Chinas carbon emissions may be 13 lower than estimated

first_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) China has emitted significantly less carbon since 2000 than previously estimated because of erroneous assumptions about the quality of the country’s coal, a study released today claims. That may sound like great news—but it doesn’t mean that the world is warming at a slower rate or that the need to reduce emissions has become less urgent, the researchers warn. China remains the world’s largest carbon emitter, and the new study doesn’t make its target of reversing its growth in emissions by 2030 any easier to attain.The main benefit of the study, based on new analyses of the carbon content of the country’s coal, is that “it provides a baseline for future emission policies,” says Dabo Guan, a co-author of the paper and a climate change economist at Tsinghua University in Beijing and the University of East Anglia, in Norwich, U.K.”There is no doubt that the authors have made a significant step forward” in characterizing China’s emissions, and the country’s effort to improve the quality of its climate data “is very welcome,” says Josep Canadell, an earth system scientist at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Canberra. Emailcenter_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Key to the new estimate are so-called emissions factors, which are derived from the carbon content, heating value, oxidation rate, and other variables that allow carbon emissions to be calculated for the amount of a given fuel consumed. In the absence of better data, emissions factors for China’s coal were so far assumed to be similar to those of coal mined in the United States and Europe, Guan says. But the coal actually used in China is of lower quality, with a lower carbon content.The team was able to derive new emissions factors based on data from Chinese government programs that analyzed nearly 5000 coal samples taken throughout the country. “It’s the first time ever for someone to take into account, systematically and comprehensively, the quality of the coal actually used in China,” Guan says. They also made new estimates of emissions from imported coal, oil, and gas, and from cement production. In a paper published online today in  Nature, they conclude that between 2000 and 2013, cumulative carbon emissions for the energy and cement sectors were about 2.9 gigatons—or 13% less than previous estimates, which pegged China’s carbon emissions at something over 22 gigatons. (This paper uses carbon emissions rather than the more frequently cited carbon dioxide emissions.)It is not all good news, however. Relying on low quality coal “is a bad thing,” Guan says. More of it must be burned to produce a given amount of heat, and that increases the release of particulates and other pollutants. And the new number has little effect on the big picture of climate change. The time frame in which China’s emissions were overestimated “is too short to have a cumulative impact on climate scenarios,” says Zhu Liu, the lead author and a climate change specialist at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.Last November, China pledged to halt the growth in its emissions by 2030. That target has been “applauded by the international community given China’s emissions have been growing at rates of 5% to 8% over the past decade and a half,” says Canadell, who is also executive director of the Global Carbon Project, an international consortium of scientists studying the global carbon cycle. Not all climate scientists agree, however; the Climate Action Tracker, an alliance of four European research groups, rates the targets “inadequate.”But whatever you think of China’s ambitions, the lower estimate of past emissions won’t make fulfilling them any easier. “What is important is the rate of present growth and how this growth goes down to zero by 2030 at the latest,” Canadell says. In fact, the research team used a new approach to conclude that between 2000 and 2010, China’s energy consumption grew by 9.9% annually, faster than the 8.8% indicated by national statistics. This will make getting emissions growth to zero “extra challenging,” Canadell says.Regardless of past totals, the focus should be on reducing emissions, says Wang Yi, director-general of the Institute of Policy and Management at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, who was not involved in the study. “This research can help China’s government form policies that more accurately target emission reductions,” Wang says.last_img read more