon and biodiversity map

An estimated 1 700 Gt of carbon is stored as organic material in the soils of the northern permafrost region. The thawing of the permafrost could lead to a substantial release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere and would further increase global warming. The JRC’s Soil Atlas of the Northern Circumpolar Region (2009) is the first compilation that provides all the available information on this carbon pool.

In the terrestrial carbon cycle, soils can act as a carbon source or sink. The status of the soil in the carbon cycle can be influenced by land use and management practices. Changes in soil organic carbon from cropland and grassland management are evaluated for reporting GHG emissions under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol for the agricultural sector.

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JRC Institutes