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.
China has large but uncertain coal mine methane (CMM) emissions. Inverse modeling (top-down) analyses of atmospheric methane observations can help improve the emission estimates but require reliable emission patterns as prior information. To serve this urgent need, we developed a high-resolution (0.25° × 0.25°) methane emission inventory for China’s coal mining using a recent publicly available database of more than 10000 coal mines in China for 2011. This number of coal mines is 25 and 2.5 times, respectively, more than the number available in the EDGAR v4.2 and EDGAR v4.3.2 gridded global inventories, which have been extensively used in past inverse analyses. Our inventory shows large differences with the EDGAR v4.2 as well as its more recent version, EDGAR v4.3.2. Our results suggest that China’s CMM emissions have been decreasing since 2012 on the basis of coal mining activities and assuming time-invariant emission factors but that regional trends differ greatly. Use of our inventory as prior information in future inverse modeling analyses can help better quantify CMM emissions as well as more confidently guide the future mitigation of coal to gas in China.
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.
While many studies have reported that drought events have substantial negative legacy effects on forest growth, it remains unclear whether wetness events conversely have positive growth legacy effects. Here, we report pervasive and substantial growth enhancement after extreme wetness by examining tree radial growth at 1929 forest sites, satellite-derived vegetation greenness, and land surface model simulations. Enhanced growth after extreme wetness lasts for 1 to 5 years and compensates for 93 ± 8% of the growth deficit after extreme drought across global water-limited regions. Remarkable wetness-enhanced growths are observed in dry forests and gymnosperms, whereas the enhanced growths after extreme wetness are much smaller in wet forests and angiosperms. Limited or no enhanced growths are simulated by the land surface models after extreme wetness. These findings provide new evidence for improving climate-vegetation models to include the legacy effects of both drought and wet climate extremes.
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.
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.
As China makes every effort to control air pollution, India emerges as the world’s most polluted country, receiving worldwide attention with frequent winter (boreal) haze extremes. In this study, we found that the interannual variability of wintertime aerosol pollution over northern India is regulated mainly by a combination of El Niño and the Antarctic Oscillation (AAO). Both El Niño sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies and AAO-induced Indian Ocean Meridional Dipole SST anomalies can persist from autumn to winter, offering prospects for a prewinter forecast of wintertime aerosol pollution over northern India. We constructed a multivariable regression model incorporating El Niño and AAO indices for autumn to predict wintertime AOD. The prediction exhibits a high degree of consistency with observation, with a correlation coefficient of 0.78 (P < 0.01). This statistical model could allow the Indian government to forecast aerosol pollution conditions in winter and accordingly improve plans for pollution control.
Accurately quantifying the spatiotemporal distribution of the biological component of CO2 surface–atmosphere exchange is necessary to improve top-down constraints on China's anthropogenic CO2 emissions. We provide hourly fluxes of CO2 as net ecosystem exchange (NEE; µmol CO2 m−2 s−1) on a 0.25∘×0.25∘" id="MathJax-Element-1-Frame" role="presentation" style="position: relative;" tabindex="0">0.25∘×0.25∘ grid by adapting the Vegetation, Photosynthesis, and Respiration Model (VPRM) to the eastern half of China for the time period from 2005 to 2009; the minimal empirical parameterization of the VPRM-CHINA makes it well suited for inverse modeling approaches. This study diverges from previous VPRM applications in that it is applied at a large scale to China's ecosystems for the first time, incorporating a novel processing framework not previously applied to existing VPRM versions. In addition, the VPRM-CHINA model prescribes methods for addressing dual-cropping regions that have two separate growing-season modes applied to the same model grid cell. We evaluate the VPRM-CHINA performance during the growing season and compare to other biospheric models. We calibrate the VPRM-CHINA with ChinaFlux and FluxNet data and scale up regionally using Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model v3.6.1 meteorology and MODIS surface reflectances. When combined with an anthropogenic emissions model in a Lagrangian particle transport framework, we compare the ability of VPRM-CHINA relative to an ensemble mean of global hourly flux models (NASA CMS – Carbon Monitoring System) to reproduce observations made at a site in northern China. The measurements are heavily influenced by the northern China administrative region. Modeled hourly time series using vegetation fluxes prescribed by VPRM-CHINA exhibit low bias relative to measurements during the May–September growing season. Compared to NASA CMS subset over the study region, VPRM-CHINA agrees significantly better with measurements. NASA CMS consistently underestimates regional uptake in the growing season. We find that during the peak growing season, when the heavily cropped North China Plain significantly influences measurements, VPRM-CHINA models a CO2 uptake signal comparable in magnitude to the modeled anthropogenic signal. In addition to demonstrating efficacy as a low-bias prior for top-down CO2 inventory optimization studies using ground-based measurements, high spatiotemporal resolution models such as the VPRM are critical for interpreting retrievals from global CO2 remote-sensing platforms such as OCO-2 and OCO-3 (planned). Depending on the satellite time of day and season of crossover, efforts to interpret the relative contribution of the vegetation and anthropogenic components to the measured signal are critical in key emitting regions such as northern China – where the magnitude of the vegetation CO2 signal is shown to be equivalent to the anthropogenic signal.
Global anthropogenic CH4 emissions have witnessed a rapid increase in the last decade. However, how this increase is connected with its socioeconomic drivers has not yet been explored. In this paper, we highlight the impacts of final demand and international trade on global anthropogenic CH4 emissions based on the consumption‐based accounting principle. We find that household consumption was the largest final demand category, followed by fixed capital formation and government consumption. The position and function of nations and major economies to act on the structure and spatial patterns of global CH4 emissions were systematically clarified. Substantial geographic shifts of CH4emissions during 2000‐2012 revealed the prominent impact of international trade. In 2012, about half of global CH4 emissions were embodied in international trade, of which 77.8% were from intermediate trade and 22.2% from final trade. Mainland China was the largest exporter of embodied CH4 emissions, while the USA was the largest importer. Developed economies such as Western Europe, the USA and Japan were major net receivers of embodied emission transfer, mainly from developing countries. CH4emission footprints of nations were closely related to their human development indexes (HDIs) and per capita gross domestic products (GDPs). Our findings could help to improve current understanding of global anthropogenic CH4 emission increases, and to pinpoint regional and sectoral hotspots for possible emission mitigation in the entire supply chains from production to consumption.
PM 2.5 during severe winter haze in Beijing, China, has reached levels as high as 880μg/m3, with sulfur compounds contributing significantly to PM 2.5 composition. This sulfur has been traditionally assumed to be sulfate, although atmospheric chemistry models are unable to account for such large sulfate enhancements under dim winter conditions. Using a 1-D model, we show that well-characterized but previously overlooked chemistry of aqueous-phase HCHO and S(IV) in cloud droplets to form a S(IV)-HCHO adduct, hydroxymethane sulfonate, may explain high particulate sulfur in wintertime Beijing. We also demonstrate in the laboratory that methods of ion chromatography typically used to measure ambient particulates easily misinterpret hydroxymethane sulfonate as sulfate. Our findings suggest that HCHO and not SO2 has been the limiting factor in many haze events in Beijing and that to reduce severe winter pollution in this region, policymakers may need to address HCHO sources such as transportation.
pH is an important property of aerosol particles but is difficult to measure directly. Several studies have estimated the pH values for fine particles in North China winter haze using thermodynamic models (i.e., E-AIM and ISORROPIA) and ambient measurements. The reported pH values differ widely, ranging from close to 0 (highly acidic) to as high as 7 (neutral). In order to understand the reason for this discrepancy, we calculated pH values using these models with different assumptions with regard to model inputs and particle phase states. We find that the large discrepancy is due primarily to differences in the model assumptions adopted in previous studies. Calculations using only aerosol phase composition as inputs (i.e., reverse mode) are sensitive to the measurement errors of ionic species and inferred pH values exhibit a bimodal distribution with peaks between −2 and 2 and between 7 and 10. Calculations using total (gas plus aerosol phase) measurements as inputs (i.e., forward mode) are affected much less by the measurement errors, and results are thus superior to those obtained from the reverse mode calculations. Forward mode calculations in this and previous studies collectively indicate a moderately acidic condition (pH from about 4 to about 5) for fine particles in North China winter haze, indicating further that ammonia plays an important role in determining this property. The differences in pH predicted by the forward mode E-AIM and ISORROPIA calculations may be attributed mainly to differences in estimates of activity coefficients for hydrogen ions. The phase state assumed, which can be either stable (solid plus liquid) or metastable (only liquid), does not significantly impact pH predictions of ISORROPIA.
Among biomass energy technologies which are treated as the promising way to mitigate critical energy crisis and global climate change, biomass gasification plays a key role given to its gaseous fuels especially syngas for distributed power plant. However, a system analysis for the energy saving and greenhouse gas emissions abatement potentials of gasification system has been directed few attentions. This study presents a system analysis that combines process and input-output analyses of GHG emissions and energy costs throughout the full chain of activities associated with biomass gasification. Incorporating agricultural production, industrial process and wastewater treatment which is always ignored, the energy inputs in life cycle are accounted for the first commercial biomass gasification power plant in China. Results show that the non-renewable energy cost and GHG emission intensity of the biomass gasification system are 0.163 MJ/MJ and 0.137 kg CO2-eq/MJ respectively, which reaffirm its advantages over coal-fired power plants in clean energy and environmental terms. Compared with other biomass energy processes, gasification performs well as its non-renewable energy cost and CO2 intensity are in the central ranges of those for all of these technologies. Construction of the plant is an important factor in the process’s non-renewable energy consumption, contributing about 44.48% of total energy use. Wastewater treatment is the main contributor to GHG emissions. The biomass gasification and associated wastewater treatment technologies have critical influence on the sustainability and renewability of biomass gasification. The results provide comprehensive analysis for biomass gasification performance and technology improvement potential in regulating biomass development policies for aiming to achieve sustainability globally.
Emissions from power plants in China and India contain a myriad of fine particulate matter (PM2.5, PM≤2.5 micrometers in diameter) precursors, posing significant health risks among large, densely settled populations. Studies isolating the contributions of various source classes and geographic regions are limited in China and India, but such information could be helpful for policy makers attempting to identify efficient mitigation strategies. We quantified the impact of power generation emissions on annual mean PM2.5 concentrations using the state-of-the-art atmospheric chemistry model WRF-Chem (Weather Research Forecasting model coupled with Chemistry) in China and India. Evaluations using nationwide surface measurements show the model performs reasonably well. We calculated province-specific annual changes in mortality and life expectancy due to power generation emissions generated PM2.5 using the Integrated Exposure Response (IER) model, recently updated IER parameters from Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2015, population data, and the World Health Organization (WHO) life tables for China and India. We estimate that 15 million (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 10 to 21 million) years of life lost can be avoided in China each year and 11 million (95% CI: 7 to 15 million) in India by eliminating power generation emissions. Priorities in upgrading existing power generating technologies should be given to Shandong, Henan, and Sichuan provinces in China, and Uttar Pradesh state in India due to their dominant contributions to the current health risks.
Reliable inventory information is critical in informing emission mitigation efforts. Using the latest officially released emission data, which is production based, we take a consumption perspective to estimate the non-CO2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for China in 2012. The non-CO2 GHG emissions, which cover CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, and SF6, amounted to 2003.0 Mt. CO2-eq (including 1871.9 Mt. CO2-eq from economic activities), much larger than the total CO2 emissions in some developed countries. Urban consumption (30.1%), capital formation (28.2%), and exports (20.6%) derived approximately four fifths of the total embodied emissions in final demand. Furthermore, the results from structural path analysis help identify critical embodied emission paths and key economic sectors in supply chains for mitigating non-CO2 GHG emissions in Chinese economic systems. The top 20 paths were responsible for half of the national total embodied emissions. Several industrial sectors such as Construction, Production and Supply of Electricity and Steam, Manufacture of Food and Tobacco and Manufacture of Chemicals, and Chemical Products played as the important transmission channels. Examining both production- and consumption-based non-CO2 GHG emissions will enrich our understanding of the influences of industrial positions, final consumption demands, and trades on national non-CO2 GHG emissions by considering the comprehensive abatement potentials in the supply chains.
The Indian government has set an ambitious target for future renewable power generation, including 60 GW of cumulative wind power capacity by 2022. However, the benefits of these substantial investments are vulnerable to the changing climate. On the basis of hourly wind data from an assimilated meteorology reanalysis dataset covering the 1980–2016 period, we show that wind power potential may have declined secularly over this interval, particularly in western India. Surface temperature data confirm that significant warming occurred in the Indian Ocean over the study period, leading to modulation of high pressure over the ocean. A multivariable linear regression model incorporating the pressure gradient between the Indian Ocean and the Indian subcontinent can account for the interannual variability of wind power. A series of numerical sensitivity experiments confirm that warming in the Indian Ocean contributes to subsidence and dampening of upward motion over the Indian continent, resulting potentially in weakening of the monsoonal circulation and wind speeds over India.
Recent studies show that international trade affects global distributions of air pollution andpublic health. Domestic interprovincial trade has similar effects within countries, but has notbeen comprehensively investigated previously. Here we link four models to evaluate theeffects of both international exports and interprovincial trade on PM2.5pollution and publichealth across China. We show that 50–60% of China’s air pollutant emissions in 2007 wereassociated with goods and services consumed outside of the provinces where they wereproduced. Of an estimated 1.10 million premature deaths caused by PM2.5pollutionthroughout China, nearly 19% (208,500 deaths) are attributable to international exports. Incontrast, interprovincial trade leads to improved air quality in developed coastal provinceswith a net effect of 78,500 avoided deaths nationwide. However, both international exportand interprovincial trade exacerbate the health burdens of air pollution in China’s lessdeveloped interior provinces. Our results reveal trade to be a critical but largely overlookedconsideration in effective regional air quality planning for China.
China hosts the world’s largest market for wind-generated electricity. The financial return and carbon reduction benefits from wind power are sensitive to changing wind resources. Wind data derived from an assimilated meteorological database are used here to estimate what the wind generated electricity in China would have been on an hourly basis over the period 1979 to 2015 at a geographical resolution of approximately 50 km × 50 km. The analysis indicates a secular decrease in generating potential over this interval, with the largest declines observed for western Inner Mongolia (15 ± 7%) and the northern part of Gansu (17 ± 8%), two leading wind investment areas. The decrease is associated with long-term warming in the vicinity of the Siberian High (SH), correlated also with the observed secular increase in global average surface temperatures. The long-term trend is modulated by variability relating to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Arctic Oscillation (AO). A linear regression model incorporating indices for the PDO and AO, as well as the declining trend, can account for the interannual variability of wind power, suggesting that advances in long-term forecasting could be exploited to markedly improve management of future energy systems.
To evaluate the effectiveness of national air pollution control policies, the emissions of SO2, NOX, CO and CO2 in China are estimated using bottom-up methods for the most recent 15-year period (2000–2014). Vertical column densities (VCDs) from satellite observations are used to test the temporal and spatial patterns of emissions and to explore the ambient levels of gaseous pollutants across the country. The inter-annual trends in emissions and VCDs match well except for SO2. Such comparison is improved with an optimistic assumption in emission estimation that the emission standards for given industrial sources issued after 2010 have been fully enforced. Underestimation of emission abatement and enhanced atmospheric oxidization likely contribute to the discrepancy between SO2 emissions and VCDs. As suggested by VCDs and emissions estimated under the assumption of full implementation of emission standards, the control of SO2 in the 12th Five-Year Plan period (12th FYP, 2011–2015) is estimated to be more effective than that in the 11th FYP period (2006–2010), attributed to improved use of flue gas desulfurization in the power sector and implementation of new emission standards in key industrial sources. The opposite was true for CO, as energy efficiency improved more significantly from 2005 to 2010 due to closures of small industrial plants. Iron & steel production is estimated to have had particularly strong influence on temporal and spatial patterns of CO. In contrast to fast growth before 2011 driven by increased coal consumption and limited controls, NOX emissions decreased from 2011 to 2014 due to the penetration of selective catalytic/non-catalytic reduction systems in the power sector. This led to reduced NO2 VCDs, particularly in relatively highly polluted areas such as the eastern China and Pearl River Delta regions. In developed areas, transportation is playing an increasingly important role in air pollution, as suggested by the increased ratio of NO2 to SO2 VCDs. For air quality in mega cities, the inter-annual trends in emissions and VCDs indicate that surrounding areas are more influential in NO2 level for Beijing than those for Shanghai.
Biomass pyrolysis offers an alternative to industrial coal-fired boilers and utilizes low temperature and long residence time to produce syngas, bio-oil and biochar. Construction of biomass-based pyrolysis plants has recently been on the rise in rural China necessitating research into the greenhouse gas emission levels produced as a result. Greenhouse gas emission intensity of a typical biomass fixed-bed pyrolysis plant in China is calculated as 1.55E−02 kg CO2-eq/MJ. Carbon cycle of the whole process was investigated and found that if 41.02% of the biochar returns to the field, net greenhouse gas emission is zero indicating the whole carbon cycle may be renewable. A biomass pyrolysis scenario analysis was also conducted to assess exhaust production, transportation distance and the electricity-generation structure for background information applied in the formulation of national policy.
The Harvard-China Project adopted an Open Access policy in September 2017. Journal articles that are already made open access by the publishers are available on our publications page as PDF attachments, while the final manuscripts of other articles published since our adoption of the policy are available in the Harvard University open-access repository, DASH, under the Harvard-China Project collection. There is usually a six-month delay after the article is published before its manuscript is uploaded to DASH.