Climate Change

Measurements of global temperature over the past 16 decades show that the 16th decade (2001-2010) was the warmest of all. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850. At the same time, human-caused emissions have pushed global average atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide above 400 ppm, an increase of 40% compared to pre-industrial times. During this same period, methane concentrations rose 168% and nitrous oxide rose 20%. Even more powerful heat trapping gases that never existed before humans invented them are also affecting the earth’s energy balance. Increasing concentrations of GHGs raise global temperature, sea level, and ocean acidity, and have the potential to change climate patterns now fundamental to human societies. Emissions of these gases are rising exponentially as populations and economies expand, leading to projections of yet higher temperatures.

Nations negotiated a new comprehensive global climate treaty in Paris in 2015 to keep temperature rise below 20C and requiring all signatory countries to report their emissions. Consistent with these negotiations, many are establishing carbon controls through market-based mechanisms. In the U.S., the Regional GHG Initiative (RGGI) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) established the nation’s first large-scale efforts at regulated GHG reporting and management programs. The EPA operates a nationwide program for reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from many industrial sectors and has proposed programs for reducing emissions that could include regional cap-and-trade. Private corporations such as Exxon have proposed the use of a carbon tax to control emissions and there are now over 30 existing and developing carbon markets globally. All of these developments signal a growing need for management of emissions.

GHG management addresses measurement, reporting, analysis, reduction, trading, and verification of emissions. And while standards for these activities exist, their application is a complex and nuanced field requiring expert training. Current examples of GHG voluntary activities include the Climate Registry’s General Verification Protocol for the Voluntary Reporting Program, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) which asks for voluntary disclosures and has over 1,000 members already using or planning internal carbon prices to drive investments, the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) Standards 3000 and 3410 on GHG assurance engagements, the WRI/WBCSD GHG Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, the ISO 14064-69 standards, the DOE/EIA 1605b GHG Reporting Program, the U.N. Protocol for Reporting Under the Kyoto Accord, and EPA’s Climate Leaders’ Program.  

In promoting strategies for GHG management, EEMI will emphasize professional standards and training of the highest quality.

Focal area lead: Dr. Rachael Jonassen – Professorial Lecturer, Environmental and Energy Management Program, Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, SEAS, GW