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Nature. 2015 Aug 20;524(7565):335-8. doi: 10.1038/nature14677.

Reduced carbon emission estimates from fossil fuel combustion and cement production in China.

Liu Z1,2,3, Guan D4,5, Wei W6, Davis SJ2,7, Ciais P8, Bai J9, Peng S8,10, Zhang Q4, Hubacek K11, Marland G12, Andres RJ13, Crawford-Brown D14, Lin J15, Zhao H4, Hong C4,16, Boden TA13, Feng K11, Peters GP17, Xi F2,18, Liu J19,20,21, Li Y5, Zhao Y22, Zeng N23,24, He K16.

Author information

John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110016, China.
Resnick Sustainability Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modeling, Center for Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.
School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK.
CAS Key Laboratory of Low-carbon Conversion Science and Engineering, Shanghai Advanced Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 201203, China.
Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, California 92697, USA.
Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, CE Orme des Merisiers, 91191 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France.
State Key Laboratory of Coal Conversion, Institute of Coal Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Science, Taiyuan 030001, China.
CNRS and UJF Grenoble 1, Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Geophysique de l'Environnement (LGGE, UMR5183), 38041 Grenoble, France.
Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.
Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina 28608, USA.
Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831, USA.
Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research, Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, 19 Silver Street, Cambridge CB3 9EP, UK.
Laboratory for Climate and Ocean-Atmosphere Studies, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China.
State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.
Center for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo (CICERO), N-0318 Oslo, Norway.
CAS Key Laboratory of Pollution Ecology and Environmental Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110016, China.
School of Nature Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 10083, China.
Ecosystems Services &Management Program, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria.
School of Environmental Science and Engineering, South University of Science and Technology of China, Shenzhen 518055, China.
State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control &Resource Reuse and School of the Environment, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China.
Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science and Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742-2425, USA.
Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100029, China.


Nearly three-quarters of the growth in global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and cement production between 2010 and 2012 occurred in China. Yet estimates of Chinese emissions remain subject to large uncertainty; inventories of China's total fossil fuel carbon emissions in 2008 differ by 0.3 gigatonnes of carbon, or 15 per cent. The primary sources of this uncertainty are conflicting estimates of energy consumption and emission factors, the latter being uncertain because of very few actual measurements representative of the mix of Chinese fuels. Here we re-evaluate China's carbon emissions using updated and harmonized energy consumption and clinker production data and two new and comprehensive sets of measured emission factors for Chinese coal. We find that total energy consumption in China was 10 per cent higher in 2000-2012 than the value reported by China's national statistics, that emission factors for Chinese coal are on average 40 per cent lower than the default values recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and that emissions from China's cement production are 45 per cent less than recent estimates. Altogether, our revised estimate of China's CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production is 2.49 gigatonnes of carbon (2 standard deviations = ±7.3 per cent) in 2013, which is 14 per cent lower than the emissions reported by other prominent inventories. Over the full period 2000 to 2013, our revised estimates are 2.9 gigatonnes of carbon less than previous estimates of China's cumulative carbon emissions. Our findings suggest that overestimation of China's emissions in 2000-2013 may be larger than China's estimated total forest sink in 1990-2007 (2.66 gigatonnes of carbon) or China's land carbon sink in 2000-2009 (2.6 gigatonnes of carbon).

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