Climate change in China

Green climate funds contributions of Paris Climate Agreement by county

China, since 2006, keeps emitting more CO2 than any other country.[1][2][3][4][5] China ratified the Kyoto Protocol as a non-Annex B party without binding targets, and ratified the Paris Agreement to fight climate change.[6] As the world's largest coal producer and consumer country, China worked hard to change energy structure and experienced a decrease in coal consumption since 2013 to 2016.[7] However, China, the United States and India, the three biggest coal users, have increased coal mining in 2017.[8] The Chinese government has implemented several policies to control coal consumption, and boosted the usage of natural gas and electricity. Looking ahead, the construction and manufacturing industries of China will give way to the service industry, and the Chinese government will not set a higher goal for economic growth in 2018, thus the coal consumption may not experience continuous growth in the next few years.[7]

The annual CO2 emissions of China was 10150.82 million tonnes in 2016, followed by the United States (5311.69 million tonnes) and India (2430.8 million tonnes).[9] The energy structure and human activities caused global warming and climate change, and China suffered from negative effects in agriculture, forest, water resource etc.

China is implementing some policies to mitigate the bad effects of climate change, most of which are aiming to constrain coal consumption. The Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of China set goals and committed to peak CO2 emissions by 2030 in the latest, and increase the use of non-fossil energy carriers, taking up 20% of the total primary energy supply.[10] If China successfully reached NDC's targets, the GHG emissions level would be 12.8–14.3 GtCO2e in 2030, reducing 64% to 70% of emission intensity below 2005 levels. China has surpassed solar deployment and wind energy deployment targets for 2020.[11]

Cumulative CO2 emissions of different countries (1970-2013)

Current situation

China observed a ground average temperature increase of 0.24℃/decade from 1951 to 2017, exceeding the global ground average temperature increase rate. The average precipitation of China was 641.3 mm in 2017, 1.8% more than average precipitation of previous years. The sea level rise was 3.3mm/year from 1980 to 2017. There was an annual increase in concentrations of carbon dioxide from 1990 to 2016. The annual mean concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the Wanliguan Station were 404.4 ppm, 1907 ppb and 329.7 ppb separately in 2016, slightly higher than the global mean concentration in 2016.[12]

Energy consumption

China experienced an electricity increase in 2017 as the economy accelerate.[13] According to the Climate Data Explorer published by World Resources Institute, China, European Union and the USA took up more than 50% of the global green house gas emissions.[14] The energy industry has been the biggest contributor to green house gases emissions since the last decade.[14]

According to the 2016 Chinese Statistical Yearbook published by China's National Bureau of Statistics, China's energy consumption was 430,000 (10,000 tons of Standard Coal Equivalent), including 64% coal, 18.1% crude oil, 5.9% of natural gas, and 12.0% primary electricity and other energy in 2016. The percentage of coal has decreased since 2011, and the percentage of crude oil, natural gas and primary electricity and other energy have increased since 2011.[15]

Public investigation

According to the Chinese citizen climate change recognition and understanding report[16] conducted by China Climate Change Communication program, 94% interviewees agreed on carry out the Paris agreement, 96.8% interviewees supported international cooperation towards global climate change, and more than 70% interviewees were willing to purchase environmental friendly products. 98.7% interviewees agreed on carrying out climate change education at schools. The most concerned topic was the air pollution brought out by climate change. The investigation included 4025 samples.[16]

The investigation showed that Chinese citizens agreed that they were experiencing climate change, which was caused by human activities.[17]

Effects of climate change

China can suffer some of the effects of global warming, including sea level rise, glacier retreat and air pollution.

The implications of climate change impose serious setbacks on global health and will hinder the economic development of various regions worldwide impacting countries on more than just the basic environmental scale. As in the case of China, we will see the effects on a social and economic level.

China’s first National Assessment of Global Climate Change, released recently by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), states that China already suffers from the environmental impacts of climate change: increase of surface and ocean temperature, rise of sea level.[18] Qin Dahe,former head of China’s Meteorological Administration, has said that the temperatures in the Tibetan Plateau of China are rising four times faster than anywhere else.[19] Rising sea level is an alarming trend because China has a very long and densely populated coastline, with some of the most economically developed cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin, and Guangzhou situated there. Chinese research has estimated that a one-meter rise in sea level would inundate 92,000 square kilometres of China’s coast, thereby displacing 67 million.[20]

There has also been an increased occurrence of climate-related disasters such as drought and flood and the amplitude is growing. They have grave consequences for productivity when they occur, and also create serious repercussions for natural environment and infrastructure. This threatens the lives of billions and aggravates poverty.

Furthermore, climate change will worsen the uneven distribution of water resources in China. Outstanding rises in temperature would exacerbate evapo-transpiration intensifying the risk of water shortage for agricultural production in the North. While because of the southern region’s over abundance in rainfall, most of its water is lost due to flooding. As the Chinese government faces challenges managing its expanding population, an increased demand for water to support the nation’s economic activity and people will burden the government. In essence, a water shortage is indeed a large concern for the country.[20]

Lastly, climate change could endanger human health by increasing outbreaks of disease and their transmission. After floods, for example, infectious diseases such as diarrhea and cholera are all far more prevalent. These effects would exacerbate the degradation of the ecologically fragile areas in which poor communities are concentrated pushing thousands back into poverty.[21]


The negative effects on China's agriculture caused by climate change have appeared. There was an increase in agricultural production instability, a severe damage caused by high temperature and drought, lower production and quality in prairie. In the near future, the climate change may cause negative influences, causing a reduction of output in wheat, rice and corn, and change agricultural distribution of production.[22]

Forest and other natural ecosystems

Climate change increases forest belt limits and frequencies of pests and diseases, decreases frozen earth areas, and threatens to decrease glacial areas in the northwest China. The vulnerability of ecosystems may increase due to future climate change.[22]

Water resource and coastal zone

Climate change decreased total water resources in north China while increased total water resources in south China. There were more floods, drought and extreme climates. There may be a big impact in the spacial and temporal distribution in China's water resources, increasing extreme weathers and natural disasters. Climate change caused the increase of the sea level, and threatened to impair the functions of the harbors.[22]


Some regions in China will be exposed to a 50 percent higher malaria transmission probability rate (Béguin et al., 2011).[23]

Conclusion of IPCC

According to IPCC (2007) from 1900 to 2005 precipitation has declined in parts of southern Asia. By the 2050s freshwater availability including large river basins is projected to decrease in Asian regions. Coastal areas, specially the delta areas in Asia are projected to have increased flooding risk. Floods and droughts are expected to increase health concerns: diseases and mortality.[24]

Climate change mitigation methods

The People's Republic of China is an active participant in the climate change talks and other multilateral environmental negotiations, and claims to take environmental challenges seriously but is pushing for the developed world to help developing countries to a greater extent. It is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, although China is not required to reduce its carbon emissions under the terms of the present agreement.

China issued its first Climate Change Program in 2007, in response to its surpassing of the United States as the largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions in the world.[25] The Chinese national carbon trading scheme was later announced in November 2008 by the national government to enforce a compulsory carbon emission trading scheme across the country's provinces as part of its strategy to create a "low carbon civilisation".[26] The scheme would allow provinces to earn money by investing in carbon capture systems in those regions that fail to invest in the technology.[27]

In 2004, Premier Wen Jiabao promised to use an "iron hand" to make China more energy efficient. China has surpassed the rest of the world as the biggest investor in wind turbines and other renewable energy technology. And it has dictated tough new energy standards for lighting and gas kilometrage for cars.[28] With $34.6 billion invested in clean technology in 2009, China is the world's leading investor in renewable energy technologies.[29][30] China produces more wind turbines and solar panels each year than any other country.[31]

Coal is predicted to remain the most important power source in the near future but China has been seen as the world leader in clean coal technology.[32][33][34]

Nuclear power is planned to be rapidly expanded. By mid-century fast neutron reactors are seen as the main nuclear power technology which allows much more efficient use of fuel resources.[35]

China should push electric cars to curb its dependence on imported petroleum (oil) and foreign automobile technology, although they offer smaller cuts in carbon emissions than alternatives like hybrid electric vehicles, consulting firm McKinsey & Co says.[36]

A 2011 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report predicted that Chinese CO2 emissions will peak around 2030. This because in many areas such as infrastructure, housing, commercial building, appliances per household, fertilizers, and cement production a maximum intensity will be reached and replacement will take the place of new demand. The 2030 emissions peak also became China's pledge at the Paris COP21 summit. Carbon emission intensity may decrease as policies become strengthened and more effectively implemented, including by more effective financial incentives, and as less carbon intensive energy supplies are deployed. In a "baseline" computer model CO2 emissions were predicted to peak in 2033; in an "Accelerated Improvement Scenario" they were predicted to peak in 2027.[37]


Both internationally and within the People's Republic of China, there has been an ongoing debate over China's economic responsibilities for climate change mitigation.

See also


  1. "China's Emissions: More Than U.S. Plus Europe, and Still Rising". The New York Times. 2018-01-25.
  2. "Chinese coal fuels rise in global carbon emissions". The Times. 2017-11-14.
  3. "Yes, The U.S. Leads All Countries In Reducing Carbon Emissions". Forbes. 2017-10-24.
  4. "World carbon dioxide emissions data by country: China speeds ahead of the rest". The Guardian. 2011-01-31.
  5. "China now no. 1 in CO2 emissions; USA in second position". PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.
  6. "It Didn't Take Long for China to Fill America's Shoes on Climate Change". Time. Retrieved 2018-04-10.
  7. 1 2 Lu, Qi Ye and Jiaqi (2018-01-22). "China's coal consumption has peaked". Brookings. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  8. Daigle, Matthew Brown and Katy. "Coal on the rise in China, U.S., India after major 2016 drop". Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  9. "CO₂ and other Greenhouse Gas Emissions". Our World in Data. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  10. "What is an INDC? | World Resources Institute". Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  11. Tracker, Climate Action. "China - Climate Action Tracker". Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  12. 2170. "《中国气候变化蓝皮书》:年平均气温显著上升--人民网环保频道--人民网". Retrieved 2018-04-10.
  13. "2017 electricity & other energy statistics | China Energy Portal | 中国能源门户". China Energy Portal | 中国能源门户. 2018-02-06. Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  14. 1 2 "全球温室气体排放数据(最新版)_中国碳排放交易网". Retrieved 2018-04-10.
  15. "China Statistical Yearbook-2016". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  16. 1 2 "中国公众气候变化与气候传播认知情况调研报告" (PDF). 中国公众气候变化与气候传播认知情况调研报告. November 2017.
  17. "2017年中国公众气候变化与气候传播认知状况调研报告发布". 2017-11-02. Retrieved 2018-04-10.
  19. "The Indus Equation Report, Strategic Foresight Group" (PDF).
  20. 1 2 "Digication e-Portfolio :: Eda Charmaine Gimenez :: Welcome".
  21. "Climate Change Aggravates Poverty". Oxfam Hong Kong.
  22. 1 2 3 "Climate Change in China | Shangri-la Institute". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  23. Why a 4 degree centrigrade warmer world must be avoided November 2012 World Bank
  24. "IPCC Working group III fourth assessment report, Summary for Policymakers 2007" (PDF).
  25. Andrews-Speed, Philip (November 2014). "China's Energy Policymaking Processes and Their Consequences". The National Bureau of Asian Research Energy Security Report. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  26. Climate Ark:China outlines plans for domestic carbon trading
  27. China outlines plans for domestic carbon trading
  28. Bradsher, Keith (4 July 2010). "China Fears Warming Effects of Consumer Wants". The New York Times.
  29. "China Leads Major Countries With $34.6 Billion Invested in Clean Technology -".
  30. "China steams ahead on clean energy". 26 March 2010 via
  31. Bradsher, Keith, 30 January 2010, China leads global race to make clean energy, The New York Times
  33. China's coal reserves 'will make it new Middle East', says energy chief, Leo Hickman, Tuesday 8 March 2011, The Guardian,
  34. KEITH BRADSHER, China Outpaces U.S. in Cleaner Coal-Fired Plants, 10 May 2009, The New York Times,
  35. Nuclear Power in China, Updated March 2012, World Nuclear Association,
  36. "Error - LexisNexis® Publisher".
  37. ChinaFAQs: China's Energy and Carbon Emissions Outlook to 2050, ChinaFAQs on 12 May 2011, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-17.
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