Air Pollution, Greenhouse Gases & Climate

Yu Zhao, Chris P Nielsen, Michael B. McElroy, Lin Zhang, and Jie Zhang. 2012. “CO emissions in China: Uncertainties and implications of improved energy efficiency and emission control.” Atmospheric Environment, 49, Pp. 103-113. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A bottom-up methodology and an improved database of emission factors combining the latest domestic field measurements are developed to estimate the emissions of anthropogenic CO from China at national and provincial levels. The CO emission factors for major economic sectors declined to varying degrees from 2005 to 2009, attributed to improved energy efficiency and/or emission control regulations. Total national CO emissions are estimated at 173 Tg for 2005 and have been relatively stable for subsequent years, despite fast growth of energy consumption and industrial production. While industry and transportation sources dominated CO emissions in developed eastern and north-central China, residential combustion played a much greater role in the less developed western provinces. The uncertainties of national Chinese CO emissions are quantified using Monte Carlo simulation at −20% to +45% (95% confidence interval). Due to poor understanding of emission factors and activity levels for combustion of solid fuels, the largest uncertainties are found for emissions from the residential sector. The trends of bottom-up emissions compare reasonably to satellite observation of CO columns and to ground observations of CO2–CO correlation slopes. The increase in the ratio for emissions of CO2 relative to CO suggests that China has successfully improved combustion efficiencies across its economy in recent years, consistent with national policies to improve energy efficiency and to control criteria air pollutants.
Yuxuan Wang, Jiming Hao, Michael B. McElroy, J. William Munger, Hong Ma, Dan Chen, and Chris P Nielsen. 2009. “Ozone air quality during the 2008 Beijing Olympics: Effectiveness of emission restrictions.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 9, 14, Pp. 5237-5251. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A series of aggressive measures was launched by the Chinese government to reduce pollutant emissions from Beijing and surrounding areas during the Olympic Games. Observations at Miyun, a rural site 100 km downwind of the Beijing urban center, show significant decreases in concen-trations of O3, CO, NOy, and SO2 during August 2008, rel-ative to August 2006–2007. The mean daytime mixing ratio of O3 was lower by about 15 ppbv, reduced to 50 ppbv, in August 2008. The relative reductions in daytime SO2, CO, and NOy were 61%, 25%, and 21%, respectively. Changes in SO2 and in species correlations from 2007 to 2008 indicate that emissions of SO2, CO, and NOx were reduced at least by 60%, 32%, and 36%, respectively, during the Olympics. Analysis of meteorological conditions and interpretation of observations using a chemical transport model suggest that although the day-to-day variability in ozone is driven mostly by meteorology, the reduction in emissions of ozone pre-cursors associated with the Olympic Games had a signifi-cant contribution to the observed decrease in O3 during Au-gust 2008, accounting for 80% of the O3 reduction for the month as a whole and 45% during the Olympics Period (8–24 August). The model predicts that emission restrictions such as those implemented during the Olympics can affect O3 far beyond the Beijing urban area, resulting in reductions in boundary layer O3 of 2–10 ppbv over a large region of the North China Plain and Northeastern China.
Yanxia Zhang, Haikun Wang, Sai Liang, Ming Xu, Weidong Liu, Shalang Li, Rongrong Zhang, Chris P Nielsen, and Jun Bi. 2014. “Temporal and spatial variations in consumption-based carbon dioxide emissions in China.” Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, 40, Pp. 60-68. Publisher's VersionAbstract

China’s CO2 emissions have sharply increased in recent years with soaring economic development and urbanization. Consumption-based accounting of CO2 emissions could provide new insights for allocating regional mitigation responsibility and curbing the emissions. A multi-regional input–output model is used to study the trends and disparities of consumption-based emissions from Chinese provinces during the period 2002–2007. Results show that China’s consumption-based CO2 emissions grew from 3549 Mt in 2002 to 5403 Mt in 2007 with an annual average growth rate of 8.8%. The annual growth rate in the richer eastern region was over 10% because of a rapid increase in capital investment and the growth of urban consumption. Consumption-based CO2 emissions embodied in interprovincial trades contributed only 10% (351 Mt) to the national total of such emissions in 2002, but 16% (864 Mt) in 2007. Given low per capita emissions currently, China’s consumption-based emissions have much room to grow because of further development of urbanization and stimulation of domestic demand. The government should pay greater attention to controlling CO2 emissions from a consumption-based perspective.

Xi Lu, Michael B. McElroy, Xinyu Chen, and Chongqing Kang. 2014. “Opportunity for offshore wind to reduce future demand for coal-fired power plants in China with consequent savings in emissions of CO2.” Environmental Science & Technology, 48, 24, Pp. 14764–14771. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Although capacity credits for wind power have been embodied in power systems in the U.S. and Europe, the current planning framework for electricity in China continues to treat wind power as a non-dispatchable source with zero contribution to firm capacity. This study adopts a rigorous reliability model for the electric power system evaluating capacity credits that should be recognized for offshore wind resources supplying power demands for Jiangsu, China. Jiangsu is an economic hub located in the Yangtze River delta accounting for 10% of the total electricity consumed in China. Demand for electricity in Jiangsu is projected to increase from 331 TWh in 2009 to 800 TWh by 2030. Given a wind penetration level of 60% for the future additional Jiangsu power supply, wind resources distributed along the offshore region of five coastal provinces in China (Shandong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Fujian) should merit a capacity credit of 12.9%, the fraction of installed wind capacity that should be recognized to displace coal-fired systems without violating the reliability standard. In the high-coal-price scenario, with 60% wind penetration, reductions in CO2 emissions relative to a business as usual reference could be as large as 200.2 million tons of CO2 or 51.8% of the potential addition, with a cost for emissions avoided of $29.0 per ton.

 

Junling Huang and Michael B. McElroy. 2015. “A 32-year perspective on the origin of wind energy in a warming climate.” Renewable Energy, 77, May, Pp. 482-492. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Based on assimilated meteorological data for the period January 1979 to December 2010, the origin of wind energy is investigated from both mechanical and thermodynamic perspectives, with special focus on the spatial distribution of sources, historical long term variations and the efficiency for kinetic energy production. The dry air component of the atmosphere acts as a thermal engine, absorbing heat at higher temperatures, approximately 256 K, releasing heat at lower temperatures, approximately 252 K. The process is responsible for production of wind kinetic energy at a rate of 2.46 W/m2  sustaining thus the circulation of the atmosphere against frictional dissipation. The results indicate an upward trend in kinetic energy production over the past 32 years, indicating that wind energy resources may be varying in the current warming climate. This analysis provides an analytical framework that can be adopted for future studies addressing the ultimate wind energy potential and the possible perturbations to the atmospheric circulation that could arise as a result of significant exploitation of wind energy.    

Jin-Tai Lin and Michael B. McElroy. 2010. “Impacts of boundary layer mixing on pollutant vertical profiles in the lower troposphere: Implications to satellite remote sensing.” Atmospheric Environment, 44, 14, Pp. 1726-1739. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Mixing in the planetary boundary layer (PBL) affects vertical distributions of air tracers in the lower troposphere. An accurate representation of PBL mixing is critical for chemical-transport models (CTMs) for applications sensitive to simulations of the vertical profiles of tracers. The full mixing assumption in the widely used global CTM GEOS-Chem has recently been supplemented with a non-local PBL scheme. This study analyzes the impact of the non-local scheme on model representation of PBL mixing, consequences for simulations of vertical profiles of air tracers and surface air pollution, and implications for model applications to the interpretation of data retrieved from satellite remote sensing. The non-local scheme significantly improves simulations of the vertical distributions for NO2 and O3, as evaluated using aircraft measurements in summer 2004. It also reduces model biases over the U.S. by more than 10 ppb for surface ozone concentrations at night and by 2–5 ppb for peak ozone in the afternoon, as evaluated using ground observations. The application to inverse modeling of anthropogenic NOx emissions for East China using satellite retrievals of NO2 from OMI and GOME-2 suggests that the full mixing assumption results in 3–14% differences in top–down emission budgets as compared to the non-local scheme. The top–down estimate combining the non-local scheme and the Lin et al. inverse modeling approach suggests a magnitude of 6.6 TgN yr−1 for emissions of NOx over East China in July 2008 and 8.0 TgN yr−1 for January 2009, with the magnitude and seasonality in good agreement with bottom–up estimates.
Chris P Nielsen and Mun S Ho. 2007. “Summary for research.” 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.

Chris P Nielsen and Michael B. McElroy. 1998. “Introduction and overview.” In Energizing China: Reconciling Environmental Protection and Economic Growth, edited by Michael B. McElroy, Chris P. Nielsen, and Peter Lydon. Cambridge, MA: HUCE/Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

As China develops its booming, fossil fuel-powered economy, is it taking lessons from the history of Western industrialization and the unforeseen environmental harms that accompanied it? Given the risks of climate change, is there an imperative, shared responsibility to help China respond to the environmental effects of its coal dependence? By linking global hazards to local air pollution concerns—from indoor stove smoke to burgeoning ground-level ozone—this volume of eighteen studies seeks integrated strategies to address simultaneously a range of harmful emissions. Counterbalancing the scientific inquiry are key chapters on China’s unique legal, institutional, political, and cultural factors in effective pollution control.

Energizing China, the stage-setting publication of an ongoing program of Harvard–China research collaboration, is distinguished by its conceptual breadth and spirit of exchange. Its contributors include twenty-two Western and seventeen Chinese scholars with a disciplinary reach that includes science, public health, engineering, economics, public policy, law, business, and China studies.

Yuxuan Wang. 2013. “Atmospheric Modeling of Pollutant Concentrations.” In Clearer Skies Over China: Reconciling Air Quality, Climate, and Economic Goals, Pp. 263-289. 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.

Rong Xie, Clive E. Sabel, Xi Lu, Weimo Zhu, Haidong Kan, Chris P. Nielsen, and Haikun Wang. 2016. “Long-term trend and spatial pattern of PM2.5-induced premature mortality in China.” Environment International, 97, Pp. 180-186. Publisher's VersionAbstract

With rapid economic growth, China has witnessed increasingly frequent and severe haze and smog episodes over the past decade, posing serious health impacts to the Chinese population, especially those in densely populated city clusters. Quantification of the spatial and temporal variation of health impacts attributable to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has important implications for China's policies on air pollution control. In this study, we evaluated the spatial distribution of premature deaths in China between 2000 and 2010 attributable to ambient PM2.5 in accord with the Global Burden of Disease based on a high resolution population density map of China, satellite retrieved PM2.5 concentrations, and provincial health data. Our results suggest that China's anthropogenic ambient PM2.5 led to 1,255,400 premature deaths in 2010, 42% higher than the level in 2000. Besides increased PM2.5 concentration, rapid urbanization has attracted large population migration into the more developed eastern coastal urban areas, intensifying the overall health impact. In addition, our analysis implies that health burdens were exacerbated in some developing inner provinces with high population density (e.g. Henan, Anhui, Sichuan) because of the relocation of more polluting and resource-intensive industries into these regions. In order to avoid such national level environmental inequities, China's regulations on PM2.5 should not be loosened in inner provinces. Furthermore policies should create incentive mechanisms that can promote transfer of advanced production and emissions control technologies from the coastal regions to the interior regions.

Yu Lei, Qiang Zhang, Kebin He, and David G Streets. 2011. “Primary anthropogenic aerosol emission trends for China, 1990-2005.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11, Pp. 931-954. Publisher's VersionAbstract
An inventory of anthropogenic primary aerosol
emissions in China was developed for 1990–2005 using a
technology-based approach. Taking into account changes
in the technology penetration within industry sectors and
improvements in emission controls driven by stricter emission
standards, a dynamic methodology was derived and implemented
to estimate inter-annual emission factors. Emission
factors of PM2.5 decreased by 7%–69% from 1990 to
2005 in different industry sectors of China, and emission factors
of TSP decreased by 18%–80% as well, with the measures
of controlling PM emissions implemented. As a result,
emissions of PM2.5 and TSP in 2005 were 11.0 Tg and
29.7 Tg, respectively, less than what they would have been
without the adoption of these measures. Emissions of PM2.5,
PM10 and TSP presented similar trends: they increased in
the first six years of 1990s and decreased until 2000, then
increased again in the following years. Emissions of TSP
peaked (35.5 Tg) in 1996, while the peak of PM10 (18.8 Tg)
and PM2.5 (12.7 Tg) emissions occurred in 2005. Although
various emission trends were identified across sectors, the cement
industry and biofuel combustion in the residential sector
were consistently the largest sources of PM2.5 emissions,
accounting for 53%–62% of emissions over the study period.
The non-metallic mineral product industry, including the cement,
lime and brick industries, accounted for 54%–63% of
national TSP emissions. There were no significant trends of
BC and OC emissions until 2000, but the increase after 2000
brought the peaks of BC (1.51 Tg) and OC (3.19 Tg) emissions
in 2005. Although significant improvements in the estimation
of primary aerosols are presented here, there still
exist large uncertainties. More accurate and detailed activity
information and emission factors based on local tests are essential
to further improve emission estimates, this especially
being so for the brick and coke industries, as well as for coal.
Yu Zhao, Lei Duan, Jia Xing, Thorjorn Larssen, Chris P Nielsen, and Jiming Hao. 2009. “Soil acidification in China: Is controlling SO2 emissions enough?” Environmental Science and Technology, 43, 21, Pp. 8021-8026. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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.
Shuxiao Wang, Jiming Hao, Mun S Ho, Ji Li, and Yongqi Lu. 2006. “Intake fractions of industrial air pollutants in China: Estimation and application.” Science of the Total Environment, 354, Pp. 127-141. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Intake fractions, an emissions-intake relationship for primary pollutants, are defined and are estimated in order to make simple estimates of health damages from air pollution. The sulfur dioxide (SO2) and total suspended particles (TSP) intake fractions for five cities of China are estimated for the four main polluting industries—electric power generation, mineral (mostly cement) products industry, chemical process industry and metallurgical industry (mainly iron and steel smelting). The Industrial Source Complex Long Term (ISTLT3) model is used to simulate the spatial distribution of incremental ambient concentrations due to emissions from a large sample of site-specific sources. Detailed population distribution information is used for each city. The average intake fractions within 50 km of these sources are 4.4 × 10- 6 for TSP, and 4.2 × 10- 6 for SO2, with standard deviations of 8.15 × 10- 6 and 9.16 × 10- 6, respectively. They vary over a wide range, from 10- 7 to 10- 5. Although the electric power generation has been the focus of much of the air pollution research in China, our results show that it has the lowest average intake fraction for a local range among the four industries, which highlights the importance of pollutant emissions from other industrial sources. Sensitivity analyses show how the intake fractions are affected by the source and pollutant characteristics, the most important parameter being the size of the domain. However, the intake fraction estimates are robust enough to be useful for evaluating the local impacts on human health of primary SO2 and TSP emissions. An application of intake fractions is given to demonstrate how this approach provides a rapid population risk estimate if the dose-response function is linear without threshold, and hence can help in prioritizing pollution control efforts.
S.X. Wang, B. Zhao, S.Y. Cai, Z. Klimont, C.P. Nielsen, T. Morikawa, J.H. Woo, Y. Kim, X. Fu, J.Y. Xu, J.M. Hao, and K.B. He. 2014. “Emission trends and mitigation options for air pollutants in East Asia.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 14, Pp. 6571-6603. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Emissions of air pollutants in East Asia play an important role in the regional and global atmospheric environment. In this study we evaluated the recent emission trends of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) in East Asia, and projected their future emissions up until 2030 with six emission scenarios. The results will provide future emission projections for the modeling community of the model inter-comparison program for Asia (MICS-Asia). During 2005–2010, the emissions of SO2 and PM2.5 in East Asia decreased by 15 and 12%, respectively, mainly attributable to the large-scale deployment of flue gas desulfurization (FGD) at China's power plants, and the promotion of highly efficient PM removal technologies in China's power plants and cement industry. During this period, the emissions of NOx and NMVOC increased by 25 and 15%, driven by rapid increase in the emissions from China due to inadequate control strategies. In contrast, the NOx and NMVOC emissions in East Asia except China decreased by 13–17%, mainly due to the implementation of stringent vehicle emission standards in Japan and South Korea. Under current regulations and current levels of implementation, NOx, SO2, and NMVOC emissions in East Asia are projected to increase by about one-quarter over 2010 levels by 2030, while PM2.5 emissions are expected to decrease by 7%. Assuming enforcement of new energy-saving policies, emissions of NOx, SO2, PM2.5 and NMVOC in East Asia are expected to decrease by 28, 36, 28, and 15%, respectively, compared with the baseline case. The implementation of "progressive" end-of-pipe control measures would lead to another one-third reduction of the baseline emissions of NOx, and about one-quarter reduction of SO2, PM2.5, and NMVOC. Assuming the full application of technically feasible energy-saving policies and end-of-pipe control technologies, the emissions of NOx, SO2, and PM2.5 in East Asia would account for only about one-quarter, and NMVOC for one-third, of the levels of the baseline projection. Compared with previous projections, this study projects larger reductions in NOx and SO2 emissions by considering aggressive governmental plans and standards scheduled to be implemented in the next decade, and quantifies the significant effects of detailed progressive control measures on NMVOC emissions up until 2030.

Yanxia Zhang, Haikun Wang, Sai Liang, Ming Xu, Qiang Zhang, Hongyan Zhao, and Jun Bi. 2015. “A dual strategy for controlling energy consumption and air pollution in China's metropolis of Beijing.” Energy, 81, 1 March, Pp. 294-303. Publisher's VersionAbstract

It is critical to alleviate problems of energy and air pollutant emissions in a metropolis because these areas serve as economic engines and have large and dense populations. Drivers of fossil fuel use and air pollutants emissions were analyzed in the metropolis of Beijing during 1997-2010. The analyses were conducted from both a bottom-up and a top-down perspective based on the sectoral inventories and structural decomposition analysis (SDA). From a bottom-up perspective, the key energy-intensive industrial sectors directly caused the variations in Beijing's air pollution by means of a series of energy and economic policies. From a top-down perspective, variations in production structures caused increases in most materials during 2000-2010, but there were decreases in PM10 and PM2.5 emissions during 2005-2010. Population growth was found to be the largest driver of energy consumption and air pollutant emissions during 1997-2010. This finding suggests that avoiding rapid population growth in Beijing could simultaneously control energy consumption and air pollutant emissions. Mitigation policies should consider not only the key industrial sectors but also socioeconomic drivers to co-reduce energy consumption and air pollution in China's metropolis.

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