China's greenhouse emissions may be greater than previously thought
Coal burning cited as key culprit
Despite the Chinese regime's sincere concern to reduce intensities of energy use in the country, thus curbing its uniquely high toll of greenhouse gas emissions, a new study "implies greater uncertainty than ever in Chinese energy statistics".
The study, published by Nature Climate Change Journal, says that "[differences in reported coal consumption and processing at the provincial level were the main contributors to the discrepancy in energy statistics".
According to Yang Fuqiang, a former Chinese energy official: "[T]he biggest concern about the accuracy and reliability of (China's emissions) data... comes from too many small coal mines supplying small enterprises and industrial plants. They have no monitoring systems and generally speaking, they are also avoiding tax".
However, just as the report was published, its findings were questioned by a leading Chinese climate change specialist, who says that his own institute's research points in the opposite direction.
Professor Wang Yi is director of the climate change research centre at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
He claims that the methodology used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "does not take sufficient account of the big differences in calorific content of China's many grades of coal".
China Emissions Study Suggests Climate Change Could Be Faster Than Thought
By David Fogarty and David Stanway
12 June 2012
China's carbon emissions could be nearly 20 percent higher than previously thought, a new analysis of official Chinese data showed on Sunday, suggesting the pace of global climate change could be even faster than currently predicted.
China has already overtaken the United States as the world's top greenhouse gas polluter, producing about a quarter of mankind's carbon pollution that scientists say is heating up the planet and triggering more extreme weather.
But pinning down an accurate total for China's carbon emissions has long been a challenge because of doubts about the quality of its official energy use data.
It is that data which is used to compute how the planet's climate will change, helping plan for more extremes of drought, flood and the impact on crops.
"The sad fact is that Chinese energy and emission data as primary input to the models will add extra uncertainty in modelling simulations of predicting future climatic change," say the authors of a study in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The team of scientists from China, Britain and the United States, led by Dabo Guan of the University of Leeds, studied two sets of energy data from China's National Bureau of Statistics. One set presented energy use for the nation, the other for its provinces.
They compiled the carbon dioxide (CO2) emission inventories for China and its 30 provinces for the period 1997-2010 and found a big difference between the two datasets.
"More Uncertain Than Ever"
"The paper identifies a 1.4-billion tonne emission gap (in 2010) between the two datasets. This implies greater uncertainties than ever in Chinese energy statistics," Guan, a senior lecturer at the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds University, told Reuters in an emailed response to questions.
That is slightly more than the annual emissions of Japan, one of the world's top-five greenhouse gas polluters.
Guan added the China is not the only country with inconsistent energy data.
Scientists say the world is already racing towards a warming of 2 degrees Celsius or more in coming decades because of the rapid growth in emissions from burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Adding another billion tonnes into computer models would accelerate the pace of expected warming.
According to Chinese national statistics, on average, CO2 emissions have been growing 7.5 percent annually from 1997 to 7.69 billion tonnes in 2010, the authors say in the study.
In contrast, aggregated emissions of all Chinese provinces have increased 8.5 percent on average to 9.08 billion tonnes in 2010.
By comparison, U.S. emissions were 6.87 billion tonnes in 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency says.
The scientists said differences in reported coal consumption and processing at the provincial level were the main contributors to the discrepancy in energy statistics.
The findings also expose the challenges China faces in introduce emissions trading schemes, which need accurate measurement, reporting and verification of energy use and carbon pollution at the local and national level.
Yang Fuqiang, a former Chinese energy official and senior adviser for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Beijing, said provinces routinely underestimate both their carbon emissions and their energy utilisation rates.
"I would say the biggest concern about the accuracy and reliability of (China's emissions) data is coal - and that comes from too many small coal mines supplying small enterprises and industrial plants. They have no monitoring systems and generally speaking, they are also avoiding tax," he said.
With provinces now under pressure to meet targets, they are now likely to underestimate emissions, he added.
China is committed to reducing energy intensity - the amount produced per unit of GDP - by 16 percent over the 2011-2015 period, and carbon intensity by 17 percent. It also plans to cap total energy use at 4.1 billion tonnes of standard coal by 2015.
(Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)
China's Carbon Emissions May Be Overstated: Scientist
By Alan Wheatley
14 June 2012
China's carbon emissions could be much lower than estimated by a U.N. panel of scientists, according to a leading Chinese climate change specialist.
The comments by Professor Wang Yi, director of the climate change research centre at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, add spice to a long-running debate about the accuracy of the country's energy use data.
China is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, so the scale of its emissions has a critical influence on the pace of global climate change.
A study in the journal Nature Climate Change, published on Sunday, said China's carbon emissions could be nearly 20 percent greater than estimated due to discrepancies between provincial-level and national figures.
But Wang said in an interview that research being conducted by his institute pointed to the opposite conclusion.
That is because the methodology used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a U.N. panel of climate scientists, does not take sufficient account of the big differences in calorific content of China's many grades of coal, Wang said.
"We have some preliminary calculations and current emissions may be 10-20 percent less than the result based on IPCC methodology," he said.
Even if the findings are confirmed, Wang said they would not change the bigger picture: China pumps out more carbon than any other country, about 22 percent of the global total.
"I don't think it would have much of an influence on the debate," he said.
Wang, who was speaking in London en route to a U.N. Earth summit in Rio, is working on a report with The Climate Group, a coalition of governments and companies that promotes policies and technologies to reduce global emissions.
Wu Changhua, the group's Greater China director, said better energy-use data was essential for, among other things, the development of China's proposed national carbon trading scheme.
She said China was making strides in areas such as renewable energy and clean coal but was struggling to fit together all the pieces of a strategy for sustainable economic development.
Progress on smart grids and power storage, for instance, had lagged developments in solar and wind technology.
"What China has is the political will, the belief and the desire but not necessarily all the solutions in hand," Wu said.
(Reporting by Alan Wheatley; Editing by David Cowell)