Fumes from vehicular traffic and home cooking fires using coal briquettes have been found to be the major culprits of China's burgeoning and worsening air pollution.
According to a study published in the ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology, majority or 80 per cent of the damaging soot found hovering in East Asia's atmosphere belong or come from China.
Researcher Orjan Gustafsson from Stockholm University as well as colleagues from China, the United States and South Korea utilized a powerful carbon-14 identification process to trace four-fifths of the black carbon discharged in China. It was discovered they came from automobile and truck exhaust as well as from the coal briquettes that the Chinese use with their home cook stoves.
Black carbon warms the Earth by absorbing heat in the atmosphere. It also absorbs sunlight. Compared however to carbon dioxide, scientists think black carbon comes only as a second reason to global warming. Black carbon stays in the atmosphere for only several days to weeks; carbon dioxide for years, even up to more than 100 years.
Still black carbon pollution poses a major health hazard to people. People can inhale these tiny particles deep into the lungs and implicate soot with 500,000 premature deaths annually in China alone, according to the study.
China is racing against time to implement measures to clean up the quality of its air. It has made efforts to ban coal stoves in urban areas, replace coal heaters in Beijing, and raise vehicle emission standards. It has likewise imposed limits on allowable vehicle acquisitions.
China has about eight million people who only had access to electricity as recently as 2009. But assuming they switch to electric stoves and cars, still electricity would need to come from one if not all of its 620 coal-burning power plants. These plants produce 79 per cent of the country's electricity requirements. China's demand for electricity is forecast to triple by 2030. Demand for coal over the same span will likewise double.
"To mitigate near-term climate effects and improve air quality in East Asia, activities such as residential coal combustion and city traffic should be targeted," the authors concluded in their paper.
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