China burns more coal than previously believed

By Gabrielle Beacken
Nation & World Editor

Contradictory to information previously disclosed by the Chinese government, China has been burning up to 17 percent more coal each year than what they have reported, according to newly released data, the New York Times reported. These new figures illustrate that almost a billion more tons of carbon dioxide were released from China than previously conveyed and 600 million tons of coal consumption were not accounted for the year 2012.

“This will have a big impact because China has been burning so much more coal than we believed,” said Yang Fuqiang, a former energy official in China who now advises the international organization, Natural Resources Defense Council, the New York Times reported. “It turns out that (China) was an even bigger emitter than we imagined. This helps to explain why China’s air quality is so poor, and that will make it easier to get national leaders to take this seriously.”

The released figures were from an energy statistical yearbook published by China’s statistical agency, according to the New York Times. The yearbook revealed several holes in censuses conducted by the Chinese government.

Coal is leveled and transported through Chinese provinces. AP Photo.
Coal is leveled and transported through Chinese provinces. AP Photo.

Since China is the world’s chief emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, the country has promised to cut fuel emissions in half by 2030, the New York Times reported. According to Fuqiang, this task seems ever more implausible and unnerving since the release of this new, damaging information.

“It’s been a confusing situation for a long time,” said Ayaka Jones, a China analyst at the United States Energy Information Administration in Washington, D.C. the New York Times reported.

According to the New York Times, this incident is another example of China underestimating its emission figures. Several small coal mines in China were directed to close in the 1990s. However, instead of shutting down, the mines simply did not report their emission output to the government. Since the mines did not report their output to national data collectors, China was viewed positively for decreasing emission output while sustaining economic growth, according to the New York Times.

This revelation is sure to be an enthusiastic topic of discussion at the Paris Climate Change Conference 2015, which takes place from Monday, Nov. 30, to Friday, Dec. 11. This conference aims to plan an international, long-term system for decreasing greenhouse-gas pollution.

Scientists are reanalyzing their Chinese emission data and are attempting to discern the actual repercussions of China’s increase in pollutant emissions.

“It has created a lot of bewilderment,” said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University in eastern China, the New York Times reported. “This is troublesome because many forecasts and commitments were based on the previous data.”