HCP Researchers in the News

September 1, 2021

Climate 'Blue Paper' Commentary in Carbon Brief

China is a “sensitive” and “significantly affected” area of global climate change, according to the annual “blue paper” from the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), the government’s lead institution on meteorological administration and research. The paper said that China’s surface temperature had warmed at a rate of 0.26C per decade between 1951 and 2020, a rate higher than the global average of the same period, which measured 0.15C per decade. It added that China has experienced “rising” extreme weather events, such as heavy precipitation and high temperature. Various media outlets, from Xinhua and Caixin in China to Carbon Brief in the west, reported on the paper’s release. 

The blue paper showed clear evidence that human influence is causing changes in the climate system in China, according to Zhou Tianjun, a lead author of a chapter of the IPCC AR6. Zhou, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told Carbon Brief: “If we compare the key climate change indicators assessed in the ‘blue paper’ to that assessed in AR6 in a global perspective, we can see that climate change in China is a regional manifestation of global warming.” Michael B. McElroy, Chair of the Harvard-China Project, told Carbon Brief that the blue paper provides an “important” account and context of the contemporary changes in China’s climate system. McElroy noted that the paper highlighted the need for “immediate” investments in infrastructure that could at least partially mitigate future damage. “And it provides strong reasons for China to continue, if not expand, its current policies to reduce its emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases, promoting similar objectives elsewhere in the world,” he added.

DC Environmental Film Festival Screening & Discussion

The annual DC Environmental Film Festival, which ran a virtual format this year, screened Smogtown, a film from director Han Meng. The piece focuses on Langfang, about 40 kilometers from Beijing, and one of the cities suffering the worst air pollution in China. There is intense pressure from leadership in Beijing for the local environmental protection bureau to address the issue. This observational bureaucratic drama highlights a situation that parallels the global environmental crisis: the urgency to tackle the problem is obvious, but how? And who will pick up the tab? 

Following the film, a post-event discussion co-presented by the China Environment Forum of the Woodrow Wilson Center featured Chris Nielsen, Executive Director of the Harvard-China Project, Judith Shapiro of American University, and Jennifer Turner of the Wilson Center. Nielsen highlighted that much PM2.5 air pollution results from more complex and uncertain chemical and transport processes than non-specialists often realize, and sympathized with local officials overwhelmed by expectations to meet arbitrary reduction targets for a regional pollution problem that is substantially beyond their control. 

China Global Television Network Coverage of Carbon Neutrality Seminar

In May, Beijing played host to an international carbon neutrality seminar to address China's efforts to address the climate crisis, drawing on expertise from a broad range of areas. With goals to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, China faces historic challenges. The experts largely agreed that the key to achieving the targets lie foremost in new forms of energy. Michael B. McElroy, chair of the Harvard-China Project, told the China Global Television Network that "The future of low carbon energy systems will depend on a continued expansion of the role of renewable energy."