Top China climate scientist says CO2 emissions may be overstated

June 13, 2012

Responding to the study published at the weekend in Nature Climate Change, which suggested China’s greenhouse gas emissions could be understated by nearly 20 percent, the director of the Climate Change Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Sciences says his institute’s research points to the opposite conclusion.

Professor Wang Yi told Reuters that the methodology used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN panel of climate scientists, does not take sufficient account of the big differences in calorific content of China's many grades of coal.

"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.

The professor 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.