Nearly half a million people die each year from complications related to China’s air pollution. (Credit: BriYYZ/CC BY-SA 2.0)
A study published in Nature found that from 2000 to 2013, China’s total energy consumption put 2.9 fewer gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought. The researchers measured Chinese emission factors, which indicate the amount of carbon oxidized (CO and CO2 are oxidized forms of carbon) per unit of fuel consumed, and found that they are 40 percent lower than previously assumed. The researchers also found lower net heating values and higher ash contents, both indicative of low-quality coal.
These errors arose because of assumptions that certain groups such as the International Panel on Climate Change needed to make in order to approximate how much energy countries around the world are using. Sometimes, as this case demonstrates, those approximations do not agree with reality. Until now, the world thought that China was burning high-quality bituminous coal when in fact the country has been burning low-quality brown coal.
The authors assert that this revision of China’s annual emissions may have an effect on how much they can emit in the future if the world is to stay on track to constrain the increase of global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius.
Top image: Nearly half a million people die each year from complications related to China’s air pollution. (Credit: BriYYZ/CC BY-SA 2.0)