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Measurements of CO2 and CO in China's air indicate sharply improved combustion efficiency
Date:10/8/2010

Cambridge, Mass., October 7, 2010 A collaborative, six-year study of carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in Beijing and surrounding provinces suggests that combustion efficiency, a component of overall energy efficiency, is improving in the region.

The findings, published in the September 21 issue of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, are generally consistent with official Chinese government statistics and could bolster their credibility as international negotiations proceed on commitments of China and other nations to combat climate change.

A team of atmospheric scientists and environmental engineers from Harvard University and Tsinghua University in Beijing have continuously measured atmospheric CO2 and carbon monoxide (CO) levels in rural Miyun, about 100 km northeast of Beijing, since November 2004.

Weather observations such as wind speed and direction (with other evidence) allowed researchers to identify plumes of polluted air from the Beijing urban area and population centers to the south, as opposed to relatively clean air arriving from the north.

The measurements provide the most detailed look at carbon emissions for a specific urbanized and industrialized region of China to date. Moreover, the resulting analysis of CO2 and CO levels is generally consistent with China's official statistics, showing an upward trend in overall energy efficiency.

"The Chinese government committed to improve energy efficiency in its 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), and this study shows how independent quantitative evidence of its progress can be inferred from the chemistry of its air," said co-author Chris P. Nielsen, Executive Director of the Harvard China Project, based at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

The Harvard and Tsinghua researchers analyzed the ratio of CO2 to CO at Miyun to evaluate energy efficiency in Beijing.

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Contact: Caroline Perry
cperry@seas.harvard.edu
617-496-3815
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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