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China captures nearly half of its annual CO2 emissions

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have analyzed newly available data to evaluate the effectiveness of China’s efforts to mitigate CO2 emissions. The study revealed that China’s forests helped the country capture nearly half of its overall CO2 emissions between 2010 and 2016. 

“China is currently one of the world’s major emitters of CO2, but China’s forest resources have been growing continuously for the past 30 years,” said study co-author Professor Yi Liu. “In this study, we achieve a better understanding of CO2 fluxes over China.”

In the past, there were few CO2 monitoring stations on the ground across China. This made it difficult to get an accurate estimate of the country’s CO2 flux, and fewer studies were conducted due to a lack of data. 

“Therein lies the crux of the challenge faced by science and policy communities: effective mitigation of fossil fuel CO2 emissions within a large-scale dynamic natural carbon cycle that we do not quantitatively understand,” said Professor Liu.

“Without good data, it was nearly impossible to assess how China’s forestry efforts to mitigate CO2 emissions were actually faring,” said study last author Jing Wang.

Everything changed when the China Meteorological Administration made available weekly and hourly continuous atmospheric CO2 measurements between 2009 and 2016.

Professor Liu and his team found that during this time frame, China reabsorbed about 45 percent of the country’s estimated annual manmade CO2 emissions.

The data was corroborated by independent satellite measurements of vegetation greenness, soil water availability, satellite column observations of CO2 and forest surveys.

“While our results still have large uncertainties, it’s clear that China’s forest ecosystem has a huge carbon sequestration effect,” said study co-author Paul I. Palmer from the University of Edinburgh. 

Going forward, the researchers plan to refine their results based on additional ground and satellite data. The ultimate goal is to improve their calculation methods to determine the carbon budget of smaller areas, such as cities.

The study is published in the journal Nature.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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