Air Pollutants and Greenhouse Gases

Haikun Wang, Xiaojing He, Xinyu Liang, Ernani F. Choma, Yifan Liu, Li Shan, Haotian Zheng, Shaojun Zhang, Chris Nielsen, Shuxiao Wang, Ye Wu, and John Evans. 2020. “Health benefits of on-road transportation pollution control programs in China.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sept 2020, 201921271. Publisher's VersionAbstract
China started to implement comprehensive measures to mitigate traffic pollution at the end of 1990s, but the comprehensive effects, especially on ambient air quality and public health, have not yet been systematically evaluated. In this study, we analyze the effects of vehicle emission control measures on ambient air pollution and associated deaths attributable to long-term exposures of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and O3 based on an integrated research framework that combines scenario analysis, air quality modeling, and population health risk assessment. We find that the total impact of these control measures was substantial. Vehicular emissions during 1998–2015 would have been 2–3 times as large as they actually were, had those measures not been implemented. The national population-weighted annual average concentrations of PM2.5 and O3 in 2015 would have been higher by 11.7 μg/m3 and 8.3 parts per billion, respectively, and the number of deaths attributable to 2015 air pollution would have been higher by 510 thousand (95% confidence interval: 360 thousand to 730 thousand) without these controls. Our analysis shows a concentration of mortality impacts in densely populated urban areas, motivating local policymakers to design stringent vehicle emission control policies. The results imply that vehicle emission control will require policy designs that are more multifaceted than traditional controls, primarily represented by the strict emission standards, with careful consideration of the challenges in coordinated mitigation of both PM2.5 and O3 in different regions, to sustain improvement in air quality and public health given continuing swift growth in China’s vehicle population.
X. Lu, L. Zhang, T. Wu, M. S. Long, J. Wang, D.J. Jacob, F. Zhang, J. Zhang, S. D. Eastham, L. Hu, L. Zhu, X. Liu, and M. Wei. 2020. “Development of the global atmospheric general circulation-chemistry model BCC-GEOS-Chem v1.0: model description and evaluation.” Geoscientific Model Development, 13, 9, Pp. 3817–3838. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Chemistry plays an indispensable role in investigations of the atmosphere; however, many climate models either ignore or greatly simplify atmospheric chemistry, limiting both their accuracy and their scope. We present the development and evaluation of the online global atmospheric chemical model BCC-GEOS-Chem v1.0, coupling the GEOS-Chem chemical transport model (CTM) as an atmospheric chemistry component in the Beijing Climate Center atmospheric general circulation model (BCC-AGCM). The GEOS-Chem atmospheric chemistry component includes detailed troposphericHOx–NOx–volatile organic compounds–ozone–bromine–aerosol chemistry and online dry and wet deposition schemes. We then demonstrate the new capabilities of BCC-GEOS-Chem v1.0 relative to the base BCC-AGCM model through a 3-year (2012–2014) simulation with anthropogenic emissions from the Community Emissions Data System (CEDS) used in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6). The model captures well the spatial distributions and seasonal variations in tropospheric ozone, with seasonal mean biases of 0.4–2.2 ppbv at 700–400 hPa compared to satellite observations and within 10 ppbv at the surface to 500 hPa compared to global ozonesonde observations. The model has larger high-ozone biases over the tropics which we attribute to an overestimate of ozone chemical production. It underestimates ozone in the upper troposphere which is likely due either to the use of a simplified stratospheric ozone scheme or to biases in estimated stratosphere–troposphere exchange dynamics. The model diagnoses the global tropospheric ozone burden, OH concentration, and methane chemical lifetime to be 336 Tg, 1.16×106 molecule cm−3, and 8.3 years, respectively, which is consistent with recent multimodel assessments. The spatiotemporal distributions of NO2, CO, SO2, CH2O, and aerosol optical depth are generally in agreement with satellite observations. The development of BCC-GEOS-Chem v1.0 represents an important step for the development of fully coupled earth system models (ESMs) in China.
Meng Gao, Jinhui Gao, Bin Zhu, Rajesh Kumar, Xiao Lu, Shaojie Song, Yuzhong Zhang, Beixi Jia, Peng Wang, Gufran Beig, Jianlin Hu, Qi Ying, Hongliang Zhang, Peter Sherman, and Michael B. McElroy. 2020. “Ozone pollution over China and India: seasonality and sources.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 20, 7, Pp. 4399-4414. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A regional fully coupled meteorology–chemistry model, Weather Research and Forecasting model with Chemistry (WRF-Chem), was employed to study the seasonality of ozone (O3) pollution and its sources in both China and India. Observations and model results suggest that O3 in the North China Plain (NCP), Yangtze River Delta (YRD), Pearl River Delta (PRD), and India exhibit distinctive seasonal features, which are linked to the influence of summer monsoons. Through a factor separation approach, we examined the sensitivity of O3 to individual anthropogenic, biogenic, and biomass burning emissions. We found that summer O3 formation in China is more sensitive to industrial and biogenic sources than to other source sectors, while the transportation and biogenic sources are more important in all seasons for India. Tagged simulations suggest that local sources play an important role in the formation of the summer O3 peak in the NCP, but sources from Northwest China should not be neglected to control summer O3 in the NCP. For the YRD region, prevailing winds and cleaner air from the ocean in summer lead to reduced transport from polluted regions, and the major source region in addition to local sources is Southeast China. For the PRD region, the upwind region is replaced by contributions from polluted PRD as autumn approaches, leading to an autumn peak. The major upwind regions in autumn for the PRD are YRD (11 %) and Southeast China (10 %). For India, sources in North India are more important than sources in the south. These analyses emphasize the relative importance of source sectors and regions as they change with seasons, providing important implications for O3 control strategies.
Xueli Zhao, Xiaofang Wu, Chenghe Guan, Rong Ma, Chris P. Nielsen, and Bo Zhang. 2020. “Linking agricultural GHG emissions to the global trade network.” Earth's Future, 8, 3. Publisher's VersionAbstract
As part of the climate policy to meet the 2‐degrees Celsius (2 °C) target, actions in all economic sectors, including agriculture, are required to mitigate global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While there has been an ever‐increasing focus on agricultural greenhouse gas (AGHG) emissions, limited attention has been paid to their economic drivers in the globalized world economy and related mitigation potentials. This paper makes a first attempt to trace AGHG emissions via global trade networks using a multi‐regional input‐output model and a complex network model. Over one third of global AGHG emissions in 2012 can be linked with products traded internationally, of which intermediate trade and final trade contribute 64.2% and 35.8%, respectively. Japan, the USA, Germany, the UK, and Hong Kong are the world's five largest net importers of embodied emissions, while Ethiopia, Australia, Pakistan, India and Argentina are the five largest net exporters. Some hunger‐afflicted developing countries in Asia and Africa are important embodied emission exporters, due to their large‐scale exports of agricultural products. Trade‐related virtual AGHG emission transfers shape a highly heterogenous network, due to the coexistence of numerous peripheral economies and a few highly‐connected hub economies. The network clustering structure is revealed by the regional integration of several trading communities, while hub economies are collectors and distributors in the global trade network, with important implications for emission mitigation. Achieving AGHG emission reduction calls for a combination of supply‐ and demand‐side policies covering the global trade network.
Meng Gao, Zirui Liu, Bo Zheng, Dongsheng Ji, Peter Sherman, Shaojie Song, Jinyuan Xin, Cheng Liu, Yuesi Wang, Qiang Zhang, Jia Xing, Jingkun Jiang, Zifa Wang, Gregory R. Carmichael, and Michael B. McElroy. 2020. “China's emission control strategies have suppressed unfavorable influences of climate on wintertime PM2.5 concentrations in Beijing since 2002.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 20, 3, Pp. 1497-1505. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Severe wintertime PM2.5 pollution in Beijing has been receiving increasing worldwide attention, yet the decadal variations remain relatively unexplored. Combining field measurements and model simulations, we quantified the relative influences of anthropogenic emissions and meteorological conditions on PM2.5 concentrations in Beijing over the winters of 2002–2016. Between the winters of 2011 and 2016, stringent emission control measures resulted in a 21 % decrease in mean mass concentrations of PM2.5 in Beijing, with 7 fewer haze days per winter on average. Given the overestimation of PM2.5 by the model, the effectiveness of stringent emission control measures might have been slightly overstated. With fixed emissions, meteorological conditions over the study period would have led to an increase in haze in Beijing, but the strict emission control measures have suppressed the unfavorable influences of the recent climate. The unfavorable meteorological conditions are attributed to the weakening of the East Asia winter monsoon associated particularly with an increase in pressure associated with the Aleutian Low.
S.J. Song, M. Gao, W.Q. Xu, Y.L. Sun, D.R. Worsnop, J.T. Jayne, Y.Z. Zhang, L. Zhu, M. Li, Z. Zhou, C.L. Cheng, Y.B. Lv, Y. Wang, W. Peng, X.B. Xu, N. Lin, Y.X. Wang, S.X. Wang, J. W. Munger, D. Jacob, and M.B. McElroy. 2019. “Possible heterogeneous hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS) chemistry in northern China winter haze and implications for rapid sulfate formation.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 19, Pp. 1357-1371. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The chemical mechanisms responsible for rapid sulfate production, an important driver of winter haze formation in northern China, remain unclear. Here, we propose a potentially important heterogeneous hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS) chemical mechanism. Through analyzing field measurements with aerosol mass spectrometry, we show evidence for a possible significant existence in haze aerosols of organosulfur primarily as HMS, misidentified as sulfate in previous observations. We estimate that HMS can account for up to about one-third of the sulfate concentrations unexplained by current air quality models. Heterogeneous production of HMS by SO2 and formaldehyde is favored under northern China winter haze conditions due to high aerosol water content, moderately acidic pH values, high gaseous precursor levels, and low temperature. These analyses identify an unappreciated importance of formaldehyde in secondary aerosol formation and call for more research on sources and on the chemistry of formaldehyde in northern China winter.
China’s CO2 peak before 2030 implied from diverse characteristics and growth of cities
Haikun Wang, Xi Lu, Yu Deng, Yaoguang Sun, Chris P. Nielsen, Yifan Liu, Ge Zhu, Maoliang Bu, Jun Bi, and Michael B. McElroy. 2019. “China’s CO2 peak before 2030 implied from diverse characteristics and growth of cities.” Nature Sustainability, 2, Pp. 748–754. Publisher's VersionAbstract

China pledges to peak CO2 emissions by 2030 or sooner under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2 °C or less by the end of the century. By examining CO2 emissions from 50 Chinese cities over the period 2000–2016, we found a close relationship between per capita emissions and per capita gross domestic product (GDP) for individual cities, following the environmental Kuznets curve, despite diverse trajectories for CO2 emissions across the cities. Results show that carbon emissions peak for most cities at a per capita GDP (in 2011 purchasing power parity) of around US$21,000 (80% confidence interval: US$19,000 to 22,000). Applying a Monte Carlo approach to simulate the peak of per capita emissions using a Kuznets function based on China’s historical emissions, we project that emissions for China should peak at 13–16 GtCO2 yr−1 between 2021 and 2025, approximately 5–10 yr ahead of the current Paris target of 2030. We show that the challenges faced by individual types of Chinese cities in realizing low-carbon development differ significantly depending on economic structure, urban form and geographical location.

Ying Wang, Bin Chen, Chenghe Guan, and Bo Zhang. 2019. “Evolution of methane emissions in global supply chains during 2000-2012.” Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 150, 104414. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Reduction of methane emissions (CH4) plays an important role in addressing global climate change. Most previous studies have focused on the direct CH4 emissions of economies, but overlooked the upstream CH4 emissions along global supply chains induced by the final consumption of economies. Using a global multi-regional input-output analysis, this study aims to explore the evolution of CH4 emissions embodied in international trade and final consumption in major economies during 2000–2012. The results show that China, the EU, USA, India and Brazil were the top five economies with high volumes of consumption-based CH4 emissions from 2000 to 2012. In particular, China’s consumption-based CH4 emissions showed an observable growth trend, while the EU, the USA and Japan showed a downward trend. It’s estimated that growing amounts of CH4 emissions (i.e., the volume increase from 77.1 Mt in 2000 to 95.9 Mt in 2012) were transferred globally via international trade, primarily as exports from China, Russia and other large developing economies to consumers in major developed economies. Russia–EU, China–USA and China–EU formed the main bilateral trading pairs of embodied emission flows. Further analysis found that per capita consumption-based CH4 emissions was closely related to their per capita GDP. Quantifying the CH4 emissions embodied in trade and final demand of major economies can provide important basis for understanding economy-wide emission drivers to design global and regional CH4 reduction scheme from a consumer perspective.
Wenjie Tian, Xudong Wu, Rong Ma, and Bo Zhang. 2019. “Quantifying global CH4 and N2O footprints.” Journal of Environmental Management, 251, 109566. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This study aims to quantify global CH4 and N2O footprints in 2012 in terms of 181 economies and 20 world regions based on the official national emission accounts from the UNFCCC database and the global multi-region input-output accounts from the EORA database. Global total CH4 and N2O emissions increased by 15.0% in 2012 compared to 1990, mainly driven by increasing demands of agricultural and energy products. Mainland China, Western Europe, the USA, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa were identified as the largest five CH4 footprint contributors (55.6% of the global total), while Mainland China, the USA, Western Europe, Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa as the largest N2O footprint contributors (59.2% of the global total). In most developed economies, the CH4 and N2O footprints were much higher than their emissions on the production side, but opposite picture is observed in emerging economies. 36.4% and 24.8% of the global CH4 and N2O emissions in 2012 were associated with international trade, respectively. Substantial energy-related CH4 and agricultural CH4 and N2O emissions were transferred from developed countries to developing countries. Several nations within Kyoto targets have reduced their CH4 and N2O emissions significantly between 1990 and 2012, but the generally-believed success is challenged when viewing from the consumption side. Mainland China, Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil, Middle East and India witnessed prominent increase of CH4 and N2O footprints in the same period. The structure and spatial patterns of global CH4 and N2O footprints shed light on the role of consumption-side actions and international cooperation for future non-CO2 GHG emission reduction.
Nature Sustainability

China May be on Track to Meet its CO2 Emissions Goals Early

August 13, 2019

Study finds that as cities become wealthier, per capita emissions drop

China, the world’s largest carbon emitter today, may be on track to meet its emission goals up to a decade early, according to a recent study on the cover of Nature Sustainability led by researchers from Nanjing University in Nanjing, China, and Harvard University.

The research focuses the relationship between urban economic growth and CO2 emissions. Fifty cities...

Read more about China May be on Track to Meet its CO2 Emissions Goals Early
Peter Sherman, Meng Gao, Shaojie Song, Patrick Ohiomoba, Alex Archibald, and Michael B. McElroy. 2019. “The influence of dynamics and emissions changes on China’s wintertime haze.” Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 58, Pp. 1603-1611. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Haze days induced by aerosol pollution in North and East China have posed a persistent and growing problem over the past few decades. These events are particularly threatening to densely-populated cities such as Beijing. While the sources of this pollution are predominantly anthropogenic, natural climate variations may also play a role in allowing for atmospheric conditions conducive to formation of severe haze episodes over populated areas. Here, an investigation is conducted into the effects of changes in global dynamics and emissions on air quality in China’s polluted regions using 35 simulations developed from the Community Earth Systems Model Large Ensemble (CESM LENS) run over the period 1920-2100. It is shown that internal variability significantly modulates aerosol optical depth (AOD) over China; it takes roughly a decade for the forced response to balance the effects from internal variability even in China’s most polluted regions. Random forest regressions are used to accurately model (R2 > 0.9) wintertime AOD using just climate oscillations, the month of the year and emissions. How different phases of each oscillation affect aerosol loading are projected using these regressions. AOD responses are identified for each oscillation, with particularly strong responses from El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). As ENSO can be projected a few months in advance and improvements in linear inverse modelling (LIM) may yield a similar predictability for the PDO, results of this study offer opportunities to improve the predictability of China’s severe wintertime haze events, and to inform policy options that could mitigate subsequent health impacts.

Yan Zhang, Xin Bo, Yu Zhao, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2019. “Benefits of current and future policies on emissions of China's coal-fired power sector indicated by continuous emission monitoring.” Environmental Pollution, 251, Pp. 415-424. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Emission inventories are critical to understanding the sources of air pollutants, but have high uncertainties in China due in part to insufficient on-site measurements. In this study, we developed a method of examining, screening and applying online data from the country's improving continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) to reevaluate a “bottom-up” emission inventory of China's coal-fired power sector. The benefits of China's current national emission standards and ultra-low emission policy for the sector were quantified assuming their full implementation. The derived national average emission factors of SO2, NOx and particulate matter (PM) were 1.00, 1.00 and 0.25 kg/t-coal respectively for 2015 based on CEMS data, smaller than those of previous studies that may not fully recognize improved emission controls in recent years. The annual emissions of SO2, NOx and PM from the sector were recalculated at 1321, 1430 and 334 Gg respectively, 75%, 63% and 76% smaller than our estimates based on a previous approach without the benefit of CEMS data. The results imply that online measurement with proper data screening can better track the recent progress of emission controls. The emission intensity (the ratio of emissions to economic output) of Northwest China was larger than that of other regions, attributed mainly to its less intensive economy and industry. Transmission of electricity to more-developed eastern provinces raised the energy consumption and emissions of less-developed regions. Judged by 95 percentiles of flue-gas concentrations measured by CEMS, most power plants met the current national emission standards in 2015 except for those in Northwest and Northeast China, while plants that met the ultra-low emission policy were much scarcer. National SO2, NOx and PM emissions would further decline by 68%, 55% and 81% respectively if the ultra-low emission policy can be strictly implemented, implying the great potential of the policy for emission abatement.

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