Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Where Does China’s Air Pollution Come From?

Source Forensics of Black Carbon Aerosols from China(Abstract, Bing Chen, August Andersson , Meehye Lee, Elena N. Kirillova , Qianfen Xiao , Martin Kruså, Meinan Shi , Ke Hu , Zifeng Lu , David G. Streets , Ke Du, and Örjan Gustafsson, Environmental Science and Technology, Jul. 11, 2013)

Also discussed here: Researchers Constrain the Sources of Climate and Health-Afflicting Air Pollution from China(Science Daily, Aug. 8, 2013)

Today we review research on the top sources of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the country considered by many to be the most polluted in the world. Results indicate that this is not emissions of Black Carbon from cooking food in homes and restaurants- so-called biomass sources- but from the burning of coal in cities and from vehicle emissions in traffic. This will allow authorities to plan for efficient mitigation of climate change because Black Carbon has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere (days, weeks) than other greenhouse gases, such as CO2 (decades, centuries).

china soot

Key Quotes:

“the brown cloud soot was persistently about four-fifths from fossil fuel combustion (C-14 "dead") and only one-fifth from burning of contemporary biomass (C-14 "alive").”

“Globally, soot accounts for roughly half the warming potential of carbon dioxide”

“while carbon dioxide is the key target for fighting climate change, its levels in the atmosphere respond on a sluggish 100-1000 yr timescale to reductions in emissions. ..In contrast, Brown Cloud soot particles only reside in the atmosphere for days-weeks raising the hope for a rapid response of the climate system"

“The relative contribution from fossil fuel versus biomass combustion is important to constrain as fossil soot is a stronger climate forcer, penetrates deeper into the respiratory tract and accurate source apportionment is the underpinning of society's mitigation actions.”

“Severe air pollution, covering large parts of South and East Asia as Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABC), originate from incomplete combustion such as household burning of coal and wood fuel, agricultural residue burning, industrial processes and massive traffic.”

“To mitigate near-term climate effects and improve air quality in East Asia, activities such as residential coal combustion and city traffic should be targeted.”
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