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Clearer Skies Over China

Clearer Skies Over China: Reconciling Air Quality, Climate, and Economic Goals

Chris P. Nielsen
Mun S. Ho
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 444
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  • Book Info
    Clearer Skies Over China
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31541-8
    Subjects: Environmental Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    Chris P. Nielsen and Mun S. Ho
  4. Part I Introduction, Review, and Summary

    • 1 Atmospheric Environment in China: Introduction and Research Review
      (pp. 3-58)
      Chris P. Nielsen and Mun S. Ho

      With each passing year, the future of the global environment becomes more affected by policy choices that China is making regarding its economy, use of energy, and atmospheric environment. Other nations further along the development path bear greater historical responsibility for the atmospheric loading of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that drive global climate change: the United States has emitted far more than China in cumulative terms, and many countries have larger per capita emissions. China’s sheer size, rate of economic growth, and dependence on fossil fuels, however, have vaulted it far into the forefront in current national emissions of the dominant...

    • 2 Summary: Sulfur Mandates and Carbon Taxes for 2006–2010
      (pp. 59-102)
      Chris P. Nielsen, Mun S. Ho, Yu Zhao, Yuxuan Wang, Yu Lei and Jing Cao

      China’s decision makers and ordinary citizens face a difficult confluence of problems in economic development, energy use, environmental degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions, as laid out in chapter 1. A key feature of the challenge is the intimate links between fossil fuel use, the impact of air pollution on public health and agriculture, and carbon dioxide emissions. The remarkable complexity of this confluence not only raises a multidecade policy-making challenge to Chinese leaders, but also poses a related challenge to researchers seeking new insights to help inform those pressing policy decisions. It requires building research capacities both within specialized fields...

    • 3 Summary: Carbon Taxes for 2013–2020
      (pp. 103-158)
      Chris P. Nielsen, Mun S. Ho, Jing Cao, Yu Lei, Yuxuan Wang and Yu Zhao

      The Chinese government asserts that its contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) control should be based on the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” agreed to under the 1992 United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), by which wealthier nations are to take the lead. It recognizes that some level of explicit GHG control is inevitable, however, and that China must move toward controls that can be credited in any international regime that succeeds the Kyoto Protocol.

      Indeed, at the 2011 UNFCCC negotiations in South Africa, China signed on to the Durban Platform, in which all nations agreed to establish a...

  5. Part II Studies of the Assessment

    • 4 Primary Air Pollutant Emissions of Coal-Fired Power Plants in China
      (pp. 161-202)
      Yu Zhao

      Coal is the primary energy source for Chinese power generation. As shown in figure 4.1, thermal power has maintained a large share of both electricity output and installed capacity (82% and 76%, respectively, for 2005). For many years, thermal power has been fueled predominantly by coal with very small amounts by oil or gas. During 2000–2007, the period in which the Chinese power sector developed fastest within the past 30 years, coal consumption by power plants increased from 560 to 1300 million tons (Mt) according to official statistics. As shown in figure 4.2, in recent years the share of...

    • 5 Primary Air Pollutants and CO2 Emissions from Cement Production in China
      (pp. 203-224)
      Yu Lei, Qiang Zhang, Chris P. Nielsen and Kebin He

      China is the largest cement-producing and cement-consuming country in the world today. Cement production in China was 1.39 billion metric tons in 2008 (CMIIT 2009), which accounted for 50% of the world’s production (USGS 2009). Enormous quantities of air pollutants are emitted from cement production, including sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), carbon monoxide (CO), and total particulate matter (PM) of all sizes,¹ resulting in significant regional and global environmental problems. Accordingly, the cement industry is a primary source of air pollution in China. For example, it is the largest source of PM emissions, accounting for 40% from all industrial...

    • 6 An Anthropogenic Emission Inventory of Primary Air Pollutants in China for 2005 and 2010
      (pp. 225-262)
      Yu Zhao, Wei Wei and Yu Lei

      A regional emission inventory is a fundamental input into air quality modeling. Without accurate emission profiles of all relevant chemical species located in a sufficiently fine spatial distribution it would not be possible to simulate atmospheric concentrations and fluxes accurately—that is, to conduct simulations that can be confirmed by observations and can be used for policy analysis.

      In recent years a series of studies have developed emission inventories for Asian countries including China, with most of them choosing 2000 as the base year (Streets and Waldhoff 2000; Klimont et al. 2001; Streets et al. 2003; Ohara et al. 2007;...

    • 7 Atmospheric Modeling of Pollutant Concentrations
      (pp. 263-290)
      Yuxuan Wang

      Pollutant concentrations near the surface of the earth are of central concern in protecting public health, agricultural productivity, and ecosystems. The mapping of surface concentrations from estimates of emissions like those developed in chapter 6 is seldom straightforward, however, as the atmosphere is a highly complex system in terms of both its physical transport mechanisms (or dynamics) and its chemistry.

      Chemical species emitted at or near the surface will mix into the surrounding air and will be carried away by winds and other forms of atmospheric transport such as convection. Species emitted in their final pollutant form—that is, those...

    • 8 Benefits to Human Health and Agricultural Productivity of Reduced Air Pollution
      (pp. 291-328)
      Yu Lei

      We have seen in prior chapters how the SO2controls of the 11th Five-Year Plan (11th FYP) or a tax of 100 yuan per ton of carbon (27 yuan per ton of CO2) did reduce or would reduce emissions and concentrations of a variety of both primary and secondary air pollutants. Among the most powerful implications of either of these policies would be their very large effects on public health. To the extent that they affect concentrations of ground-level ozone, they would also impact the productivity of major grain crops. In this chapter, we estimate the health and agricultural benefits...

    • 9 The Economics of Environmental Policies in China
      (pp. 329-372)
      Jing Cao, Mun S. Ho and Dale W. Jorgenson

      As described in chapter 1, our overall objective is to develop a methodology for analyzing environmental policies that recognizes the main elements of the complex web of interactions between economic activity, energy use, emissions, air quality, and damages to public health and agriculture. The goal of the analysis is to estimate the economic costs and the health and environmental benefits of a pollution control policy in an integrated framework. The economic effects of interest include the impact on aggregate growth and changes in industry composition.

      Our specific aims within this overall goal are to analyze two major air pollution control...

  6. Part III Appendixes

    • Appendix A Economic-Environmental Model of China
      (pp. 375-392)
      Jing Cao, Mun S. Ho and Dale W. Jorgenson
    • Appendix B The Valuation of Health Damages
      (pp. 393-402)
      Yu Lei and Mun S. Ho
    • Appendix C New Assumptions and Methods for the 2013–2020 Policy Cases
      (pp. 403-406)
      Yu Zhao, Yuxuan Wang, Yu Lei and Chris P. Nielsen
  7. Contributors
    (pp. 407-408)
  8. Index
    (pp. 409-434)