Air Pollution, Greenhouse Gases & Climate

Yan Zhang, Yu Zhao, Meng Gao, Xin Bo, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2021. “Air quality and health benefits from ultra-low emission control policy indicated by continuous emission monitoring: a case study in the Yangtze River Delta region, China.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 21, Pp. 6411–6430. Publisher's VersionAbstract
To evaluate the improved emission estimates from online monitoring, we applied the Models-3/CMAQ (Community Multiscale Air Quality) system to simulate the air quality of the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) region using two emission inventories with and without incorporated data from continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMSs) at coal-fired power plants (cases 1 and 2, respectively). The normalized mean biases (NMBs) between the observed and simulated hourly concentrations of SO2, NO2, O3, and PM2.5 in case 2 were −3.1 %, 56.3 %, −19.5 %, and −1.4 %, all smaller in absolute value than those in case 1 at 8.2 %, 68.9 %, −24.6 %, and 7.6 %, respectively. The results indicate that incorporation of CEMS data in the emission inventory reduced the biases between simulation and observation and could better reflect the actual sources of regional air pollution. Based on the CEMS data, the air quality changes and corresponding health impacts were quantified for different implementation levels of China's recent “ultra-low” emission policy. If the coal-fired power sector met the requirement alone (case 3), the differences in the simulated monthly SO2, NO2, O3, and PM2.5 concentrations compared to those of case 2, our base case for policy comparisons, would be less than 7 % for all pollutants. The result implies a minor benefit of ultra-low emission control if implemented in the power sector alone, which is attributed to its limited contribution to the total emissions in the YRD after years of pollution control (11 %, 7 %, and 2 % of SO2, NOX, and primary particle matter (PM) in case 2, respectively). If the ultra-low emission policy was enacted at both power plants and selected industrial sources including boilers, cement, and iron and steel factories (case 4), the simulated SO2, NO2, and PM2.5concentrations compared to the base case would be 33 %–64 %, 16 %–23 %, and 6 %–22 % lower, respectively, depending on the month (January, April, July, and October 2015). Combining CMAQ and the Integrated Exposure Response (IER) model, we further estimated that 305 deaths and 8744 years of life loss (YLL) attributable to PM2.5 exposure could be avoided with the implementation of the ultra-low emission policy in the power sector in the YRD region. The analogous values would be much higher, at 10 651 deaths and 316 562 YLL avoided, if both power and industrial sectors met the ultra-low emission limits. In order to improve regional air quality and to reduce human health risk effectively, coordinated control of multiple sources should be implemented, and the ultra-low emission policy should be substantially expanded to major emission sources in industries other than the power industry.
Rong Ma, Bin Chen, Chenghe Guan, Jing Meng, and Bo Zhang. 2018. “Socioeconomic determinants of China’s growing CH4 emissions.” Journal of Environmental Management, 228, 15 December 2018, Pp. 103-116. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Reducing CH4 emissions is a major global challenge, owing to the world-wide rise in emissions and concentration of CH4 in the atmosphere, especially in the past decade. China has been the greatest contributor to global anthropogenic CH4 emissions for a long time, but current understanding towards its growing emissions is insufficient. This paper aims to link China's CH4 emissions during 2005–2012 to their socioeconomic determinants by combining input-output models with structural decomposition analysis from both the consumption and income perspectives. Results show that changes in household consumption and income were the leading drivers of the CH4 growth in China, while changes in efficiency remained the strongest factor offsetting CH4 emissions. After 2007, with the global financial crisis and economic stimulus plans, embodied emissions from exports plunged but those from capital formation increased rapidly. The enabled emissions in employee compensation increased steadily over time, whereas emissions induced from firms' net surplus decreased gradually, reflecting the reform on income distribution. In addition, at the sectoral level, consumption and capital formation respectively were the greatest drivers of embodied CH4 emission changes from agriculture and manufacturing, while employee compensation largely determined the enabled emission changes across all industrial sectors. The growth of CH4 emissions in China was profoundly affected by the macroeconomic situation and the changes of economic structure. Examining economic drivers of anthropogenic CH4emissions can help formulate comprehensive mitigation policies and actions associated with economic production, supply and consumption.
Jinzhao Yang, Yu Zhao, Jing Cao, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2021. “Co-benefits of carbon and pollution control policies on air quality and health till 2030 in China.” Environment International, 152, 2021. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Facing the dual challenges of climate change and air pollution, China has made great efforts to explore the co-control strategies for the both. We assessed the benefits of carbon and pollution control policies on air quality and human health, with an integrated framework combining an energy-economic model, an air quality model and a concentration–response model. With a base year 2015, seven combined scenarios were developed for 2030 based on three energy scenarios and three end-of-pipe control ones. Policy-specific benefits were then evaluated, indicated by the reduced emissions, surface concentrations of major pollutants, and premature deaths between scenarios. Compared to the 2030 baseline scenario, the nationwide PM2.5- and O3-related mortality was expected to decline 23% or 289 (95% confidence interval: 220–360) thousand in the most stringent scenario, and three quarters of the avoided deaths were attributed to the end-of-pipe control measures. Provinces in heavily polluted and densely populated regions would benefit more from carbon and pollution control strategies. The population fractions with PM2.5 exposure under the national air quality standard (35 μg/m3) and WHO guideline (10 μg/m3) would be doubled from 2015 to 2030 (the most stringent scenario), while still very few people would live in areas with the WHO guideline achieved for O3 (100 μg/m3). Increased health impact of O3 suggested a great significance of joint control of PM2.5 and O3 in future policy-making.
2021 Mar 17

A Ready-to-Implement Carbon-Negative Option to Help China Achieve Carbon Neutrality: Biochar with Biofuels

10:00am to 11:00am

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A Harvard-China Project Research Seminar with Qing Yang, Professor, Department of New Energy Science and Engineering, School of Energy and Power Engineering, Huazhong University of Science and Technology; Alumna (Visiting Scholar) and Collaborator, Harvard-China Project

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Peter Sherman, Shaojie Song, Xinyu Chen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Projected changes in wind power potential over China and India in high resolution climate models.” Environmental Research Letters, 16, 3. Publisher's VersionAbstract
As more countries commit to emissions reductions by midcentury to curb anthropogenic climate change, decarbonization of the electricity sector becomes a first-order task in reaching this goal. Renewables, particularly wind and solar power, will be predominant components of this transition. How availability of the wind and solar resource will change in the future in response to regional climate changes is an important and underdiscussed topic of the decarbonization process. Here, we study changes in potential for wind power in China and India, evaluating prospectively until the year 2060. To do this, we study a downscaled, high-resolution multimodel ensemble of CMIP5 models under high and low emissions scenarios. While there is some intermodel variability, we find that spatial changes are generally consistent across models, with decreases of up to 965 (a 1% change) and 186 TWh (a 2% change) in annual electricity generation potential for China and India, respectively. Compensating for the declining resource are weakened seasonal and diurnal variabilities, allowing for easier large-scale wind power integration. We conclude that while the ensemble indicates available wind resource over China and India will decline slightly in the future, there remains enormous potential for significant wind power expansion, which must play a major role in carbon neutral aspirations.
Qing Yang, Hewen Zhou, Pietro Bartocci, Francesco Fantozzi, Ondřej Mašek, Foster Agblevor, Zhiyu Wei, Haiping Yang, Hanping Chen, Xi Lu, Guoqian Chen, Chuguang Zheng, Chris Nielsen, and Michael McElroy. 2021. “Prospective contributions of biomass pyrolysis to China’s 2050 carbon reduction and renewable energy goals.” Nature Communications. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Deployment of negative emission technologies needs to start immediately if we are to avoid overshooting international carbon targets, reduce negative climate impacts, and minimize costs of emission mitigation. Actions in China, given its importance for the global anthropogenic carbon budget, can be decisive. While bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) may need years to mature, this study focuses on developing a ready-to-implement biomass intermediate pyrolysis poly-generation (BIPP) technology to produce a potentially stable form of biochar, a medium for carbon storage, and to provide a significant source of valuable biofuels, especially pyrolysis gas. Combining the experimental data with hybrid models, the results show that a BIPP system can be profitable without subsidies: its national deployment could contribute to a 68% reduction of carbon emissions per unit of GDP in 2030 compared to 2005 and could result additionally in a reduction in air pollutant emissions. With 73% of national crop residues converted to biochar and other biofuels in the near term (2020 to 2030), the cumulative greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction could reach up to 5653 Mt CO2-eq by 2050, which could contribute 9-20% of the global GHG emission reduction goal for BECCS (28-65 Gt CO2-eq in IPCC’s 1.5 °C pathway), and nearly 2633 Mt more than that projected for BECCS alone. The national BIPP development strategy is developed on a provincial scale based on a regional economic and life-cycle analysis. 
Peter Sherman, Meng Gao, Shaojie Song, Alex T. Archibald, Nathan Luke Abraham, Jean-François Lamarque, Drew Shindell, Gregory Faluvegi, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Sensitivity of modeled Indian Monsoon to Chinese and Indian aerosol emissions.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 21, Pp. 3593–3605. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The South Asian summer monsoon supplies over 80 % of India's precipitation. Industrialization over the past few decades has resulted in severe aerosol pollution in India. Understanding monsoonal sensitivity to aerosol emissions in general circulation models (GCMs) could improve predictability of observed future precipitation changes. The aims here are (1) to assess the role of aerosols on India's monsoon precipitation and (2) to determine the roles of local and regional emissions. For (1), we study the Precipitation Driver Response Model Intercomparison Project experiments. We find that the precipitation response to changes in black carbon is highly uncertain with a large intermodel spread due in part to model differences in simulating changes in cloud vertical profiles. Effects from sulfate are clearer; increased sulfate reduces Indian precipitation, a consistency through all of the models studied here. For (2), we study bespoke simulations, with reduced Chinese and/or Indian emissions in three GCMs. A significant increase in precipitation (up to ~ 20 %) is found only when both countries' sulfur emissions are regulated, which has been driven in large part by dynamic shifts in the location of convective regions in India. These changes have the potential to restore a portion of the precipitation losses induced by sulfate forcing over the last few decades.
Shaojie Song, Tao Ma, Yuzhong Zhang, Lu Shen, Pengfei Liu, Ke Li, Shixian Zhai, Haotian Zheng, Meng Gao, Jonathan M. Moch, Fengkui Duan, Kebin He, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Global modeling of heterogeneous hydroxymethanesulfonate chemistry.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 21, 1, Pp. 457–481. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS) has recently been identified as an abundant organosulfur compound in aerosols during winter haze episodes in northern China. It has also been detected in other regions although the concentrations are low. Because of the sparse field measurements, the global significance of HMS and its spatial and seasonal patterns remain unclear. Here, we modify and add to the implementation of HMS chemistry in the GEOS-Chem chemical transport model and conduct multiple global simulations. The model accounts for cloud entrainment and gas–aqueous mass transfer within the rate expressions for heterogeneous sulfur chemistry. Our simulations can generally reproduce quantitative HMS observations from Beijing and show that East Asia has the highest HMS concentration, followed by Europe and North America. The simulated HMS shows a seasonal pattern with higher values in the colder period. Photochemical oxidizing capacity affects the competition of formaldehyde with oxidants (such as ozone and hydrogen peroxide) for sulfur dioxide and is a key factor influencing the seasonality of HMS. The highest average HMS concentration (1–3 µg m−3) and HMS ∕ sulfate molar ratio (0.1–0.2) are found in northern China in winter. The simulations suggest that aqueous clouds act as the major medium for HMS chemistry while aerosol liquid water may play a role if its rate constant for HMS formation is greatly enhanced compared to cloud water.

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