The 5th ICOS Science Conference: "Tracking progress to carbon neutrality”

Hosted by the IMAU Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry Group

Overview of ICOS conference 2022 room
The ICOS conference in TivoliVredenburg (photo: Ve Kanzler)

From 13 to 15 September 2022, the IMAU Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry Group hosted the 5th Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS, see conference in Utrecht's TivoliVredenburg. More than 300 scientists, mostly directly involved with ICOS, attended the conference in person, and many more joined online. The overarching theme was "Tracking progress to carbon neutrality”, which nicely demonstrates the relevance and ambition of the atmospheric research community: to use atmospheric observations and modeling to detect, attribute and quantify emissions of greenhouse gases. In his opening remarks, Prof. Werner Kutsch from the ICOS Head Office reflected on the urgency of greenhouse gas reductions, even with a war ongoing in Europe, in order to reach the goals of the Paris agreement – to keep global warming well below 2ºC.

The conference program showcased the latest research on greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on regional and global climate, based on ICOS measurement and modeling infrastructure. An important development is that new satellite instruments are providing increasingly detailed information on emissions of greenhouse gases. Changes in the natural carbon cycle as a response to climate change was another emerging topic. The societal relevance of the ICOS conference is greater than ever, as evidenced by the session “Enhancing the use of greenhouse gas observation systems to inform, enable and frame policy”. From the discussions it became clear that independent verification of reported emission numbers remains necessary to ensure that reductions not only happen on paper!

The main convener of the ICOS conference and himself a keen violinist, Thomas Röckmann, organized a special side event: the world premiere of “Temperature Music”, a composition for chamber orchestra by the Dutch composer Sem Hak. Temperature Music was performed by the Utrecht Studenten Concert (USConcert) under the conductorship of Sander Teepen in the Hertz auditorium of TivoliVredenburg. With his composition, Sem wants to raise awareness of the climate crisis and encourage climate action. “Climate change and other complex issues can be difficult for people to understand. Art is the bridge between science and people.” During the performance, climate graphics were projected on a large screen, while the music transformed the numbers into the emotional realm. With rising temperatures, the music intensified and the recent hot years were made audible by waves of sound. The end of the piece will change every time it is performed, based on the latest observed temperatures. The concert was a highlight of the ICOS conference, and in the coming months will return as a public concert in Utrecht.

The world premiere of “Temperature Music”, performed by the Utrecht Studenten Concert
The world premiere of “Temperature Music”, performed by the Utrecht Studenten Concert under the conductorship of Sander Teepen (photo: Maiju Tiiri)