China’s international trade and air pollution in the United States

Edited by Dan Jaffe, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, and accepted by the Editorial Board December 18, 2013 (received for review July 10, 2013)
January 21, 2014
111 (5) 1736-1741
Letter
Assessing the implications on air pollution of an alternative control-based criterion
Luis Antonio López, Maria Ángeles Cadarso [...] Guadalupe Arce
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Significance

International trade affects global air pollution and transport by redistributing emissions related to production of goods and services and by potentially altering the total amount of global emissions. Here we analyze the trade influences by combining an economic-emission analysis on China’s bilateral trade and atmospheric chemical transport modeling. Our focused analysis on US air quality shows that Chinese air pollution related to production for exports contributes, at a maximum on a daily basis, 12–24% of sulfate pollution over the western United States. The US outsourcing of manufacturing to China might have reduced air quality in the western United States with an improvement in the east, due to the combined effects of changes in emissions and atmospheric transport.

Abstract

China is the world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic air pollutants, and measurable amounts of Chinese pollution are transported via the atmosphere to other countries, including the United States. However, a large fraction of Chinese emissions is due to manufacture of goods for foreign consumption. Here, we analyze the impacts of trade-related Chinese air pollutant emissions on the global atmospheric environment, linking an economic-emission analysis and atmospheric chemical transport modeling. We find that in 2006, 36% of anthropogenic sulfur dioxide, 27% of nitrogen oxides, 22% of carbon monoxide, and 17% of black carbon emitted in China were associated with production of goods for export. For each of these pollutants, about 21% of export-related Chinese emissions were attributed to China-to-US export. Atmospheric modeling shows that transport of the export-related Chinese pollution contributed 3–10% of annual mean surface sulfate concentrations and 0.5–1.5% of ozone over the western United States in 2006. This Chinese pollution also resulted in one extra day or more of noncompliance with the US ozone standard in 2006 over the Los Angeles area and many regions in the eastern United States. On a daily basis, the export-related Chinese pollution contributed, at a maximum, 12–24% of sulfate concentrations over the western United States. As the United States outsourced manufacturing to China, sulfate pollution in 2006 increased in the western United States but decreased in the eastern United States, reflecting the competing effect between enhanced transport of Chinese pollution and reduced US emissions. Our findings are relevant to international efforts to reduce transboundary air pollution.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Michael Prather for comments. This research is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Grants 41175127, 41005078, 41222036, 21221004, 41328008, and J1103404. The work at Tsinghua University is also supported by the Tsinghua University Initiative Research Program (2011Z01026).

Supporting Information

Appendix (PDF)
Supporting Information
2015Cozz-Class-6.mp4
2015Cozz-Class-6.mp4

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 111 | No. 5
February 4, 2014
PubMed: 24449863

Classifications

Submission history

Published online: January 21, 2014
Published in issue: February 4, 2014

Keywords

  1. input–output analysis
  2. emission control
  3. international collaboration

Acknowledgments

We thank Michael Prather for comments. This research is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Grants 41175127, 41005078, 41222036, 21221004, 41328008, and J1103404. The work at Tsinghua University is also supported by the Tsinghua University Initiative Research Program (2011Z01026).

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. D.J. is a guest editor invited by the Editorial Board.

Authors

Affiliations

Laboratory for Climate and Ocean-Atmosphere Studies, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China;
Da Pan1
Laboratory for Climate and Ocean-Atmosphere Studies, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China;
Steven J. Davis
Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697;
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modeling, Center for Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China;
State Key Joint Laboratory of Environmental Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China;
Collaborative Innovation Center for Regional Environmental Quality, Beijing 100084, China;
Can Wang
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modeling, Center for Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China;
State Key Joint Laboratory of Environmental Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China;
David G. Streets
Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL 60439;
Donald J. Wuebbles
Department of Atmospheric Sciences, School of Earth, Society, and Environment, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801; and
Dabo Guan
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modeling, Center for Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China;
water@leeds, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, United Kingdom

Notes

2
To whom correspondence may be addressed. E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected].
Author contributions: J.L., Q.Z., K.H., and D.G. designed research; J.L. and D.P. performed research; J.L., D.P., S.J.D., Q.Z., K.H., C.W., D.G.S., D.J.W., and D.G. analyzed data; and J.L., D.P., S.J.D., Q.Z., K.H., C.W., D.G.S., D.J.W., and D.G. wrote the paper.
1
J.L. and D.P. contributed equally to this work.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    China’s international trade and air pollution in the United States
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 111
    • No. 5
    • pp. 1659-2047

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