China's success in cutting major air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) and primary aerosols likely worsened the climate change effect of the country's rising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, new research showed.
According to the paper, 'Climate effects of China's efforts to improve its air quality' published by Chinese and U.S. scientists in Environmental Research Letters, China's success in cutting sulfur dioxide and other major air pollutants has had a negative effect on the so-called radiative forcing, the amount of the sun's energy trapped in the earth's atmosphere, which determines the earth's temperature.
The research found that the decline in China's sulfur dioxide and black carbon emissions between 2006 and 2017 would result in a net warming of 0.1 degrees Celsius in the northern hemisphere, according to climate simulations the scientists ran.
"The success of Chinese policies to further reduce aerosol emissions may bring additional net warming, and this 'unmasked' warming would in turn compound the challenge and urgency of international climate mitigation efforts," the paper's co-authors wrote.
"From 2006 to 2017, China's carbon dioxide emissions grew by around 54 percent, along with around 70 percent reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions, a 30 percent reduction in black carbon emissions, and a 40 percent reduction in organic carbon emissions," co-author Professor Steven J Davis, from the University of California Irvine, said.
"The decoupling of carbon dioxide and aerosol emissions is mainly caused by installing end-of-pipe control devices, which reduce aerosol emissions but not carbon dioxide. Such decoupling exacerbated the global warming effects of China's carbon dioxide emissions," Davis added.
Meanwhile, China is continuing on with its coal-to-gas switch policy for household heating in a bid to curb emissions.
This winter, China plans to have more than 7 million households in the north switch from coal to natural gas or electric systems for heating by October, Reuters quoted a plan of the environment ministry on Tuesday.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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