Air Pollution, Greenhouse Gases & Climate

Yanyang Mei, Qingfeng Che, Qing Yang, Christopher Draper, Haiping Yang, Shihong Zhang, and Hanping Chen. 2016. “Torrefaction of different parts from a corn stalk and its effect on the characterization of products.” Industrial Crops and Products, 92, 15 December, Pp. 26-33. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Torrefaction of biomass can reduce its undesirable properties for the subsequent thermochemical application. After separating a Chinese corn stalk into four parts (leaf, stem, root, and cob), torrefaction was performed at temperatures of 200, 250, and 300 °C respectively. The structural and components differences of various parts were analyzed, along with the solid, gas, and liquid products. The study showed that the root was the most sensitive to heat and the cob showed the biggest increase in CO2 and CO yields with the increase temperature, due to their different content of hemicellulose and cellulose. The torrefaction temperature of 250 °C was especially significant for the formation of acids. Liquid product from the leaf was simpler in composition and lower in yield due to higher content of organic extractives and ash. Generally, various parts have different torrefaction properties due to the differences in chemical composition and cellular structure. And with the thermochemical application of biomass were more widely used in the chemical industry especially fine chemical industry, screening and classification may be necessary.

Clearer Skies Over China: Reconciling Air Pollution, Climate, and Economic Goals
2013. Clearer Skies Over China: Reconciling Air Pollution, Climate, and Economic Goals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A groundbreaking U.S.–Chinese inquiry into the effects of recent air pollution controls and prospective carbon taxes on China's economy and environment.

China's carbon dioxide emissions now outstrip those of other countries and its domestic air quality is severely degraded, especially in urban areas. Its sheer size and its growing, fossil-fuel-powered economy mean that China's economic and environmental policy choices will have an outsized effect on the global environmental future. Over the last decade, China has pursued policies that target both fossil fuel use and atmospheric emissions, but these efforts have been substantially overwhelmed by the country's increasing energy demands. With a billion citizens still living on less than $4,000 per year, China's energy and environmental policies must be reconciled with the goals of maintaining economic growth and raising living standards.

This book, a U.S.–Chinese collaboration of experts from Harvard and Tsinghua University, offers a groundbreaking integrated analysis of China's economy, emissions, air quality, public health, and agriculture. It first offers essential scientific context and accessible summaries of the book's policy findings; it then provides the underlying scientific and economic research. These studies suggest that China's recent sulfur controls achieved enormous environmental health benefits at unexpectedly low costs. They also indicate that judicious implementation of carbon taxes could reduce not only China's carbon emissions but also its air pollution more comprehensively than current single-pollutant policies, all at little cost to economic growth.

Jintai Lin, Chris P Nielsen, Yu Zhao, Yu Lei, Yang Liu, and Michael B. McElroy. 2010. “Recent changes in particulate air pollution over China observed from space and ground: Effectiveness of emission control.” Environmental Science and Technology, 44, 20, Pp. 7771-7776. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The Chinese government has moved aggressively since 2005 to reduce emissions of a number of pollutants including primary particulate matter (PM) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), efforts inadvertently aided since late 2008 by economic recession. Satellite observations of aerosol optical depth (AOD) and column nitrogen dioxide (NO2) provide independent indicators of emission trends, clearly reflecting the sharp onset of the recession in the fall of 2008 and rebound of the economy in the latter half of 2009. Comparison of AOD with ground-based observations of PM over a longer period indicate that emission-control policies have not been successful in reducing concentrations of aerosol pollutants at smaller size range over industrialized regions of China. The lack of success is attributed to the increasing importance of anthropogenic secondary aerosols formed from precursor species including nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), and ammonia (NH3).
Shuxiao Wang, Jiming Hao, Yongqi Lu, and Ji Li. 2007. “Local population exposure to pollutants from the major industrial sectors.” In Clearing the air: The health and economic damages of air pollution in China, edited by Mun S Ho and Chris P Nielsen. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

An interdisciplinary, quantitative assessment of the health and economic costs of air pollution in China, and of market-based policies to build environmental protection into economic development.

China's historic economic expansion is driven by fossil fuels, which increase its emissions of both local air pollutants and greenhouse gases dramatically. Clearing the Air is an innovative, quantitative examination of the national damage caused by China's degraded air quality, conducted in a pathbreaking, interdisciplinary U.S.-China collaboration. Its damage estimates are allocated by sector, making it possible for the first time to judge whether, for instance, power generation, transportation, or an unexpected source such as cement production causes the greatest environmental harm. Such objective analyses can reset policy priorities.

Clearing the Air uses this information to show how appropriate "green" taxes might not only reduce emissions and health damages but even enhance China's economic growth. It also shows to what extent these same policies could limit greenhouse gases, suggesting that wealthier nations have a responsibility to help China build environmental protection into its growth.

Clearing the Air is written for diverse readers, providing a bridge from underlying research to policy implications, with easily accessible overviews of issues and summaries of the findings for nonspecialists and policymakers followed by more specialized, interlinked studies of primary interest to scholars. Taken together, these analyses offer a uniquely integrated assessment that supports the book's economic and policy recommendations.

P. Suntharalingam, C. M. Spivakovsky, J. A. Logan, and M.B. McElroy. 2003. “Estimating the distribution of terrestrial CO2 sources and sinks from atmospheric measurements: Sensitivity to configuration of the observation network.” Journal of Geophysical Research, 108, D15. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We explore the sensitivity of terrestrial CO2 flux estimates from a specific inversion methodology, based on the configuration of Fan et al. [1998], to different configurations of the global observation network. Using diagnostics derived from the inversion equations, we focus on quantifying the relative influence of individual stations on the flux estimates. We also examine the impact of different assumptions for the data uncertainty values by contrasting weighted and unweighted inversions and presenting related sensitivity analyses. For this particular methodology, unweighted estimates of continental scale fluxes prove very sensitive to network configuration. The inclusion or omission of a few important stations in and around the northern continents can result in shifts in continental‐scale flux estimates of up to 1.5 Gt C/year. The weighted estimates are less sensitive to network configuration. Diagnostics of relative station influence indicate that this results from the reduced roles of previously influential continental sites; i.e., those stations characterized by high levels of data uncertainty. In the weighted approach, stations on continental peripheries associated with lower levels of data uncertainty are the most important in determining terrestrial fluxes. Finally, using the diagnostics of relative station influence, we discuss potential sampling strategies for the determination of regional fluxes from surface measurements.
Yu Lei. 2013. “Benefits to Human Health and Agricultural Productivity of Reduced Air Pollution.” In Clearer Skies Over China: Reconciling Air Quality, Climate, and Economic Goals, Pp. 291-328. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A groundbreaking U.S.–Chinese inquiry into the effects of recent air pollution controls and prospective carbon taxes on China's economy and environment.

China's carbon dioxide emissions now outstrip those of other countries and its domestic air quality is severely degraded, especially in urban areas. Its sheer size and its growing, fossil-fuel-powered economy mean that China's economic and environmental policy choices will have an outsized effect on the global environmental future. Over the last decade, China has pursued policies that target both fossil fuel use and atmospheric emissions, but these efforts have been substantially overwhelmed by the country's increasing energy demands. With a billion citizens still living on less than $4,000 per year, China's energy and environmental policies must be reconciled with the goals of maintaining economic growth and raising living standards.

This book, a U.S.–Chinese collaboration of experts from Harvard and Tsinghua University, offers a groundbreaking integrated analysis of China's economy, emissions, air quality, public health, and agriculture. It first offers essential scientific context and accessible summaries of the book's policy findings; it then provides the underlying scientific and economic research. These studies suggest that China's recent sulfur controls achieved enormous environmental health benefits at unexpectedly low costs. They also indicate that judicious implementation of carbon taxes could reduce not only China's carbon emissions but also its air pollution more comprehensively than current single-pollutant policies, all at little cost to economic growth.

Jintai Lin and Michael B. McElroy. 2011. “Detection from space of a reduction in anthropogenic emissions of nitrogen oxides during the Chinese economic downturn.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11, Pp. 8171-8188. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Rapid economic and industrial development in
China and relatively weak emission controls have resulted in
significant increases in emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx)
in recent years, with the exception of late 2008 to mid 2009
when the economic downturn led to emission reductions detectable
from space. Here vertical column densities (VCDs)
of tropospheric NO2 retrieved from satellite observations by
SCIAMACHY, GOME-2 and OMI (both by KNMI and by
NASA) are used to evaluate changes in emissions of NOx
from October 2004 to February 2010 identifying impacts of
the economic downturn. Data over polluted regions of Northern
East China suggest an increase of 27–33% in 12-month
mean VCD of NO2 prior to the downturn, consistent with an
increase of 49% in thermal power generation (TPG) reflecting
the economic growth. More detailed analysis is used to
quantify changes in emissions of NOx in January over the
period 2005–2010 when the effect of the downturn was most
evident. The GEOS-Chem model is employed to evaluate
the effect of changes in chemistry and meteorology on VCD
of NO2. This analysis indicates that emissions decreased by
20% from January 2008 to January 2009, close to the reduction
of 18% in TPG that occurred over the same interval. A
combination of three independent approaches indicates that
the economic downturn was responsible for a reduction in
emissions by 9–11% in January 2009 with an additional decrease
of 10%attributed to the slow-down in industrial activity
associated with the coincident celebration of the Chinese
New Year; errors in the estimate are most likely less than
3.4 %.
Jin-Tai Lin, Daeok Youn, Xin-Zhong Liang, and Donald J. Wuebbles. 2008. “Global model simulation of summertime U.S. ozone diurnal cycle and its sensitivity to PBL mixing, spatial resolution, and emissions.” Atmospheric Environment, 41, 36, Pp. 8470-8483. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Simulation of summertime U.S. surface ozone diurnal cycle is influenced by the model representation of planetary boundary layer (PBL) mixing, spatial resolution, and precursor emissions. These factors are investigated here for five major regions (Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California, and Southwest) by using the Model for Ozone And Related chemical Tracers version 2.4 (MOZART-2.4), with important modifications, to conduct sensitivity experiments for summer 1999 with three PBL mixing schemes, two horizontal resolutions and two emissions datasets. Among these factors, the PBL mixing is dominant. The default non-local scheme well reproduces the observed ozone diurnal variation, where the timing for the afternoon maximum and the morning minimum is within 1 h of the observed; biases for the minimum are less than 5 ppb except over the Southeast; and the ozone maximum–minimum contrast (OMMC) is within 10 ppb of observations except for the overprediction by 18.9 ppb over the Northeast. In contrast, the local scheme significantly overestimates the OMMC by 10–34 ppb over all regions as ozone and precursors are trapped too close to the ground. On the other hand, the full-mixing assumption underestimates the OMMC by 0–25 ppb, except over the Northeast, as the nighttime ozone decline is greatly underpredicted. As compared to PBL mixing, the effects of horizontal resolutions and precursor emissions being used are smaller but non-negligible. Overall, with the non-local mixing scheme, relatively high horizontal resolution (∼1.1°) and updated emissions data, the modified MOZART is capable of simulating the main features of the observed ozone diurnal cycle.

This paper identifies improvements in representation of the boundary layer applicable to the Project's atmospheric model of China.

Ying Zhou, Jonathan I Levy, John S Evans, and James K Hammitt. 2006. “The influence of geographic location on population exposure to emissions from power plants throughout China.” Environment International, 32, 3, Pp. 365-373. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This analysis seeks to evaluate the influence of emission source location on population exposure in China to fine particles and sulfur dioxide. We use the concept of intake fraction, defined as the fraction of material or its precursor released from a source that is eventually inhaled or ingested by a population. We select 29 power-plant sites throughout China and estimate annual average intake fractions at each site, using identical source characteristics to isolate the influence of geographic location. In addition, we develop regression models to interpret the intake fraction values and allow for extrapolation to other sites. To model the concentration increase due to emissions from selected power plants, we used a detailed long-range atmospheric dispersion model, CALPUFF. Primary fine particles have the highest average intake fraction (1 × 10− 5), followed by sulfur dioxide (5 × 10− 6), sulfate from sulfur dioxide (4 × 10− 6), and nitrate from nitrogen oxides (4 × 10− 6). For all pollutants, the intake fractions span approximately an order of magnitude across sites. In the regression analysis, the independent variables are meteorological proxies (such as climate region and precipitation) and population at various distances from the source. We find that population terms can explain a substantial percentage of variability in the intake fraction for all pollutants (R2 between 0.86 and 0.95 across pollutants), with a significant modifying influence of meteorological regime. Near-source population is more important for primary coarse particles while population at medium to long distance is more important for primary fine particles and secondary particles. A significant portion of intake fraction (especially for secondary particles and primary fine particles) occurs beyond 500 km of the source, emphasizing the need for detailed long-range dispersion modeling. These findings demonstrate that intake fractions for power plants in China can be estimated with reasonable precision and summarized using simple regression models. The results should be useful for informing future decisions about power-plant locations and controls.
Chris P Nielsen and Mun S Ho. 2013. “Atmospheric Environment in China: Introduction and Research Review.” In Clearer Skies Over China: Reconciling Air Quality, Climate, and Economic Goals, Pp. 3-58. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A groundbreaking U.S.–Chinese inquiry into the effects of recent air pollution controls and prospective carbon taxes on China's economy and environment.

China's carbon dioxide emissions now outstrip those of other countries and its domestic air quality is severely degraded, especially in urban areas. Its sheer size and its growing, fossil-fuel-powered economy mean that China's economic and environmental policy choices will have an outsized effect on the global environmental future. Over the last decade, China has pursued policies that target both fossil fuel use and atmospheric emissions, but these efforts have been substantially overwhelmed by the country's increasing energy demands. With a billion citizens still living on less than $4,000 per year, China's energy and environmental policies must be reconciled with the goals of maintaining economic growth and raising living standards.

This book, a U.S.–Chinese collaboration of experts from Harvard and Tsinghua University, offers a groundbreaking integrated analysis of China's economy, emissions, air quality, public health, and agriculture. It first offers essential scientific context and accessible summaries of the book's policy findings; it then provides the underlying scientific and economic research. These studies suggest that China's recent sulfur controls achieved enormous environmental health benefits at unexpectedly low costs. They also indicate that judicious implementation of carbon taxes could reduce not only China's carbon emissions but also its air pollution more comprehensively than current single-pollutant policies, all at little cost to economic growth.

Junling Huang and Michael B. McElroy. 2015. “Thermodynamic disequilibrium of the atmosphere in the context of global warming.” Climate Dynamics, (March). Publisher's VersionAbstract

The atmosphere is an example of a non-equilibrium system. This study explores the relationship among temperature, energy and entropy of the atmosphere, introducing two variables that serve to quantify the thermodynamic disequilibrium of the atmosphere. The maximum work, Wmax, that the atmosphere can perform is defined as the work developed through a thermally reversible and adiabatic approach to thermodynamic equilibrium with global entropy conserved. The maximum entropy increase, (ΔS)max, is defined as the increase in global entropy achieved through a thermally irreversible transition to thermodynamic equilibrium without performing work. Wmax is identified as an approximately linear function of (ΔS)max. Large values of Wmax or S)max correspond to states of high thermodynamic disequilibrium. The seasonality and long-term historical variation of Wmax and S)max are computed, indicating highest disequilibrium in July, lowest disequilibrium in January with no statistically significant trend over the past 32 years. The analysis provides a perspective on the interconnections of temperature, energy and entropy for the atmosphere and allows for a quantitative investigation of the deviation of the atmosphere from thermodynamic equilibrium. 

Yu Zhao, Jie Zhang, and Chris P Nielsen. 2013. “The effects of recent control policies on trends in emissions of anthropogenic atmospheric pollutants and CO2 in China.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 13, Pp. 487-508. Publisher's VersionAbstract

To examine the effects of China’s national policies of energy conservation and emission control during 2005–2010, inter-annual emission trends of gaseous pollutants, primary aerosols, and CO2 are estimated with a bottom-up framework. The control measures led to improved energy efficiency and/or increased penetration of emission control devices at power plants and other important industrial sources, yielding reduced emission factors for all evaluated species except NOx. The national emissions of anthropogenic SO2, CO, and total primary PM (particulate matter) in 2010 are estimated to have been 89%, 108%, and 87% of those in 2005, respectively, suggesting successful emission control of those species despite fast growth of the economy and energy consumption during the period. The emissions of NOx and CO2, however, are estimated to have increased by 47% and 43%, respectively, indicating that they remain largely determined by the growth of energy use, industrial production, and vehicle populations. Based on application of a Monte-Carlo framework, estimated uncertainties of SO2 and PM emissions increased from 2005 to 2010, resulting mainly from poorly understood average SO2 removal efficiency in flue gas desulfurization (FGD) systems in the power sector, and unclear changes in the penetration levels of dust collectors at industrial sources, respectively. While emission trends determined by bottom-up methods can be generally verified by observations from both ground stations and satellites, clear discrepancies exist for given regions and seasons, indicating a need for more accurate spatial and time distributions of emissions. Limitations of current emission control polices are analyzed based on the estimated emission trends. Compared with control of total PM, there are fewer gains in control of fine particles and carbonaceous aerosols, the PM components most responsible for damages to public health and effects on radiative forcing. A much faster decrease of alkaline base cations in primary PM than that of SO2 may have raised the acidification risks to ecosystems, indicating further control of acid precursors is required. Moreover, with relatively strict controls in developed urban areas, air pollution challenges have been expanding to less-developed neighboring regions. There is a great need in the future for multipollutant control strategies that combine recognition of diverse environmental impacts both in urban and rural areas with emission abatement of multiple species in concert. To examine the effects of China’s national policies of energy conservation and emission control during 2005–2010, inter-annual emission trends of gaseous pollutants, primary aerosols, and CO2 are estimated with a bottom-up framework. The control measures led to improved energy efficiency and/or increased penetration of emission control devices at power plants and other important industrial sources, yielding reduced emission factors for all evaluated species except NOx. The national emissions of anthropogenic SO2, CO, and total primary PM (particulate matter) in 2010 are estimated to have been 89%, 108%, and 87% of those in 2005, respectively, suggesting successful emission control of those species despite fast growth of the economy and energy consumption during the period. The emissions of NOx and CO2, however, are estimated to have increased by 47% and 43%, respectively, indicating that they remain largely determined by the growth of energy use, industrial production, and vehicle populations. Based on application of a Monte-Carlo framework, estimated uncertainties of SO2 and PM emissions increased from 2005 to 2010, resulting mainly from poorly understood average SO2 removal efficiency in flue gas desulfurization (FGD) systems in the power sector, and unclear changes in the penetration levels of dust collectors at industrial sources, respectively. While emission trends determined by bottom-up methods can be generally verified by observations from both ground stations and satellites, clear discrepancies exist for given regions and seasons, indicating a need for more accurate spatial and time distributions of emissions. Limitations of current emission control polices are analyzed based on the estimated emission trends. Compared with control of total PM, there are fewer gains in control of fine particles and carbonaceous aerosols, the PM components most responsible for damages to public health and effects on radiative forcing. A much faster decrease of alkaline base cations in primary PM than that of SO2 may have raised the acidification risks to ecosystems, indicating further control of acid precursors is required. Moreover, with relatively strict controls in developed urban areas, air pollution challenges have been expanding to less-developed neighboring regions. There is a great need in the future for multipollutant control strategies that combine recognition of diverse environmental impacts both in urban and rural areas with emission abatement of multiple species in concert.

Yuxuan Wang, J. William Munger, Shicheng Xu, Michael B. McElroy, Jiming Hao, Chris P Nielsen, and Hong Ma. 2010. “CO2 and its correlation with CO at a rural site near Beijing: Implications for combustion efficiency in China.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 10, Pp. 8881-8897. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Although China has surpassed the United States as the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter, in situ measurements of atmospheric CO2 have been sparse in China. This paper analyzes hourly CO2 and its correlation with CO at Miyun, a rural site near Beijing, over a period of 51 months (Dec 2004 through Feb 2009). The CO2-CO correlation analysis evaluated separately for each hour of the day provides useful information with statistical significance even in the growing season. We found that the intercept, representing the initial condition imposed by global distribution of CO2 with influence of photosynthesis and respiration, exhibits diurnal cycles differing by season. The background CO2 (CO2,b) derived from Miyun observations is comparable to CO2 observed at a Mongolian background station to the northwest. Annual growth of overall mean CO2 at Miyun is estimated at 2.7 ppm yr−1 while that of CO2,b is only 1.7 ppm yr−1 similar to the mean growth rate at northern mid-latitude background stations. This suggests a relatively faster increase in the regional CO2 sources in China than the global average, consistent with bottom-up studies of CO2 emissions. For air masses with trajectories through the northern China boundary layer, mean winter CO2/CO correlation slopes (dCO2/dCO) increased by 2.8±0.9 ppmv/ppmv or 11% from 2005–2006 to 2007–2008, with CO2 increasing by 1.8 ppmv. The increase in dCO2/dCO indicates improvement in overall combustion efficiency over northern China after winter 2007, attributed to pollution reduction measures associated with the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The observed CO2/CO ratio at Miyun is 25% higher than the bottom-up CO2/CO emission ratio, suggesting a contribution of respired CO2 from urban residents as well as agricultural soils and livestock in the observations and uncertainty in the emission estimates.
Yuxuan Wang, Michael B. McElroy, K. Folkert Boersma, Henk J Eskes, and Pepijn J Veefkind. 2007. “Traffic restrictions associated with the Sino-African Summit: Reductions of NOX detected from space.” Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L08814. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Aggressive measures were instituted by the Beijing municipal authorities to restrict vehicular traffic in the Chinese capital during the recent Sino-African Summit. We show that reductions in associated emissions of NOx were detected by the Dutch-Finnish Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) aboard the Aura satellite. Interpretation of these data using a 3-dimensional chemical transport model indicates that emissions of NOx were reduced by 40% over the period of November 4 to 6, 2006, for which the restrictions were in place.
Y.X. Wang, M.B. McElroy, D.J. Jacob, and R.M. Yantosca. 2004. “A nested grid formulation for chemical transport over Asia: Applications to CO.” Journal of Geophysical Research, 109, D22307. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A global three-dimensional chemical transport model (GEOS-CHEM) was modified to permit treatment of a limited spatial regime with resolution higher than that adopted for the global background. Identified as a one-way nested grid formulation, the model was applied to a simulation of CO over Asia during spring 2001. Differences between results obtained using the nested grid (resolution 1° × 1°), the coarse global model (resolution 4° × 5°), and the intermediate global model (resolution 2° × 2.5°) are discussed. The higher-resolution model allows for more efficient, advection-related, ventilation of the lower atmosphere, reflecting the significance of localized regions of intense upward motion not resolved in a coarser-resolution simulation. Budget analysis suggests that upward transfer to higher altitudes through large-scale advection provides the major sink for CO below 4 km. Horizontal advection, mainly through the north boundary, contributes a net source of CO to the window domain despite the polluted nature of the study region. The nested-grid model is shown to provide good agreement with measurements made during the Transport and Chemical Evolution over the Pacific (TRACE-P) campaign in spring 2001, notably better than the low-resolution model in simulating frontal lifting process and differences across the boundary separating the regions of cyclonic and anticyclonic flow. The high-resolution window approach also allows us to differentiate transport mechanisms for individual subregions of China on a much finer scale than was possible previously. Suggestions are made as to how to allow for subgrid vertical advective motions in the low-resolution model through a carefully designed and broadly tested eddy diffusion treatment.

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