Environment: science supporting policy
Ever since I entered the field of (applied) environmental sciences I was fascinated by the interaction between scientifc understanding and the use of this understanding in decision making. The latter is in some respects essentially different from the way scientists apply their understanding in further developping science. Application of scientific information, data and models requires a different perspective on its quality depending on the intended use:
Scientists generally apply "Popper" and try to falsify the present understanding, models and data. Scientific understanding is increased through this process of falsification. A scientist can never proof that something is "correct". He or she can only conclude that scientific predictions are confirmed in a specific experiment ar project. Confirmation in itself does not provide proof that the underlying understanding is correct.
Policy makers look for agreement: if everybody agrees that a specific understanding is correct, it is used. Information therefore has a high quality for policy mnakers if there exists consensus on its usefulness for decision making. They are not necessarily happy with a scientist, trying to falsify their agreed upon understanding. Science is relevant during negotiations, when the decision makers set new procedures and agreements, but is of less relevance once these are established and are used.
Lawyers, finally, are primarely interested in convincing a judge or a jury. For them information has high quality if it indeed is contributing to their cause.
My recent work
I have been working for over 20 years now at the interface between scientific information and understanding and policy applications, especially in the field of emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants to the atmosphere.
You'll find a selection of my publications on ResearchGate
Emission inventory methods and tools
Since the early 1990s I have been very active in the emission inventorying community as member of the international bodies that develop and publish the official guidelines for compiling greenhouse gas emission and air pollutant inventories in response to the obligations of international conventions and protocols. The latest guidance documents that I was involved in are:
Apart from these I have been working on a series of tools that can support countries or other entities in developping their national inventory databases and systems. These tools include;
- IPCC Emission Factor Database (EFDB): a web based system to provide a forum for the exchange of emisiosn factros and other parameters between experts working on national inventories. EFDB is meant as a companion of the IPCC Guidelines
- CollectER III: a software tool developed within the framework of successive EEA work programmes and in use by several countrie sin Europe and elsewhere
- The Art of Emission Inventorying, A TNO-report that provides background understanding and some pragmatic advice on how to develop an integrated greenhouse gas and air pollutant emisison inventory system, using relatively simple tools and database structures.
National emission inventories
Since 2002 I participate with great enthousiasm in the UNFCCC Review process of annual national inventory submissions. This process is fascinating in many respects:
- It is an essential step in the reporting process under the convention and the Kyoto Protocol
- It assures credibility of these national submissions and hence of the assessment whether or not the Parties do meet the agreed targets. It is the proof of the pudding!
- It also significnatly contributes to the harmonisation of the methods and approaches used by all Parties to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, since in many cases the reviewers are also involved in the compilation of the inventories for their own countries.
Application of inventory data
<<to be completed>>
My earlier work
Air quality modelling
<<to be completed>>
Environmental stressors and health
<<to be completed>>