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China Consumes Way More Coal than it Claimed

writer: Chris Buckley source: bostonglobe.com


China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, is burning far more annually than previously thought, according to new government data.

The finding could complicate the already difficult efforts to limit global warming.

Even for a country of China’s size and opacity, the scale of the correction is immense. China has been consuming as much as 17 percent more coal each year than reported, according to the new government figures.

By some initial estimates, that could translate to almost a billion more tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere annually in recent years, more than all of Germany emits from fossil fuels.

Officials from around the world will have to come to grips with the new figures when they gather in Paris this month to negotiate an international framework for curtailing greenhouse-gas pollution.

The data also pose a challenge for scientists who are trying to reduce China’s smog, which often bathes whole regions in acrid, unhealthy haze.

The Chinese government has promised to halt the growth of its emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse pollutant from coal and other fossil fuels, by 2030.

The new data suggest that the task of meeting that deadline by reducing China’s dependence on coal will be more daunting and urgent than expected, said Yang Fuqiang, a former energy official in China who now is an adviser to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The new data, which appeared recently in an energy statistics yearbook published without fanfare by China’s statistical agency, show that coal consumption has been underestimated since 2000, and particularly in recent years.

The revisions were based on a census of the economy in 2013 that exposed gaps in data collection, especially from small companies and factories.