Policies to control emissions of criteria pollutants in China may have conflicting impacts on public health, soil acidification, and climate. Two scenarios for 2020, a base case without anticipated control measures and a more realistic case including such controls, are evaluated to quantify the effects of the policies on emissions and resulting environmental outcomes. Large benefits to public health can be expected from the controls, attributed mainly to reduced emissions of primary PM and gaseous PM precursors, and thus lower ambient concentrations of PM2.5. Approximately 4% of all-cause mortality in the country can be avoided (95% confidence interval: 1–7%), particularly in eastern and north-central China, regions with large population densities and high levels of PM2.5. Surface ozone levels, however, are estimated to increase in parts of those regions, despite NOX reductions. This implies VOC-limited conditions. Even with significant reduction of SO2 and NOX emissions, the controls will not significantly mitigate risks of soil acidification, judged by the exceedance levels of critical load (CL). This is due to the decrease in primary PM emissions, with the consequent reduction in deposition of alkaline base cations. Compared to 2005, even larger CL exceedances are found for both scenarios in 2020, implying that PM control may negate any recovery from soil acidification due to SO2 reductions. Noting large uncertainties, current polices to control emissions of criteria pollutants in China will not reduce climate warming, since controlling SO2 emissions also reduces reflective secondary aerosols. Black carbon emission is an important source of uncertainty concerning the effects of Chinese control policies on global temperature change. Given these conflicts, greater consideration should be paid to reconciling varied environmental objectives, and emission control strategies should target not only criteria pollutants but also species such as VOCs and CO2.
China’s strategies to control acidifying pollutants and particulate matter (PM) may be in conflict for soil acidification abatement. Acidifying pollutant emissions are estimated for 2005 and 2020 with anticipated control policies. PM emissions including base cations (BCs) are evaluated with two scenarios, a base case applying existing policy to 2020, and a control case including anticipated tightened measures. Depositions of sulfur (S), nitrogen (N) and BCs are simulated and their acidification risks are evaluated with critical load (CL). In 2005, the area exceeding CL covered 15.6% of mainland China, with total exceedance of 2.2 Mt S. These values decrease in the base scenario 2020, implying partial recovery from acidification. Under more realistic PM control, the respective estimates are 17.9% and 2.4 Mt S, indicating increased acidification risks due to abatement of acid-neutralizing BCs. China’s anthropogenic PM abatement will have potentially stronger chemical implications for acidification than developed countries.
Facing challenges of increased energy consumption and related regional air pollution, China has been aggressively implementing flue gas desulfurization (FGD) and phasing out small inefficient units in the power sector in order to achieve the national goal of 10% reduction in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from 2005 to 2010. In this paper, the effect of these measures on soil acidification is explored. An integrated methodology is used, combining emission inventory data, emission forecasts, air quality modeling, and ecological sensitivities indicated by critical load. National emissions of SO2, oxides of nitrogen (NOX), particulate matter (PM), and ammonia (NH3) in 2005 were estimated to be 30.7, 19.6, 31.3, and 16.6 Mt, respectively. Implementation of existing policy will lead to reductions in SO2 and PM emissions, while those of NOX and NH3 will continue to rise, even under tentatively proposed control measures. In 2005, the critical load for soil acidification caused by sulfur (S) deposition was exceeded in 28% of the country’s territory, mainly in eastern and south-central China. The area in exceedance will decrease to 26% and 20% in 2010 and 2020, respectively, given implementation of current plans for emission reductions. However, the exceedance of the critical load for nitrogen (N, combining effects of eutrophication and acidification) will double from 2005 to 2020 due to increased NOX and NH3 emissions. Combining the acidification effects of S and N, the benefits of SO2 reductions during 2005−2010 will almost be negated by increased N emissions. Therefore abatement of N emissions (NOX and NH3) and deposition will be a major challenge to China, requiring policy development and technology investments. To mitigate acidification in the future, China needs a multipollutant control strategy that integrates measures to reduce S, N, and PM.
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